Waterford – 2-19 Dublin – 3-16
Nothing to see here then? Hurling’s cognoscenti seem broadly united in a contention that this hurling league will amount to little more than a dilatory game of charades before the championship bares its teeth in April.
Really? This had a sufficiently full-blooded edge in Dungarvan to engage the limited 3,800 attendance in a way to suggest this may be hurling’s most put-upon, least decorous competition, but it still has a discernible pulse. And that pulse isn’t exactly tremulous.
Second-half red cards for Jack Fagan (a yellow and black) and Stephen Bennett left 13-man Waterford fighting as if their lives depended on it at the end.
Only a 76th-minute Dónal Burke free denied Davy Fitzgerald an opening day league victory in this, his second coming as manager of the Déise.
Bennett’s straight red followed an incident with Dublin defender Paddy Doyle in front of the dug-outs, and Fitzgerald reflected: “They were saying there was an altercation. Your man did whatever and Stephen pushed back and caught him high.
“The thing I can’t figure out is why wasn’t the first thing punished where their player came into it as well.
“I’ll deal with my stuff and there might be something to deal with. But I think (linesman) Colm (Lyons) has to look at the two sides. With thirteen fellas I’d be happy enough. Delighted with the character in the end.”
Fair to say Micheál Donoghue had much to be sated by too, with his largely callow team recovering from a first-minute yellow (Conor Donoghue), and second-minute black card (Paddy Doyle).
They also encountered an early deficit of 0-0 to 1-5 to suggest that pained period of transition many imagine faces the city team may not be quite as pained (or indeed prolonged).
“It’s no more than we’ve seen over the past few weeks with them” he said.
“They’re a really good bunch to work with and good hurlers and training has gone well for us. After 10 minutes and you’re looking at 1-5 with a black card, it wasn’t looking good. But once we got to grips with what they were doing and imposed our own game, we came back into it.”
This was, then, a terrific contest on the impressively refreshed Fraher Field sod, one swinging endless windmills at those of us up in the press eyrie, trying frantically to keep account.
Doyle’s black card came for an offence on Michael Kiely that referee Liam Gordon punished with a penalty, Bennett duly converting with early authority past Seán Brennan.
It took Waterford just 13 minutes to establish that eight-point advantage, but any notion that this might unspool into some kind of cakewalk was quickly discouraged by the clever movement of Dublin’s two-man inside attacking line, Alex Considine and Cian O’Sullivan.
True, Reuben Halloran blazed a great chance of a second Waterford goal wide on 18 minutes and Brennan then saved brilliantly from the inrushing Jamie Barron three minutes later.
But Considine was proving a real handful for Conor Prunty and when the Waterford full-back was wayward with his delivery on 23 minutes, some brilliant interplay between the Kilmacud Crokes man and Cian O’Sullivan finished with the latter batting past Shaun O’Brien to the Waterford net.
Ten minutes later, O’Sullivan cleverly spun away from Conor Gleeson before firing high past O’Brien for another Dublin goal, meaning they arrived at the break on level terms, 2-7 to 1-10.
After such a bright opening, Waterford’s running off the shoulder was now hitting regular cul-de-sacs, Dublin palpably emboldened by their recovery from that bleak opening.
Sadly for Donoghue, double goal-scorer O’Sullivan could not resume for the second-half because of a hamstring pull and his replacement, Ronan Hayes, lasted just five minutes before he too had to depart with a similar complaint.
On 46 minutes Bennett nailed his second penalty after a small posse of defenders hauled down an inrushing Michael Kiely. That pushed the home team 2-12 to 2-9 ahead, but Dublin weren’t in a mood for acquiescence.
A wonderful Cian Boland fetch forced Fagan into a desperate, last-resort tackle on 54 minutes, the De La Salle man receiving a black card to follow his earlier yellow and, accordingly, getting the line from referee, Liam Gordon.
Dónal Burke’s penalty sent O’Brien the wrong way and Waterford then looked in desperate trouble on 61 minutes when Bennett got a straight red after tangling with Doyle.
By now, Fitzgerald had turned to his bench for some heavier artillery, both Aussie Gleeson and Dessie Hutchinson sprung on 49 minutes. Both were prominent in a real grandstand finish, Gleeson getting two of Waterford’s last five scores, then taking a 75th-minute free short for Kiely to nail what looked like proving the winning point.
But Dublin weren’t for turning, both Eoghan O’Donnell and Burke scoring brilliant late points before, with virtually the last puck of the game, Burke’s free levelled the game after a late Shane McNulty foul on Paul Crummey.
SCORERS – Waterford: Stephen Bennett 2-7 (2-0 pens, 0-7 frees), A Gleeson 0-4 (0-3 frees), M Kiely and T Barron 0-2 each, J Fagan, J Barron, D Hutchinson and J Prendergast 0-1 each. Dublin: D Burke 1-7 (1-0 pen, 0-5 frees), C O’Sullivan 2-0, C Bolan 0-3, A Considine 0-2, E O’Donnell, C Donoghue, C Burke and J Flanagan 0-1 each,
WATERFORD – S O’Brien 7, C Gleeson 6, C Prunty 6, S McNulty 6, J Fagan 8, M Harney 7, C Lyons 7, D Lyons 7, P Leavey 6, J Barron 8, R Halloran 6, T Barron 7, K Mahony 6, Stephen Bennett 8, M Kiely 7. Subs: C Daly 7 for D Lyons (17 mins), A Gleeson 8 for Halloran (49 mins), D Hutchinson 7 for Mahony (49 mins), J Prendergast 7 for Leavey (56 mins), P Curran for T Barron (75 mins).
DUBLIN – S Brennan 8, J Bellew 7, E O’Donnell 7, P Doyle 7, C Donoghue 7, C Burke 8, D Gray 7, F Whiteley 7, C O’Leary 6, D Burke 8, J Flanagan 8, C Boland 8, D Keogh 6, C O’Sullivan 8, A Considine 8. Subs: R Hayes (not on long enough) for O’Sullivan (half-time), P Crummey 6 for Hayes (40 mins), J Madden 7 for Keogh (44 mins), C Costello 6 for Flanagan (56 mins), AJ Murphy 6 for Considine (blood 60 mins), R Smith for Whiteley (72 mins)
Ref – L Gordon (Galway).