Tipperary have Cork in their crosshairs for a third successive year after comfortably disposing of Waterford before a meagre attendance at Semple Stadium.
ipp’s ninth championship win over Waterford since they last lost to them was never in doubt. They led by four points at half time and then pulled clear with eight unanswered points in the first 16 minutes of the second half. Waterford were missing six of the team that almost shocked Cork in Dungarvan last year and were unable to raise much protest. The qualifiers now beck for them where they have a lamentable record, wining just once, against London, in 2011.
Paul Whyte, their former captain, a key figure last year against Cork, was among those sorely missed, and their deep defensive lines meant they had little teeth to really hurt Tipp. JJ Hutchinson scored a neat point late in the game but was starved of ball, acting as a lone man up front for much of the evening.
Eighteen places separated these sides in the recent National League and it showed. With an eye to Cork, Tipp rested Steven O’Brien and their league top scorer Conor Sweeney, although O’Brien came on in the second half. Both players had injury doubts and Tipp were able to take off Michael Quinlivan with 15 minutes left, such was the left of comfort they enjoyed.
Waterford fielded three debutantes in Billy O'Keeffe, Shane Ryan and Kieran Power and used Power as their sweeper. Liam Kearns handed Loughmore-Castleiney club-mates John Meagher and Liam McGrath their first championship starts and both did well, with McGrath ending their top scorer with 0-9, including 0-7 from frees Evan Comerford was restored for his first championship game since 2016, having missed last summer through suspension but had little to do.
Playing with a light breeze Tipperary had no pressure on their own kick out throughout the first half, with Waterford piling bodies into their own half of the field. The home team built up a six point lead before Waterford managed to land their first score, though corner forward Gavin Crotty, in the 28th minute. Cory also ended a way for a Waterford score in the second half, hitting his second in the 52nd minute.
The plan was pedestrian and the stadium devoid of atmosphere, less than 2,000 in attendance. Waterford did get up the field but their shooting let them down, running up six wides and dropping one effort short in the opening half before Crotty finally raised a flag. With Hutchinson ploughing a lonely furrow in their attack, Tipp were rarely threatened, although Tommy Prendergast has one shot for goal blocked by a Tipp defender. Pendergast was their best player in the opening half, the veteran coming forward to shoot two fine scores from play in the latter stages. That gave Waterford some hope, reducing the Tipp lead to four points by the interval, 0-3 to 0-7, but the home team had another gear in them you suspected.
Shane Ryan picked up Michael Quinlivan and limited him to one first half score and Waterford denied Tipp a clear goal chance. In that sense they performed well enough but they needed something special up front to harbour any prospects of causing an upset. After the interval Tipp duly upped the tempo and pulled away for a facile victory.
Scorers: Tipperary - L McGrath 0-9 (0-7 fs); M Quinlivan 0-3, K O’Halloran 0-2, J Feehan, J Kennedy, J Keane, L Boland, J Lonergan, P Austin 0-1. Waterford - J Curry 0-3 (0-2 fs); T Prendergast, G Crotty 0-2, C Murray, JJ Hutchinson 0-1.
Tipperary: E Comerford; S O'Connell, J Meagher, A Campbell; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; L Casey, J Kennedy; J Keane, K O'Halloran, B Fox; L Boland, M Quinlivan, L McGrath.
Subs: S O’Brien for Kennedy (44 mins); P Austin for O’Halloran (48); K Fahey for Maher (49); J Lonergan for Quinlivan (54); P Codd for Meagher (57); G Hannigan for Casey (66).
Waterford: S Enright; J McGrath, B Looby, A Trihy; D Guiry, S Prendergast, B O'Keeffe; T Prendergast, M Curry; C Murray, S Ryan, K Power; G Crotty, J Veale, JJ Hutchinson.
Subs: J Curry for O’Keeffe (29 mins); C Guiry for Veale (43); J Allen for McGrath (black card 56); M Kelly for Power (68); M Cummins for Trihy (70); E O’Brien for Hutchinson (73).
Referee: F Kelly (Longford).