Category: Archive

Kilkenny remain on track for 4 in row, Waterford rue missed chances

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

But if there was a sheen of respectability about the 2-23 to 3-15 scoreline this time, Waterford still exited the championship wondering what might have been. Their bitterly disappointed coach, Davy Fitzgerald, was barely able to contemplate his team’s shortcomings – eight wides in the first half alone – as he pored over the entrails of another setback at the sophisticated hands of the champions.
Fitzgerald accepted that pride had been restored, yet he was aware as anyone that Kilkenny feed off minor slip-ups. If Waterford were infinitely more competitive, in the end, they lacked the necessary ruthless streak too see off the best group of hurlers in the country.
Kilkenny didn’t have to be at their silky best to remain on track for a fourth All Ireland title in a row – a record established by Cork in 1944 – but they still led by six points at the interval and by a pretty comfortable five at referee Joe McQuillan’s last whistle.
If Kilkenny’s strength is still their strength, they have shown that when one key player is slightly off color, another inevitably steps into the breach. Martin Comerford, who had been the undisputed man of the match in the Leinster final against Dublin, struggled before being replaced by TJ Reid, but exactly when he was needed to demonstrate his brilliance once more, Henry Shefflin held his hand up.
A class act from start to finish, Shefflin contributed a magnificent 1-14 to the winning total with 1-6 coming from open play. Although Jackie Tyrrell did a highly impressive job in restricting John Mullane to just a single point, Shefflin who now has a seventh All Ireland medal in his sights, stole the show in front of an attendance of 62,000.
“His workrate, everything about Henry Shefflin is top class,” said Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody. “He has been outstanding for us on a couple of occasions when he didn’t score from play. He brings everything to his game, everything to his training, everything to his life. Just an outstanding fella and an outstanding player.”
Shefflin had a hand in his team’s first goal when Eddie Brennan hit the target after 13th minutes, and that strike settled the champions who had to withstand a fast Waterford start. The gap widened when Aidan Kearney failed miserably to deal with a long ball in towards the square by Tommy Walsh and Shefflin pounced for goal number two.
It was 2-12 to 1-9 at the changeover, and no matter how tenacious Waterford were and no matter how effectively veteran Tony Browne and the excellent Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh were performing, it appeared to be a long way back for Waterford,
However, Shane Walsh, who once kicked the winner in a Munster under 21 football final against Kerry, booted home his second goal soon after the restart and another Eoin Kelly free reduced the margin to two points.
Enter Shefflin yet again to steady the slightly teetering Kilkenny ship. He popped over a couple of frees and added another from play as the winners outscored Waterford by 0-7 to 0-4 in the space of 20 minutes. Eoin Kelly’s 65 somehow found its way to the net after a mix-up between PJ Ryan and his defense, but Ryan then made up for his error with a wonder save from Kelly’s rasping shot.
“We really thought we were going to win. Coming up that’s all that was in our heads,” revealed a dejected Fitzgerald afterwards. “I feel absolutely gutted inside. There was a lot of stuff written about us as a bunch, I wouldn’t put a dog through what we went through. But the guys have given a lot of joy and shown a lot of spirit. We just made one or two errors that you cannot make. In saying that, when our backs were to the wall what did we do? We fought. I think the Waterford team showed that they have the courage to come back from anything. I’m very proud of them, it was a game and a half.”
As for the long-serving Cody who now has the job of preparing his side to meet the winners of Sunday’s second semi-final between Tipperary and Limerick, he was adamant that despite the lack of the sort of scintillating form of last summer, Kilkenny’s hunger for success was as keen as ever.
“Never suggest that our hunger will be up for grabs. It won’t be, that’s intact. When you talk about the quality of the players, the players who go out on the pitch and the players they represent who are on the sideline, there’s too much involved in that to ever give it less than your best.”
As for the margins of victory which are less than a year ago, he insisted that he and the players were focused on performances and not on points totals. “I’ve no idea what we won by this time. A lead of one point at the end of a game is all you need. It’s not about margins of victory, it’s about giving it all you have.”
Last Sunday, Waterford gave it all they had had, and came up short yet again. Kilkenny march on to a date with history on 6 September.
Meanwhile, there was a different sort of redemption on offer for Meath as they squared up to Mayo in the last of the All Ireland football quarter-finals also at Croke Park last Sunday. Ousted by old rivals Dublin in Leinster, and then having to navigate the treacherous shallows of the qualifiers, they came in under the radar and deservedly snatched victory from the Connacht champions by 2-15 to 1-15.
Hardened by their long journey, they stayed the pace and finished the stronger of the two teams as Mayo faded badly down the closing stretch to book themselves a meeting with Kerry in the last four on 30 August.
Awarded a dubious penalty in the 53rd minute which Cian Ward converted, Meath had trailed by four points at one stage in the second half. David Bray hit the target, Joe Sheridan punched a point, and then sub Jamie Queeney fired over two superb efforts to seal what had looked like an unlikely result.
“I said to somebody during the week that the three best teams were in the semi-finals and that we’d like to get across the line as the cuckoo in the nest,” said coach, Eamonn O’Brien. “We wouldn’t look to be in the league of the other three, but that won’t bother us either. We’ll give Kerry our best shot.”
Although Meath badly missed the suspended Stephen Bray, his brother David struck for a first half goal to keep his side in the contest. Mayo were on top as Andy Moran, Keith Higgins and Alan Dillon impressed and they were heading for the finishing line when Aidan O’Shea punched a goal coming up to the 50th minute mark.
Mayo coach, John O’Mahony, was none too impressed when his players’ attitude was questioned. “Mayo’s psyche was questioned in the Connacht championship as well and we won it. I’ve no doubt that this group will come out on the right side of some tough, close results. But we have to deal in realities, and Meath are in the semi-final and we are out.”

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese