Austin Gleeson back in the groove as Déise destroy Offaly
WATERFORD 1-35 OFFALY 0-14
Waterford got their All-Ireland SHC aspirations back on track as they mercilessly tore Offaly to shreds, dishing out a 24-point annihilation to the Faithful in their Round 1 Qualifier clash at Bord Na Móna O'Connor Park on Saturday.
Derek McGrath's side were the subject of much criticism in the wake of the Munster semi-final defeat to Cork two weeks ago, but the Déise responded with a clinical display spearheaded by the return to form of last year's Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson.
Stationed at centre-forward throughout, Gleeson fired over six points from play and contributed to several other scores in an energetic display which will have given McGrath much heart with bigger fish to fry in the next round.
It took Waterford 20 minutes to get to grips with Offaly's trio of sweepers, but once they did there was no contest as Kevin Ryan's Faithful charges took another battering after the concession of 33 points in their comprehensive loss to Galway.
Offaly looked caught between two different game plans with their short game proving ineffective as they regularly ballooned the ball up field whereas Waterford side in second gear looked slick and confident on the ball.
Pauric Mahony opened the scoring inside 90 seconds with a free, quickly followed by a point from captain Kevin Moran, but Offaly edged the opening exchanges with four placed balls from Shane Dooley.
Jamie Barron and Moran levelled for the Déise before Pauric Mahony, who was on-song in attack when few others were motoring well early, added two points which were cancelled out by Dooley and James Mulrooney, 0-6 apiece.
Waterford went into overdrive thereafter, however, reeling off eight in a row in the next ten minutes as Michael 'Brick' Walsh and Austin Gleeson tagged on a point each before a hat-trick of scores from Mahony.
Tadhg de Búrca hit a huge point from distance, quickly followed by efforts from Maurice Shanahan and Gleeson as some crisp stick passing and shots from distance helped render Offaly's blanket defence redundant, 0-14 to 0-6.
Shane Kinsella gave the Faithful a brief respite but from the resulting puck-out, Stephen O'Keeffe sent a huge delivery to the edge of the Offaly square where Shane Bennett collected and fired past James Dempsey.
Gleeson and Barron added scores before Emmet Nolan responded for Offaly but the gap was extended to 13 by the break when Darragh Fives and Shanahan sent over the last two points of the half, 1-18 to 0-8.
The sides traded three points each upon the resumption but Waterford kicked ahead once more with points from substitutes Jake Dillon and Colin Dunford (both with their first touch) and a Mahony free.
It could have been worse for Offaly only for Dempsey, who pulled off an outrageous save from Shane Bennett but Waterford quickly tagged on further scores through Gleeson and Darragh Fives.
The game was long over as a contest but Waterford kept their foot on Offaly's throat with Colin Dunford and Patrick Curran both impressing off the bench and were it not for Dempsey, who pulled off a miraculous save from Gleeson, it could have ended up a lot worse as Waterford advanced.
SCORERS – Waterford: P Mahony 0-11 (7f, 0-1 '65), A Gleeson 0-6, P Curran 0-4 (2f, 0-1 '65), Shane Bennett 1-0, J Barron, M Shanahan, D Fives, K Moran, C Dunford 0-2 each, M Walsh, T de Búrca, J Dillon, T Ryan 0-1 each.
Offaly: S Dooley 0-5f, J Bergin 0-3 (2f), S Kinsella, E Nolan, J Mulrooney, O Kelly, B Conneely, P Guinan 0-1 each.
WATERFORD – S O'Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; T de Búrca, C Gleeson, Philip Mahony; J Barron, K Moran; M Walsh, A Gleeson, Pauric Mahony; D Fives, M Shanahan, Shane Bennett. Subs: J Dillon for Shanahan and C Dunford for Walsh (both 48), S Daniels for Moran (52), T Ryan for Bennett (55), P Curran for Pauric Mahony (60).
OFFALY – J Dempsey; B Conneely, D Shortt, P Camon; S Gardiner, A Treacy, D King; S Ryan, J Bergin; P Murphy, S Kinsella, E Nolan; J Mulrooney S Dooley, O Kelly. Subs: E Grogan for Treacy and S Cleary for Dooley (both half-time), M Cleary for Nolan and P Ger.
REF – A Kelly (Galway)