CHALLENGE games can be notorious misleading, and this one was no exception. While there were some promising and interesting happenings from a Kilkenny point of view, especially so in these serious pre-championship days, best that things are put in context before anyone gets too excited.
An important thing to remember in the background to this game was that Waterford were playing their third game within a week.
In the Suirsiders very busy challenge programme Kilkenny followed an apparently saucy clash with Cork the previous Monday behind closed doors; a meeting with Clare on Friday and Laois roughly 24 hours before this meeting to mark the offical opening of the Tallow club’s smashing new grounds on Sunday.
On top of that, the home side made wholesale changes, even after they introduced five subs together at the start of the second half. In all they used 23 members of their panel, so a fresh, cohesive unit they were not.
Therefore, armed with those important pieces of information, fans might want to be guarded in any summary, even after Kilkenny registered a healthy 26 points.
The winners caught hold of the game when playing against the wind during the opening half. With T.J. Reid all but running the show from midfield – he scored 0-4 during this period – they were more than decent value for an interval lead of 0-15 to 1-5.
Could have had goals
To be brutally honest, they could have been a couple of goals better off. They could have bagged a goal in the eight minute but the ball was over-played a little in a move that ended with Richie Hogan and Henry Shefflin threatening. The latter was smothered as he tried to release his shot from the edge of the square.
In the 11th minute Shefflin, who got nothing easy or soft from full-back Wayne Hutchinson, or generous calls from the referee either during this period had a batted close range goal chasing effort blocked. And then in the 28th minute Hogan slipped the Waterford full-back line, but with the target at his mercy his stick was ‘hooked’ just as he was about to pull the trigger and shoot a goal.
In terms of how the respective managers might have viewed things, one would think Brian Cody (K) had more to be pleased about than his counterpart, Davy Fitzgerald, if only for the fact that Kilkenny were better in their use of the ball.
Henry Shefflin played his first 70 minutes at inter-county level since hobbling out of the All-Ireland final last September with a severed cruciate ligament. He looked good, if a mite rusty. He can still find the gaps and finish chances in the tightest of tight situations.
The Shamrocks (Ballyhale) man needs game time to sharpen his reflexes, but he is doing well, very well for someone with so little playing time behind him.
Reid, as mentioned, was very conspicuous for all the right reasons during the first half, but then he faded. Tommy Walsh, who played with the cutting edge that marks him out as a special talent, Noel Hickey and Paul Murphy turned in the most encouraging showings in defence.
In saying that, one doesn’t mean any slight against the others, just that the mentioned quarter looked good bearing in mind the upcoming championship. Richie Power went very well at centre-forward as ball winner, finisher and linke man but he was withdrawn during the third quarter with enough work in the bag.
More in him
Richie Hogan got on the ball a lot during the opening half and he looked dangerous, and the good thing is that there is still more in him.
Early on the teams shared equally in six points. After T.J. Reid slapped over Kilkenny’s fourth point in the 12th minute they led all the way home. Waterford were beginning to lose touch when they fell 0-4 to 0-11 behind in the 24th minute.
Just then Stephen Molumphy blasted the ball up field from the left wing-back position. Seamus Prendergast fielded it near the edge of the square, and with a defender on his shoulder he turned and booted the sliotar into the net.
A quick point from Richie Foley (free) left the losers 1-5 to 0-11 behind, which was closer than they deserved on the breakdown of possession. Four unanswered Kilkenny points from Shefflin, after a super run and pass from Power, Michael Rice, Shefflin (free) and Power to end a devastating move involving Paul Murphy, Rice and Matt Ruth took the winners 0-15 to 1-5 clear at half-way.
The Kilkenny finishing was hot. Nineteen shots at goal realised 15 points. That wasn’t bad, not bad at all. One of those points could have been a goal, because Waterford custodian Adrian Power turned a bullet-like effort from Hogan in the 24th minute over the bar after Shefflin engineered the opening.
Sweet, sweet goal
The second half opened with a sweet, sweet goal from Waterford. Thomas Ryan dashed in from the right and along the end line before sending a hand-pass across the square. Eoin Kelly pulled first time, met the ball perfectly and nearly burst the net with an effort from no more than eight metres (0-15 to 2-5).
Alas, that was as good as it was to get for the home side. Three of the next four scores were claimed by the visitors to wipe out the advantage of Waterford’s goal. From there to the finish the losers chased from afar.
John Mulhall did well when introduced by the Cats. He scored points backs-to-back, the second in the 54th minute was a fine, fine effort from 50 metres after wonderful snappy passing by Michael Rice and Tommy Walsh along the right wing.
No a bad evening for the Cats, but be careful not to make too much of what was a genuine challenge match, not something of real important.
Scorers: Kilkenny – Henry Shefflin (0-8, three frees, two 65s’); T.J. Reid (0-5); Richie Hogan (0-4); Michael Rice, Richie Power, John Mulhall (0-2 each); Paddy Hogan, Conor Fogarty, Colin Fennelly (0-1 each). Waterford – Eoin Kelly (1-2, points frees); Thomas Ryan, Seamus Prendergast (1-1 each); Richie Foley (0-3, two frees, one 65); Jamie Nagle, D. O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
Kilkenny – David Herity, Paul Murphy, Noel Hickey, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Paddy Hogan, Colin Fennelly, T.J. Reid, Michael Rice, Richie Power, Eddie Brennan, Matt Ruth, Henry Shefflin, Richie Hogan. Subs – John Mulhall for Fennelly; Richie Doyle for Power; Michael Kavanagh for Tyrrell; Conor Fogarty for Ruth; Kieran Joyce for B. Hogan; P.J. Delaney for M. Rice.
Waterford – Adrian Power, Declan Prendergast, Wayne Hutchinson, Aidan Kearney, Philip O’Mahony, Kevin Moran, Jamie Nagle, Eoin McGrath, Richie Foley, Gavin Crotty, Shane Fives, Stephen Molumphy, Thomas Ryan, Seamus Prendergast, Eoin Kelly. Subs – S. O’Keeffe for A. Power; Tony Browne for O’Mahony; Noel Connors for D. Prendergast; Michael Walsh for E. McGrath; S. Casey for Fives; D. O’Sullivan for R. Foley, E. Murphy for G. Crotty; D. Fives for N. Connors.
Referee – C. McAllister (Cork).