Waterford boss Derek McGrath not hung up on promotion
Limerick 2-16 Waterford 0-22
WATERFORD manager Derek McGrath is not "hell bent" on gaining promotion from Division 1B - despite his team's encouraging start against Limerick on Saturday at the Gaelic Grounds.
The visitors claimed a merited draw from their Shannonside visit and could conceivably have claimed maximum points from a tie they led by four on six separate occasions.
In a breathless finish, they were fortunate to claim a draw as Paudie Prendergast scored a fine equaliser in the second minute of stoppage time after Richie McCarthy's long-range 'wonder score' looked to have won it for Limerick.
McGrath smiled: "We played well - very happy in terms of how much work we have done, fitness work.
"But I would point out that we started with four U-21s and finished with six.
"Our intention is to stick with these guys and if the result had not gone our way, or we'd been hammered, we'd have gone with the same personnel next week.
"That's not in any way pleading for patience - that's just reality."
McGrath is looking at a long-term approach with his team, after deciding to effectively clean out his panel after the 2014 season.
And the manner of this display was certainly encouraging, particularly with the likes of Ryan Donnelly, Colin Dunford, Shane O'Sullivan, Darragh Fives, Maurice Shanahan, Steven Daniels and Eddie Barrett unavailable.
Relegated from Division 1A last year, Waterford will have their say in the promotion race, despite McGrath's downplaying of expectations.
McGrath added: "We're not too hell bent on gaining promotion.
"Obviously it would be a massive boost if we could gain promotion but we're just aiming for one of the top four slots and get into a quarter-final. This team needs that. We'll take it game by game."
McGrath's opposite number does want promotion - and Limerick manager TJ Ryan insisted that his players are still in control of their collective fate.
Ryan said: "If you asked me at half-time, we were under pressure but when we went ahead, you'd like to have stayed on and won it.
"Destiny still in our own hands - we have to drive on and win the rest of our games."
Limerick, too, were depleted. Declan Hannon damaged his ankle playing for Mary Immaculate College last week, Shane Dowling missed out through illness and David Breen pulled a quad muscle in training on Thursday evening.
But some familiar names did impress no end. Kilmallock's Gavin O'Mahony enjoyed his run-out ahead of the All-Ireland club final with five points from play in the half-forward line, which looks set to be his new home for Limerick.
It was O'Mahony, and David Reidy's early penalty, that kept Limerick in touch at half-time, trailing by 1-7 to 0-14 in front of 3,502 spectators.
After the break, as Pauric Mahony kept the Waterford tally ticking over, home midfielder Paul Browne strode like a colossus, picking up where O'Mahony had left off in the first half.
Ryan added: "Our next one is in Ballycastle (Antrim) next Sunday, a difficult trip up there. I would say there are twists and turns in Division 1B yet. We'll take the draw - we'd have liked to win it but look, it is what it is. Very same as last year - we've been here before."
Limerick's 2014 campaign began with a draw in Cork but this is their fifth season outside of the top flight and for an emerging side getting up to Division 1A is a priority. They'll need to improve to get there.
Man of the Match: Paul Browne (Limerick)
Scorers - Limerick: D Reidy 2-3 (2-0 pen, 3fs), G O'Mahony 0-5, P Browne 0-4, R McCarthy, T Condon, C Lynch & A Breen 0-1 each. Waterford: Pauric Mahony 0-11 (9fs), J Barron, A Gleeson, B O'Halloran & P Prendergast 0-2 each, K Moran, M Walsh & Shane Bennett 0-1 each.
LIMERICK - N Quaid 7; S Walsh 6, R McCarthy 7, S Hickey 6; D O'Grady 6, W McNamara 6, T Condon 7; C King 6, P Browne 9; N Moran 5, G O'Mahony 9, C Lynch 7; D Reidy 7, P Begley 5, A Breen 6. Subs: T Morrissey 6 for Moran (28), J Ryan 8 for King (h-t), D Morrissey 6 for Begley (50), J Fitzgibbon n/a for O'Grady (64), S O'Brien n/a for Condon (65).
WATERFORD - S O'Keeffe 6; S Fives 6, B Coughlan 6, N Connors 6; T Bourke 7, A Gleeson 7, Philip Mahony 5; J Barron 7, T Devine 7; K Moran 6, Pauric Mahony 7, J Dillon 5; B O'Halloran 7, M Walsh 7, M Kearney 5. Subs: P Prendergast 7 for Philip Mahony (23), Shane Bennett 7 for Kearney (42), Stephen Bennett 7 for Dillon (48), M O'Neill 6 for Devine (57), G O'Brien n/a for Moran (69).
Ref - C Lyons (Cork)