Monday 20 November 2017

Shanahan steps up to the mark for Waterford

WATERFORD 0-21 OFFALY 1-14

Waterford’s Noel Connors dives to block Joe Bergin of Offaly during last night’s qualifier.
Waterford’s Noel Connors dives to block Joe Bergin of Offaly during last night’s qualifier.

Dermot Crowe in O’Connor Park

F0R a good part of this match Waterford were looking at the possibility, indeed the probability, of their earliest summer exit since 2001. They've become accustomed to long engagements with the championship, more than Offaly have in recent times, but the home side had the wind after half-time and were level by the 47th minute. Before a vocal home crowd of a little more than 8,000, the Faithful looked like they would take some stopping.

And then Waterford's character came to the fore. One of their pillars, Seamus Prendergast, had a quiet evening and didn't see the distance but after a quiet opening half the ever-dependable 'Brick' Walsh emerged as a key objector to Offaly's claims on an advance to the next round of the qualifiers.

He bossed the territory behind the midfield and repelled repeated Offaly attacks. That was one reason for Waterford being able to survive this test. The other, indisputably, was Maurice Shanahan.

The tall attacker, who started at full-forward and roamed about in different positions, finished the evening with 13 points, eight from play. Good as 'Brick' was, Shanahan was the man-of-the-match and proved the downfall of Offaly.

The home side won the toss and elected to play into a hard swirling wind. They were boosted by a gift of a goal seven minutes in when Liam Lawlor's handpass was intercepted by Shane Dooley. Having had a quiet game against Kilkenny, Dooley took the offer hungrily and rifled an unstoppable shot past Stephen O'Keeffe.

O'Keeffe had been selected ahead of Ian O'Regan, who played against Clare, and more than justified his recall with some fine catches under pressure in the first half and a late vital save from Dan Currams to keep Offaly at bay. The expected onslaught from Offaly's giant forward men in the second half never materialised, with Walsh helping to set up a line of steel along the Waterford half-back line.

Offaly's best hurling after half-time came after an early decision went their way, referee James McGrath deciding that Seamus Prendergast was not fouled as he tried to break through for a goal attempt. The response lifted the home crowd: Brian Carroll struck two sublime scores and they had two of the next three to draw level. Yet Shanahan remained a menace and kept the Waterford scoreboard ticking over. Brian O'Sullivan picked off three invaluable points from play, and early in the match Jake Dillon chipped in with two, and set up another for Kevin Moran.

A Derek Morkan score kept Offaly within two points with 15 minutes to go but three of the last four scores went to Shanahan. At the other end Dooley, aside from the early goal, was well shackled. Offaly lost Derek Molloy early in the match to injury and his replacement Conor Mahon foraged hard and nicked a score. Currams and Joe Bergin looked dangerous but they were never able to sustain a threat when the match was in the melting pot.

Waterford wasted chances in the first half and both midfielders, Paudie Prendergast and Moran, eyed the glory when in good positions, shooting for goals when easier point chances were on offer. Offaly had just one wide and they went off at the break 1-6 to 0-13 behind, satisfied, surely, with the wind to come. They also managed to keep the free concession count down, an area in which they suffered badly against Kilkenny.

But Waterford, having started marginal favourites, were not done yet. They will head into the next phase ready for anything.

Scorers – Waterford: M Shanahan 0-13 (0-5 fs), B O'Sullivan 0-3, J Dillon 0-2, K Moran, S O'Sullivan P Prendergast 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 1-4 (0-4 fs); J Bergin, B Carroll, K Brady, D Currams 0-2 each; C Mahon, D Morkan 0-1 each.

Waterford: S O'Keeffe; S Fives, L Lawlor, N Connors; J Nagle, M Walsh, D Fives; P Prendergast, K Moran; M Shanahan, S Prendergast, S O'Sullivan; J Barron, J Dillon, B O'Sullivan. Subs: P Mahony for Barron (40 mins), M O'Neill for S Prendergast (59), R Foley for D Fives (63).

Offaly: J Dempsey; C McDonald, D Kenny, D Mooney; R Hanniffy, G Healion, D Morkan; B Carroll, K Brady; C Egan, D Molloy, C Slevin; S Dooley, D Currams, J Bergin. Subs: C Mahon for Molloy (inj 10 mins), P Cleary for Mooney (42), S Cleary for Slevin (52), S Gardiner for Cleary (56), S Ryan for K Brady (70).

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).

Irish Independent

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