Waterford show real resolve to wear down Tipperary in thrilling finish
Waterford 1-18 Tipperary 1-17
It certainly wasn't Championship weather but many of the other ingredients of the big summer action were in evidence at Semple Stadium yesterday.
"There was a bit of a Championship feel to it near the end " said delighted Waterford manager Derek McGrath as he celebrated a third straight League win of the new season.
It takes Waterford's unbeaten League run to 11 games and with six points already secured in this campaign, they are virtually guaranteed a quarter-final slot, irrespective of how they fare against Dublin and Galway.
Their confidence levels continue to rise as the winning sequence extends and they have now reached a stage that even when things are flowing against them, they possess the guile to work their way through the problems.
They had to pass that test in the second half yesterday after falling five points behind in the 43rd minute.
Tipperary led by 0-12 to 0-8 at the interval and had the better of the opening minutes of the second half too, with John O'Dwyer pointing twice, while Jamie Barron countered with a Waterford point.
It looked very much as if Tipperary were on their way to a second League win, only for Waterford to relaunch themselves with spectacular impact.
Patrick Curran's accuracy from frees and play hauled Waterford back into contention and, by the 50th minute, they had cut the deficit to a point.
The next nine minutes were scoreless before sub Tom Devine smashed in a Waterford goal, their first in the current League.
The momentum was very much with Waterford at this stage and while O'Dwyer broke Tipperary's long barren spell with a pointed free in the 61st minute, there was no real fluency to their game.
Waterford added three more points to lead by 1-16 to 0-15 after 65 minutes, leaving Tipperary facing a real test of their resolve.
In fairness, their response was defiant. Points by O'Dwyer and Noel McGrath were followed by a 68th-minute goal from John McGrath.
Suddenly, Tipperary were a point up and looking as if they might hold on but Waterford weren't to be denied.
Curran pointed a 43-metre free before Austin Gleeson hoisted the winner from a 100-metre free. It was awarded when Philip Mahony was adjudged to have been tripped as he tried to break clear in his own half-back line, presenting Waterford with the match-winning opportunity.
McGrath said that he considered bringing out goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe to try his luck but Gleeson was already poised over the ball. His aim was straight and true and the ball sailed over the bar in what was the last action of a thrilling contest.
Gleeson had started at full-forward as part of another experiment, which looked to be going well early on. He scored the opening point in first minute but didn't get much possession after that and moved outfield in the second quarter.
He was more effective in that role, especially in the second half.
Tipperary were the better side for most of the first half, which they finished strongly with three points. They should have been further ahead but 'Bonner' Maher missed a clear goal opportunity in the 34th minute, failing to beat O'Keeffe from close range.
It was an excellent block by the Waterford goalkeeper but a better strike by Maher would have made his task impossible.
"We were being out-worked all over the field in the first half. We agreed at half-time that whatever else happened, we wouldn't be out-worked in the second half," said McGrath.
It took them a while to power up through the gears after the break but, once they did, the game took on a very different complexion.
"We went 20 odd minutes without getting a score (in the second half) - we really handed them the initiative in that period. And we ended up chasing it. In fairness, chase it we did and we got ourselves right back into it," said Tipperary manager Michael Ryan.
"We had chances too. We weren't overwhelmed. This was a really good match on March 6."
Waterford gained on the information front too and can be really pleased with the manner in which they sorted themselves out in the second half.
"We started with four 20-year-olds in our forward line today. Patrick Curran was 20 during the week - it was marvellous to see a 20-year-old hitting frees in Thurles with such confidence. Our midfielders are 23. It's great to see how all these young lads stand up when they have to. Their time is now," said McGrath.
He admitted to being a bit apprehensive about this fixture but, in the end, it all came good.
"There's a always a doubt when you're coming to a place you associate with drubbings over the years so yes, it was a very satisfying result," said McGrath.
The days when Waterford suffered drubbings are well behind them as they continue to build towards a unit that has a real chance of winning an All-Ireland title. There's a method in everything they do and it's all underpinned by massive energy levels.
Tipperary lined out without Seamus Callanan, who had a hamstring problem and his loss was sorely felt in an attack that started well but faded in the second half.
That was down to Waterford's high-intensity game which was the dominant theme of their recovery drive.
Scorers - Waterford: P Curran 0-9 (7fs), T Devine 1-0, S Bennett 0-3, K Moran, A Gleeson 0-2 (1f) each, M Kearney, J Barron 0-1 each.
Tipperary: J O'Dwyer 0-11 (9fs), J McGrath 1-2, M Breen 0-2, N McGrath, B Maher 0-1 each.
Tipperary- D Gleeson 7; C Barrett 7, T Hamill 7, M Cahill 7; B Heffernan 6, R Maher 7, Padraic Maher 6; B Maher 7, M Breen 7; N McGrath 6, D McCormack 5, Patrick Maher 6; J O'Dwyer 7, L McGrath 5, J McGrath 8. Subs: N O'Meara 6 for L McGrath (50). K Bergin 6 for McCormack (58).
Waterford - S O'Keeffe 8; S Fives 7, B Coughlan 7, N Connors 7; P Mahony 7, D Fives 7, K Moran 7; J Barron 7, C Dunford 6; M Walsh 6, P Curran 9, J Dillon 7; S Bennett 8, A Gleeson 7, M Kearney 6. Subs: T Devine 8 for Kearney (46), T Ryan 6 for Walsh (54), S O'Sullivan for Dunford (65).
Ref - C Lyons (Cork)