Bennett brothers leave healthy home deposit for summer
Waterford 1-18 Galway 2-13 (Allianz HL Div 1B)
Any account of this match should be read through the prism of a weather report first.
It was so cold in Walsh Park that players from both sides were randomly shaking their hands and rolling their arms during breaks just to stay warm. This after frantic passages of play, prefaced by detailed and scientific warm-ups designed to insulate them against such an impediment as chilled limbs.
The wind was so strong that a Fergal Flannery puck-out, at one stage in the second half, climbed high to reach just short of the 45-metre line before swirling backwards by 10 more metres, landing in Michael 'Brick' Walsh's grateful arms to tee up Jamie Barron for one of his three points.
And the sky was so diverse with its offering that sunshine could be pushed aside by dark, foreboding clouds in a matter of seconds, hurling down heavy rain, mixed in with a few bolts of thunder and lightning.
Yet Waterford hearts will be warmed by how it ended. Shane Bennett, giving trouble all afternoon to the Galway defence, got the touch for the deciding goal almost four minutes into injury time to avail of Peter Hogan's pass inside from Austin Gleeson's clearance.
Bennett almost fluffed it first time but recovered to beat Flannery and wrap up the points to place them second in the division. That gives them an even chance of a home fixture for their quarter-final against Clare when the draw is made later today.
Any impression they can create around Walsh Park right now will be welcome. Clare are due there on May 12 and the sense of fortress was one the home side were keen to give off here.
They were 10 points down at the break, nothing in the conditions as it transpired, and as the surface became more 'gluepot' in its texture and so many second-half rucks developed, it was Waterford who showed that bit more hunger to dig it out.
If home venue for future championship games is so important, they have to create that aura about the place.
Their manager Páraic Fanning felt it was enough to get them over the line. "The game being in Walsh Park, the first in a while, we wanted to get the win here. There's a couple of big games coming up here, (so) it gave us a lot of encouragement to do that. We want to win any game we play really.
"It is a hard place to come but we want to create the impression that we are a hard team to beat," he continued.
"You can see the value of the home matches last year. Today we managed to etch out a home win, the crowd (3,371) helped us a lot."
The form of the Bennett brothers is another welcome sign of progress for Waterford. Shane sat out last year, Stephen, like so many of his team-mates, never hit form but they were all over this win.
Stephen, assuming free-taking duties for now from Pauric Mahony, landed nine frees to add to a point from play while Shane hit 1-1 and was fouled for four of the frees that his older sibling put over.
In the past, Waterford's inside forwards could appear isolated for too long under the system but here they looked compact and threatening, even against the wind.
"I don't think people realise how hard it was out there against the elements and how well we actually did in the first half, in hindsight. Galway got two in the second half and found it hard to get up the field, we had seven and were a little unlucky not to have a few more so, unlucky to be 10 down at half-time."
Galway did indeed struggle to get the ball out of their half at times after the break and landed just two points, from Niall Burke and a Joe Canning free.
But they had been cushioned by two goals, one an extraordinary effort by Brian Concannon after sublime control on the run by Canning. It was as good a 'bad weather' goal as you are likely to see.
It put Galway nine clear on 33 minutes, not a true reflection on the balance of play. Earlier Jason Flynn had pounced on a puck-out miscommunication for the first goal but Waterford's approach work had been quite methodical, with Barron especially leading the charge from midfield. It augured well.
They had seven points dispatched after the break before Burke issued a Galway response on 55 minutes and by that stage it was a matter of when, not if, Waterford would go by them. But Galway were stubborn and as the surface cut up more, the flow to Waterford's play slowed.
When Stephen Bennett landed his 10th point with six minutes of normal time still remaining Waterford were poised, but it took almost 10 minutes more to land the decisive blow.
Galway once again went with just six of their All-Ireland starting team from last August as Micheál Donoghue continues to throw the net wide. They could sense it slipping away as the wind picked up after the break.
"In the first 10 or 15 minutes it was very strong and we were just pinned back in our own half and we just couldn't get it up the field. Obviously with it, they were going to be very strong but I can't fault our lads' effort. They worked to the death and it was unfortunate that we conceded late on."
Fanning was keen to extract a performance after a disappointing effort against Dublin in the previous round.
He said: "It was the second really tough game we've had, with the greatest of respect to the other teams. We need these type of games."
Scorers - Waterford: Stephen Bennett 0-10 (9f), Shane Bennett 1-1, J Barron 0-3, Pauric Mahony, M Kearney 0-2 each.
Galway: J Canning 0-7 (6f), J Flynn 1-1 (0-1f), N Burke 0-3, B Concannon 1-0, C Whelan 0-2.
Waterford - S O'Keeffe 6; D Lyons 7, S McNulty 6, N Connors 7; C Lyons 6, Philip Mahony 7, K Moran 7; C Dunford 7, J Barron 8; M Walsh 6, M Kearney 7, Pauric Mahony 6; P Hogan 6, Stephen Bennett 7, Shane Bennett 8. Subs: J Henley 6 for D Lyons (46), A Gleeson 6 for Walsh (51), S Roche 6 for Dunford (52), C Roche for Connors inj (63), J Prendergast for C Lyons (66).
Galway - F Flannery 6; A Harte 6, R Burke 6 J Grealish 6; K Hussey 7, P Mannion 7, G McInerney 6; C Mannion 6, S Loftus 7; N Burke 7, J Canning 7, B Concannon 6; C Whelan 7, J Flynn 6, D Glennon 6. Subs: S Bleahene 6 for Flynn (53), S Linnane 6 for C Mannion (55), P Killeen for Grealish (63), S Kilduff for Linnane inj (69), J Hanbury for R Burke (73).
Ref - D Hughes (Carlow)