If Tipperary faced an uphill battle to gain promotion from Division Four following last Sunday’s opening day home defeat to Carlow at Semple Stadium, they now have a mountain to climb to get out of Gaelic football’s bottom rung.
A second defeat in six days, this time at the hands of Waterford in Fraher Field, Dungarvan, on Saturday night last, means Tipperary are still pointless and with difficult games to come against Clare, Limerick, Offaly, Leitrim and London, promotion prospects are not looking at all promising at this early stage of the season.
While the Premier County had genuine reasons for feeling hard done by against Carlow when surrendering a six points lead and losing to the 14-men Barrowsiders by just a single point, they can have few complaints with Saturday’s result. Waterford fully deserved their victory if for no other reason than they took their chances and their luck better and defended stubbornly when Tipperary had their moments of superiority over the 70 minutes.
On an atrocious night for football, played from start to finish in a downpour, Tipperary fielding three changes from the previous week, were hoping for a bright start. It didn’t turn out like that though and Waterford started the more positive. The Decies almost goaled in the opening minute but the warning wasn’t heeded. Following an opening free from Paul Whyte the same player converted a penalty after five minutes when Darren Guiry was fouled. The high ball into the Tipp defence was causing anxiety and the big men in the Waterford full-forward line were taking advantage.
Brian Fox, already yellow carded for his part in the penalty, had Tipp’s opening score on nine minutes with a trademark run through the centre. It was to be one of just four points Tipp would score from play on the evening, and in the second half they failed to score at all from play.
Waterford fared little better from play over the 70 minutes, clocking up just 1-4 and indeed had to wait until the half-hour mark for their first point from play from Patrick Hurney. At this stage they led 1-4 to 0-3 with Robert Aherne and Paul Whyte adding frees for the Decies and Michael Quinlivan and a Barry Grogan free making up Tipp’s tally.
Tipperary’s best period of the game came in the run-up to half-time scoring three unanswered points from a Barry Grogan free and points from midfielder George Hannigan and another from Peter Acheson following their most cohesive move of the evening.
At the break Tipp would have been satisfied enough to be going in 1-4 to 0-6 behind having overcome the early setback of a fifth minute penalty.
Tipp restarted the second period more determined and seemed to have the better of the early exchanges. Half-time substitute Conor Sweeney levelled matters five minutes in with a close-in free.
The game’s only period of parity lasted all of a minute. The crucial and match-changing score followed immediately. A speculative punt from full-forward Robert Aherne from 40 metres out on the sideline hopped high and deceived an advancing Tipperary keeper to end up in the back of the net. Bad enough the softish nature of the score, but it’s impact was more crucial, it re-ignited the waning belief of the Waterford lads and seemingly had the exact opposite effect on the visitors.
In fairness to Tipp goalkeeper Paul Fitzgerald he pulled off a brilliant save shortly afterwards to deny Aherne a second goal that would have prematurely ended the contest. Waterford had the momentum with them once more and they never lost it from there to the finish.
Tipperary added just two frees in the last half hour’s play both coming from Barry Grogan while the home side added four white flags, two frees from Paul Whyte and a pair of decent points from wing-back Tony Grey and corner-forward Darren Guiry.
Needless to say Tipp will be deflated after this latest setback and will have to get their heads right for their next fixture, a home game against London in Thurles on Sunday, 3rd March. Too many of the side never hit their true form in Dungarvan but underfoot conditions and a slippery football weren’t conducive to skillful displays. Here perhaps Waterford did better, and appeared more organised and more determined, certainly in defence, and forced the Tipperary forwards wide and up blind alleyways all too often. The belief instilled in Niall Carew’s side following a victory over Clare in Milltown Malbay the previous Sunday stood to them when doubts surfaced against Tipp.
On the night Tipp’s best were Ciaran McDonald and Peter Acheson with Michael Quinlivan and Brian Fox shining in patches.
Waterford had good displays from all their backs, especially Maurice O’Gorman and Tony Grey doing well. The big men in the centre of the field Shane Aherne and Tommy Prendergast shaded it while the full-forward line of Darren Guiry, Robert Aherne and Paul Whyte looked dangerous throughout.
Waterford: Stephen Enright, Conor Phelan, Stephen Prendergast, John Hurney, Maurice O’Gorman, Shane Briggs (C), Tony Grey (0-1), Shane Aherne, Tommy Prendergast, Patrick Hurney (0-1), Conor McGrath, Liam O Lonain, Darren Guiry (0-1), Robert Aherne (1-1, 0-1F), Paul Whyte (1-4, pen and 0-4F).
Subs: Gavin Nugent for Conor McGrath (30 mins); Sean O’Hare for Tommy Prendergast (64 mins); Joey Veale for Patrick Hurney (66 mins); Sean Dempsey for Darren Guiry (69 mins).
Tipperary: Paul Fitzgerald (Fethard), John Coghlan (Moyne/T), Paddy Codd (C) (Killenaule), Andrew Morrissey (Galtee Rovers), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), Ciaran McDonald (Aherlow), Brian Fox (Eire Og Annacarty) (0-1), George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers) (0-1), Hugh Coghlan (Portlaoise), Peter Acheson (Moyle Rovers) (0-1), Liam McGrath (Loughmore/C), Donagh Leahy (Arravale Rovers), Alan Moloney (Rockwell Rovers), Barry Grogan (Aherlow) (0-4F), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials) (0-1).
Subs: Brian Jones (Arravale Rovers) for Hugh Coghlan (22 mins); Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen) (0-1) for Alan Moloney (H-T); Robbie Kiely (Arravale Rovers) for Andrew Morrissey (41 mins); Bernard O’Brien (Aherlow) for Donagh Leahy (51 mins); Aldo Matassa (Clonmel Commercials) for Liam McGrath (51) mins.
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).