Wednesday 22 August 2018

'We'll take it on the chin' - Derek McGrath impressively sanguine as 'ghost' goal brings Tipp back to life

Tipperary 2-22 Waterford 2-22 - Munster SHC Round-Robin

Waterford’s Stephen O’Keeffe remonstrates with the umpire. Photo: Sportsfile
Waterford’s Stephen O’Keeffe remonstrates with the umpire. Photo: Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

A day threatening to descend into a memorial service for Tipperary hurling turned rogue in the soupy Limerick air, all those old ghosts Waterford suspect lurk in the stonework of this place suddenly coming for their corpse.

They struggle to recall a good day on this field and yesterday, despite leaving with a Munster Championship point, came to feel like another cursed excursion. Eleven points up with just 16 minutes remaining and hurling with an extra man, Waterford looked comfortable enough to see out the remainder in shades and flip-flops.

Austin Gleeson of Waterford tangles with Patrick Maher of Tipperary during the Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 3 match between Waterford and Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile
Austin Gleeson of Waterford tangles with Patrick Maher of Tipperary during the Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 3 match between Waterford and Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile

But then the sky caved in above them.

How? Tipp, it's true, were largely responsible, morphing before our eyes for the second week running from grey husks of men into surging leviathans. There was an element of self-harm too in Waterford's bewildering decision to go long with Stephen O'Keeffe's puck-outs when he always had an un-tagged defender close to hand.

But the turning point, the talking point, the moment that threw every Waterford person on the premises into convulsions of rage was the awarding of a 62nd minute Tipperary goal on the basis of Austin Gleeson carrying the sliotar over his own goal-line when all TV and photographic evidence seemed to offer a stark denial.

Rifled

That came just four minutes after substitute Patrick 'Bonner' Maher had rifled Tipp's first goal to the Ennis Road net, setting in train a remarkable comeback that made even the previous week's climb out of shallow grave against Cork seem like humdrum book-keeping.

Jason Forde of Tipperary takes a free that hit the crossbar in the second half during the Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 3 match between Waterford and Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile
Jason Forde of Tipperary takes a free that hit the crossbar in the second half during the Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 3 match between Waterford and Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo: Sportsfile

Tipp won those final 16 minutes by a 2-7 to 0-2 margin, their manager Michael Ryan reflecting honestly afterwards, "it looked awful at one stage!"

Waterford's sense of hurt was compounded when referee Alan Kelly then seemed to over-rule his umpires to allow a 73rd minute Ronan Maher point that brought the margin down to the minimum. Seconds later, Jason Forde equalised with a free and stewards and a couple of gardai moving quickly to intercept Kelly and his umpires on the final whistle and form a human chute to escort them down the tunnel.

They needn't have worried about Derek McGrath, the Waterford manager gracious as ever in the face of jarring disappointment. "Look I think these decisions are made in good faith, I really do" he said evenly afterwards.

McGrath's defenders, Gleeson included, were adamant that 62nd minute ball hadn't crossed their goal-line after Forde's free fell short into the Waterford 'square'. The manager's message to them was a simple "move on", given they return to this venue next weekend to play an unbeaten Limerick.

For 50 minutes, they looked unstoppable against a team that Ryan admitted had him worried about fatigue from just watching them in the warm-up.

The new structure has already decanted some extraordinary games, yet it seems too compressed, particularly for teams (like these two) compelled to play on four successive weekends. In Tipp's case, this was their third in a row and they were already 0-5 to 0-3 down when the rampant Tom Devine fired home Waterford's first goal in the ninth minute, a smart, one-handed finish after Tipp's defence failed to deal with a long Gleeson free.

McGrath, had opted to go orthodox given the injuries to his two acknowledged sweepers, Tadhg de Burca and Darragh Fives, and that meant Michael 'Brick' Walsh reverting to a wing-back role with Gleeson positioned at number six, from where he won an All-Ireland minor title five years ago.

And Tipp looked hopelessly leaden in the June sunshine, Seamus Callanan isolated on the edge of the 'square' and only Forde's free-taking really keeping them in even remote contention.

That said, they did appear to have weathered Waterford's early storm when a burst of five unanswered points between the 17th and 22nd minutes brought the margin down to the minimum (0-11 to 1-9) before being hit for a second sucker punch into the Ennis Road goal.

This came in the 26th minute and was unconventional to put it mildly. Gleeson played a short cross-field free to O'Keeffe, the Waterford goalkeeper having - incredibly - run almost to the half-way line unpoliced by anyone in blue and gold.

And O'Keeffe's effort at a point dropped into an over-heating Tipp 'square' where Padraic Maher batted the ball straight out to an unmarked Pauric Mahony whose finish was emphatic.

So Waterford took a 2-12 to 0-12 lead to the dressing-room, Tipp's difficulties now compounded by Michael Cahill's dismissal for a second yellow.

Within five minutes of the resumption, Waterford had tagged on four more unanswered points, 'Brick' their option for a free man in defence.

It looked as though they were landing punches on a defenceless fighter now.

Yet, in the minutes just after a 54th minute Tommy Ryan's point made it 2-19 to 0-14 for Waterford, O'Keeffe inexplicably long puck-outs began ricocheting off a blue and gold wall in which the Mahers, Ronan, Padraic and Brendan all became stand-out figures.

Cathal Barrett and Forde both scored points before 'Bonner' then buried one in the net after an uncharacteristic 'Brick' fumble.

After that? Chaos really.

The goal that maybe never was brought Tipp almost inside Waterford's clothes when, just eight minutes earlier, they might as well have been slipping out a side gate at the front of a cortege. The wind-shift was extraordinary.

Asked if the controversy highlighted a need for video technology at all big-game venues, McGrath was impressively sanguine.

"If we get too technical, there'd be no emotive reaction to anything" he reflected. "We'll take it on the chin the way we've taken other decisions. It might be contradictory, but I think hurling is one game that doesn't need technology.

"Mistakes are part of the game, we make enough of them on the line and on the field."

Scorers - Tipperary: J Forde 1-13 (1-11 frees), Patrick Maher 1-0, R Maher 0-3, S Callanan 0-2, B McCarthy, J O'Dwyer, N McGrath and C Barrett 0-1 each. Waterford: Pauric Mahony 1-9 (0-5 frees), T Devine 1-2, J Barron and DJ Foran 0-3 each, P Curran 0-2, Philip Mahony, T Ryan and S Bennett 0-1 each

Tipperary - B Hogan 7, S O'Brien 6, S Kennedy 7, M Cahill 5, Joe O'Dwyer 6, Padraic Maher 7, B Maher 8, R Maher 8, B McCarthy 6, D McCormack 6, J Forde 8, N McGrath 6, John O'Dwyer 6, S Callanan 7, J McGrath 6. Subs: Patrick Maher 7 for O'Dwyer (46 mins), C Barrett 6 for N McGrath (55 mins), J Morris for J McGrath (59 mins), S Curran for McCormack (60 mins), W Connors for B McCarthy (67 mins).

Waterford - S O'Keeffe 7, C Gleeson 7, S Fives 7, N Connors 7, Philip Mahony 7, A Gleeson 7, M Walsh 7, J Barron 7, S Roche 6, Pauric Mahony 8, P Curran 6, DJ Foran 7, M Kearney 6, T Devine 7, S Bennett 6. T Ryan 7for Kearney (46 mins), B O'Halloran 6 for Curran (55 mins), J Dillon for Foran (58 mins), C Dunford for Roche (62 mins), S McNulty for Connors (65 mins).

Ref - A Kelly (Galway).

Irish Independent

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