By Mark Jones
Waterford 2-13, Laois 1-14
Waterford remain on course for the semifinals of the National Hurling League following last Sunday’s Div. 1B victory over Laois at O’Moore Park. In fact, the in-form Munster county had to battle hard to preserve its unbeaten record as a rejuvenated Laois came close to a first victory of the season.
At one stage, Waterford, who now have a 100 percent return from five games, appeared to be cruising when Michael White cracked in a goal and points flowed from Paul Flynn, Dave Bennett, Ken McGrath and Johnny Brenner, but Laois eventually managed to get into their stride.
Their best spell came after the dismissal of Donnacha Dowling midway through the second half. Dowling’s sending off seemed to galvanize Laois and they worked their way back into contention with a sustained burst of scoring from David Cuddy, Declan Rooney and Finan O’Sullivan.
Waterford could manage only one score in the closing 20 minutes, but Anthony Kirwan’s goal, flicked in from Flynn’s cross, turned out to be crucial. At the other end of the pitch, a penalty attempt by Cuddy was deflected over the bar to frustrate the Laois revival.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
Tipperary 2-11, Cork 1-12
Tipperary had to battle as well to overcome Cork at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, but their hard-fought success leaves Nick English’s men in the race for the knockout stages. However, Cork with just one win from four games have now to stave off the threat of relegation.
The 10,000 supporters would have expected more from two of the country’s big guns, but this hugely disappointing contest only took off in the dying minutes. Earlier, the play had been marred by dreadful finishing by both teams until a couple of quick goals by Tommy Dunne and Gerry Maguire put Tipp on their way.
The winners’ 2-5 to 0-6 interval lead actually flattered Cork, a fact readily admitted by manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy.
"The players are going through a bad spell and their confidence has been affected," he said. "The losing habit creates its own pressures."
Up front, the normally sharp Joe Deane had a poor game and was substituted with 20 minutes to go. As Andy Moloney, Paul Shelly and Mark O’Leary picked off scores, Tipp were sauntering to victory when Neil Ronan cracked in a goal for Cork.
But Tipp weren’t fazed and further points by Moloney and O’Leary settled the issue.
"League form is difficult to assess," English said. "We had to win to stay in the competition and that probably gave us the greater edge and saw us through."
Kilkenny 3-12, Derry 1-9
Kilkenny’s comfortable victory over Derry at Nowlan Park leaves them just one more success away from a place in the semifinals. A victory over Wexford on Sunday could secure a spot in the last four as long as scoring averages go their way.
Derry looked as if they would be on the wrong end of a drubbing when Edward Brennan and Paul Corcoran struck for early goals, but Kilkenny eased off and a goal by Michael Collins and four points from Oliver Collins made the scoreline more respectable.
Limerick 0-12, Dublin 2-4
With Galway inactive in Div. 1A, Limerick took the opportunity to join the Connacht champions at the top of the table when they were much too strong for Dublin.
Eamon Cregan’s young team remain firmly on course for the knockout stages and there was never the slightest chance of an upset at Kilmallock. The emerging Mark Keane hit nine points, including seven frees, and debutant James Butler scored an impressive 0-5.
"Exactly 12 months ago, we suffered the humiliation of an 11-point defeat at Parnell Park," said Limerick selector Canon Willie Fitzmaurice. "That was a black day and we’ve reversed that result, so that’s what I’d call progress."
Offaly 2-14, Clare 2-12
Clare’s chances of qualifying for the final stages ended with a controversial 2-14 to 2-12 loss to Offaly at Birr. As if some of the 1998 championship drama between the two counties weren’t enough, the man in black yet again took center stage.
Tipp referee Seamus Roche disagreed with all and sundry who had the halftime score at 1-7 to 0-4 in Clare’s favor. Roche instead insisted that Offaly’s total was five points. Then in the second half he disallowed a Tony Griffin "point" which Clare believed was good.
"The really entertaining thing out there was the performance of the referee," fumed Clare’s manager, Ger Loughnane. "I saw something I’ve never seen before. We had an All-Ireland semifinal with Offaly where the crowd changed the decision of the ref by sitting on the pitch. And today they changed it by shouting from the stand."
Loughnane’s anger was understandable as his team looked to be on the way to victory despite Griffin’s disallowed effort. But four minutes from time, Johnny Pilkington gave Offaly hope with a crisply struck goal and Pilkington then turned provider and Brendan Murphy fired home a second goal to finish off the contest.
Afterward, efforts to discover the scorer of Offaly’s mystery point during the first half proved fruitless. The referee didn’t want to comment other than to confirm that the halftime score was 1-7 to 0-5. Loughnane and many others weren’t so sure.
Antrim 0-15, Kerry 2-6
Antrim and Kerry fought out a dour bottom-of-the-table game at Casement Park where the home team eventually triumphed. Eight points by Greg O’Kane proved to be the difference between the sides.
Carlow scored a notable triumph at Dr. Cullen Park when they beat Meath by a point to jump to the top of the table. Carlow’s 0-20 to 1-19 success means they now share top spot with Meath and Westmeath, who got the better of Armagh on a scoreline of 2-13 to 1-9 at Castletowngeoghegan.
Down trounced Tyrone by 9-25 to 0-4 with Eamonn Trainor bagging three goals, while Wicklow defeated London by 3-17 to 1-11. Roscommon’s search for a first win continued when they lost out to Kildare by 2-16 to 4-4.
The promotion battle continues apace with Louth, Longford and Leitrim all at the top on seven points. Louth were held to a 2-11 apiece draw by Longford, but they have the advantage in scoring averages. Leitrim beat Cavan by 1-8 to 1-4, Sligo were too good for Monaghan by 2-5 to 0-9 and Donegal registered a first win when they defeated Fermanagh by 5-8 to 2-4.
Mayo 2-9, Galway 0-11
Mayo football received a timely boost with a win in the final of the Connacht League. Two goals by Michael Moyles helped lift Mayo over archrivals Galway at Tuam.
Meanwhile, a last-minute penalty save by Carl Walsh gave Clare a 0-9 to 1-5 success over Waterford in the final of the McGrath Cup at Dungarvan.