Kilkenny & DL1
KILKENNY’S plans for a march on an All-Ireland title were put on hold by a late, late leveller.
Waterford’s Dean Reidy was the party-pooper, hammering home a long range injury-time screamer to snatch victory from the Cats’ grasp.
It was a goal good enough to win any game. Picking up possession inside Kilkenny’s half, Reidy pushed the ball out of his feet and used the ample space he was in to let fly. The end result was a 40-yard stunner that rocketed into the top left corner.
The strike, which came in the fourth minute of stoppage time saw Waterford end a period of domination with a deserved share of the spoils in Castlecomer on Saturday.
However, it was a game Kilkenny could and should have put beyond the visitors long before Reidy’s intervention. The Cats had ample chances to rack up a comfortable winning margin, especially in the opening quarter when they peppered the Waterford target, but the visitors had goalkeeper Matthew Connor to thank for keeping them in the game.
The netminder was called into action inside eight minutes, doing well to stop Sean Murphy’s shot before getting up smartly to deal with the follow-up from Evans Wallace.
He was even more impressive in the 13th minute, palming the ball over the bar after a breakaway ended with a fierce shot from Murphy.
There was little the goalkeeper could do to prevent the Kilkenny goal that came between those two early saves. Emmet Nugent - who spurned what seemed a certain goal when put through in the third minute - was in the right place to convert Conor English’s cross after he was set free down the right by Murphy’s precision pass.
Kilkenny were in full charge of the game at this stage, pegging their visitors back in their own half. Nugent had a chance to double his tally when he latched on to English’s quick throw but Connor did well to hold the 17th minute effort.
The netminder was proving to be a one-man defensive wall for Waterford, coming to their rescue again with 22 minutes on the clock. Evans Wallace sparked panic when he charged down a Deise clearance and sped in from the left wing, clipping a shot towards the far post, but somehow Connor stretched far enough to fingertip the ball to safety.
His opposite number, proved just as unbeatable 60 seconds later. Josh Aimhui and Sammy Osayemi linked up well in the middle to force Kilkenny on the back-foot for a change. Jamie Hunt found space for a shot, but Aidan Hynes managed to push the ball out for a corner.
The Kilkenny netminder did even better from the resulting set-piece. Dessie Hutchinson’s delivery was a cracker, picking out Aimhui in the centre, but the striker’s thumping header was brilliantly stopped by Hynes.
Other than that it was all Kilkenny in the opening half, their hard work paying off as they dominated possession. With strong central midfielders in Paddy Cahill and Dean Cornally feeding Wallace and English on the flanks they had Waterford on their heels for long spells, but that cushion of a second goal never materialised.
They did have one final chance to double their tally seven minutes from half-time when flying full-back Aidan Tuohy and Evans Wallace worked a quick one-two along the left touchline. Tuohy whipped in a teasing cross, which English did well to control on his chest and turn into a thumping volley.
The ball arrowed towards the top right corner of the net, but again Connor was there to make the save.
Waterford turned the tables on their hosts in the second half, starting swiftly as they looked to grab a quick equaliser. In a carbon copy move to Nugent’s third minute chance Jamie Hunt broke through the centre of defence and faced down Aidan Hynes in a one-on-one, but just like his Kilkenny counterpart did in the first half the Waterford striker pushed his shot just outside the right post.
The Cats found it harder to impose themselves on the game in the new half, especially in midfield as Waterford began to encroach on their territory. Evans Wallace, a winger, almost became an extra defender, being forced to drop deep as the visitors pressed for attacking routes down the channels.
Kilkenny coped well with the challenge - central defenders Ciaran Wallace and Seamus McGrath were more involved in the game now - and even managed to break forward from time to time. Wallace made good use of his head when he went upfield for a Nugent corner, powering his header past netminder Connor, but Maurice Shanahan was well-placed to boot the 72nd minute effort off the line.
With the closing stages looming Waterford began to turn the screw, increasing the pressure on Kilkenny. Sub Daniel Pender drove them on with a header that broke kindly for Josh Aimhui on the right. He squared the ball for the inrushing Hunt, who needed just the slightest touch to force the cross home, but he failed to hit the target.
That was a let-off for Kilkenny, who spurned a great chance to make the game safe five minutes from time. With Waterford pushing more men forward, they were caught light at the back when sub Dylan Drennan flicked a kick-out on to Murphy.
When the Bridge United striker cut in from the right the Waterford defence fell apart. Murphy tried to go round Connor but the goalkeeper got a hand on the ball, forcing him wide. He regained his composure, getting off a shot which seemed destined to finish inside the left post, but from out of nowhere defender Adam Sutton slid in to knock the ball to safety.
Buoyed by that, Waterford pressed hard again, but it looked like they would go home empty-handed when Sutton glanced wide after getting his head to Jack Maher’s injury-time corner.
Kilkenny were still hanging on - but were caught on the line by that Reidy rocket. It was a cruel way to finish.
Kilkenny & DL: Aidan Hynes, Gaby Lapuste, Aidan Tuohy (Eoin Delaney, 76 mins), Seamus McGrath, Ciaran Wallace, Paddy Cahill, Conor English, Dean Cornally (James Linehan, 88 mins), Emmet Nugent, Sean Murphy, Evans Wallace (Dylan Drennan, 80 mins).
Waterford League: Matthew Connor, Corey Kavanagh, Jack Maher, Adam Sutton, Maurice Shanahan, Dean Reidy, Dessie Hutchinson, Lee Wall (Daniel Pender, 64 mins), Jamie Hunt, Josh Aimhui, Sammy Osayemi.
Referee: Nicky Marnell. Linesmen: Tom Walsh, Tristan Eardley.