Friday 15 December 2017

Cats find escape route in epic clash

Kilkenny 1-22 Waterford 2-16

Henry Shefflin returns to the bench for extra time
Henry Shefflin returns to the bench for extra time
Kilkenny's goal was awarded after referee James Owens consulted with his umpires
Kikenny's Eoin Larkin appeals to referee James Owens following a Richie Power penalty - the goal was awarded
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Hurling's celestial championship continues to leave its indelible foot-print on a long, hot summer.

Hurling's celestial championship continues to leave its indelible foot-print on a long, hot summer.

After the storm of Nowlan Park seven days earlier, we expected a more serene environment for this clash at Semple Stadium. But instead another ferocious tempest whipped up.

The match, already delayed by 30 minutes because of extra-time in the curtain-raiser, required its own mini sequel to sort it out on a night that gloriously threatened not to end. Many of those among the 17,235 crowd surely wished it hadn't.

"Epic," said Tommy Walsh.

"Exhilarating," reflected Brian Cody. It was language you don't normally associate with these men.

Even hard-pressed Deise supporters, perhaps the greatest purveyors of the gallant defeat, surely felt something special about the defiance of their young team. But if there is a renewal of connection between a team and its supporters then it has to be with Kilkenny.

Faithful

It is quite possible that the past two weeks have drawn the black and amber faithful closer to their great team more than any All-Ireland has in recent times. Fed on a diet of what has often looked like routine success in the past, they are witnessing their heroes in something of a different light now.

It had unfolded like the movie script of a getaway chase. Every time Kilkenny looked to be in the clear they'd peer in the rear-view mirror to see Waterford coming back into sight. It wasn't until close to the 90th minute that Waterford finally spun off the road.

On nights like this it is hard to distinguish between great quality and great hurling. But what did manifest was everything Cody has been saying about the spirit of his players for many years now. It was hard to remember him as relaxed and genuinely satisfied as he leaned against a wall and spoke to the media afterwards.

Every time his team were asked a serious question they delivered a serious answer. For sure they are vulnerable. Injuries have robbed some of their key players of form and so much game time.

Michael Fennelly made his return but Henry Shefflin's second outing back only lasted from the 39th minute to the end of normal time before he was replaced without much significant impact. Micheal Rice's search for form also continued, while Walter Walsh was replaced twice and Aidan Fogarty was also brought back on again in extra-time as pressure mounted on the Kilkenny squad.

Yet the greatest paradox was that the team that is supposedly wading through treacle as time catches up on them were actually electrified in extra-time.

For 70 minutes they made heavy work of the scoreboard, garnering just 13 scores (1-12) in perfect conditions. But in the 20 minutes of extra-time they scored 10 more times (0-10) to Waterford's three (2-1), making a mockery of any perception that younger legs would prevail.

Richie Hogan, Colin Fennelly and Fogarty all found gaps in the extra period and exploited them with a succession of scores.

It was a game Kilkenny essentially had to win three times. Early on, Waterford led by 0-5 to 0-2, their policy of dropping balls shorter paying dividends as Richie Foley and Darragh Fives dominated midfield. Fives' steal on Matthew Ruth on 19 minutes was a high point to establish a three-point lead.

But by the break Kilkenny were in control, their full-back line imperious as Paul Murphy and Jackie Tyrrell repeatedly repelled Waterford advances. A Richie Power penalty, after Noel Connors had fouled Fogarty, hit a stanchion and rebounded back into play on 36 minutes but, after consultation with his umpires, referee James Owens allowed it to stand and a 1-6 to 0-6 interval advantage was established.

Owens' next big call was much more contentious as normal time elapsed. Waterford, with Kevin Moran delivering a tour de force first from half-back and then from midfield, had reeled off the last five points of normal time from the 61st to the 71st minute for parity, 1-12 to 0-15. Briefly they looked poised for the kill. But then momentum swung to Kilkenny and, when Shane Fives spilled possession, Ruth took aim for the winning score at the death.

As he aligned himself for the shot, Owens blew for full-time. He was entitled to do so – injury-time's two minutes had elapsed – but it was an unconventional intervention from a referee to halt play when a team is in such a position.

Waterford's only score in the first period of added time was also a contentious decision. Jake Dillon looked to have his feet firmly planted in the square when Seamus Prendergast bundled a ball to him on 80 minutes and from nowhere Waterford were back in the game again, 1-17 to 1-15.

But Kilkenny resolutely took off again, Hogan finding much more space now for two points as Waterford visibly tired. As Moran limped out of the game with cramp, Waterford sought desperately to stay in touch. And when Maurice Shanahan, peripheral during his initial spell on the field, won a free with two minutes of added time remaining, his only intent was to go for goal. The shot was halted but Ray Barry followed up for a second Deise goal and parity again, 2-16 to 0-19.

Cue hysteria and a sense that their moment, after so much heartbreak against Kilkenny, had arrived.

But the response then from the Cats was their most impressive of the night, Colin Fennelly, Ruth and Fogarty spinning away for points within a minute. Waterford could take no more and Stephen O'Keeffe's remarkable save from Ruth was little more than window-dressing a better scoreline.

It was quite possibly the last we'll see of 40-year-old Tony Browne, who hurled the last 22 minutes or so.

Efforts to kill Kilkenny off have failed for a second successive week. And what isn't killing them is making them stronger.

Scorers – Kilkenny: R Power 1-5 (1-0 pen, 4fs), R Hogan 0-5, C Fennelly, E Larkin (3fs) 0-4 each, A Fogarty 0-2, M Fennelly, M Ruth 0-1 each. Waterford : R Barry 1-3, J Dillon 1-2 (0-1f), D Fives, K Moran 0-3 each, S Prendergast, J Nagle (f), J Barron, R Foley, B O'Sullivan 0-1 each.

Kilkenny – E Murphy 7; P Murphy 8, J J Delaney 8, J Tyrrell 9; T Walsh 8, B Hogan 7, K Joyce 7; E Larkin 6, M Rice 5; C Fennelly 8, R Power 8, R Hogan 9; A Fogarty 6, W Walsh 5, M Ruth 6. Subs: H Shefflin 5 for Walsh (39), M Fennelly 6 for Rice (47). L Ryan 5 for Fogarty (f-t), W Walsh for Shefflin (f-t), Fogarty for Walsh (83), C Fogarty for Delaney (88).

Waterford – S O'Keeffe 9; S Fives 7, L Lawlor 8, N Connors 7; J Nagle 7, M Walsh 8, K Moran 9; D Fives 8, R Foley 8; J Dillon 6, S Prendergast 6, S O'Sullivan 7; B O'Sullivan 6, M Shanahan 5, J Barron 5. Subs: R Barry 8 for B O'Sullivan(47), M O'Neill for Shanahan (55), S Walsh 5 for O'Neill (57), P Prendergast 6 for Foley (60),T Browne 6 for D Fives (69). E Barrett for Barron (78), Shanahan for Moran (84).

Ref – James Owens (Wexford).

Game at a glance

Man of the match

Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)

A multitude of contenders, from Kevin Moran to Jackie Tyrrell, but Hogan cornered much of the market for leadership in extra-time for Kilkenny, whipping over four of his five points at crucial times and earning a free for another.

Talking point

Kilkenny on the brink; a wonder save from Stephen O'Keeffe; Moran's tour de force; the iron will of the Kilkenny full-back line; Henry Shefflin on and off again; two controversial refereeing decisions; Tony Browne hurling in a championship match at 40; and Kilkenny the indefatigable. Phew!

Turning point

It had more twists than an Alpine climb so it's hard to conclude that anyone turned this epic match in a particular direction. Ultimately momentum slipped from Waterford when the final delivery failed to find Seamus Prendergast at the end of normal time after Moran's third and levelling point.

Ref watch

James Owens was a key player on the night. He got the right call when a Richie Power penalty struck a stanchion and was allowed after some consultation with his umpires. His decision to blow full-time just as Matthew Ruth steadied to shoot what would have been a winning point was highly contentious, and Jake Dillon had his feet planted in the square when the ball was played to him for his goal.

Magic moment

Stephen O'Keeffe produced the most spellbinding save from Ruth at the end of extra-time. Watching the slow motion reaction of Brian Cody to it on the TV screen perhaps offers the best illustration as to how good it was.

What they said

Brian Cody (Kilkenny manager):

"There were huge questions asked there. If our spirit was diluted, or if our attitude or determination was in any way sort of below par we would have been blown away. That was the standard they were playing at and it's great credit due to them because everybody talks about the great Waterford players no longer playing with them."

Michael Ryan (Waterford manager):

"There was no point hawking high ball down on top of Kilkenny. We used the ball well, at times very well. Maybe the deciding factor was the early minutes of extra-time when they had a little bit of composure."

Match stastics

Wides:

Kilkenny 13 (9 first half)

Waterford 10 (5).

Extra-time:

Kilkenny 3 (2),

Waterford 5 (3).

Frees:

Kilkenny 10 (5),

Waterford 8 (2).

Extra-time:

Kilkenny 2 (1),

Waterford 7 (2).

Yellow Cards:

Kilkenny 2 (M Ruth 12, R Power 31)

Waterford 5 (R Foley 24, D Fives 28, S Prendergast 31, N Connor 36, R Barry 54)

Red Cards:

Kilkenny 0

Waterford 0

What's next?

Kilkenny meet Cork in a quarter-final on July 28. Waterford must look forward to 2014 with renewed vigour after this performance.

Irish Independent Sport Star Awards

Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.

Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport