Fitzgerald saves Tipperary from heavier defeat in Waterford

McGrath Cup Senior Football WATERFORD 0-11 TIPPERARY 0-9

McGrath Cup Senior Football WATERFORD 0-11 TIPPERARY 0-9

While defeat to Waterford footballers may have been unexpected so too was the manner of the setback as Tipperary failed to perform to the level now expected of them as they suffered a knockout blow at the quarter final stage of the McGrath Cup.

While the competition would not have been near the top of the priority list for 2011 for Tipperary, this was a disappointing display because Tipperary football supporters, and there were not many of them in Walsh Park on Sunday, have come to expect better than this in the exciting John Evans era.

Tipperary were flattered by the scoreline on a day when Waterford played the more intelligent, direct and productive football.

Waterford manager John Owens will wonder why his team had to hang on for victory in the end after dominating long stretches of the game with the exception of a six minute opening period when Tipperary raced into a three point lead.

Waterford wasted a huge amount of chances in front of goal, particularly in the first half and that inaccuracy and the exceptional goalkeeping of Paul Fitzgerald saw to it that despite Waterford's superiority this game was in the balance up to the final whistle.

Fitzgerald single handedly prevented Waterford from racing clear of Tipperary as he pulled off two outstanding saves to deny the home side the goals that would have capped a strong and spirited performance.

Twenty minutes into the first half Fitzgerald denied John Hurney a goal when he darted off his line and dived to smother the close range effort. In the second half the Tipp goalie reacted very quickly to the danger posed by Patrick Hurney whose goalbound fisted effort was brilliantly saved by the Fethard stopper.

Those two saves kept Tipperary in the game at times when Waterford, driven on by the superb Shane Briggs, Kevin Power and Sean Fleming in attack, threatened to finish off the game.

Tipperary rarely competed with Waterford for the aerial possession in midfield and the hunger and intensity of Briggs and Power in those crucial areas up the centre of the field caused Tipperary enormous problems.

Fleming was excellent in the attack, constantly drifting from wing to wing to pick up possession supplied by the tireless Kevin Power and Briggs and the Tipperary defence struggled throughout to curb the Clashmore man's influence.

On a day when both teams were under-strength, Tipperary were below par in too many areas of the field. Aside from the goalie, the industrious George Hannigan and the tigerish defensive display of Andrew Morrissey, there was little to pick out in this Tipperary performance.

Waterford looked like a team that wanted it more on the day, there was more effort and spirit among their ranks as Tipperary failed to sparkle.

This performance was some considerable distance away from the form Tipperary showed in Division Two last year and it will have given one of their rivals for promotion in the league a massive boost.

Tipperary will have to pick themselves up fairly quickly from this reverse and use it as a wake up call for the season ahead.

After an impressive opening six minutes which saw James Egan, Peter Acheson and Barry Grogan score, Tipperary lost their momentum as Waterford powered back into the game.

Despite such a hold on the game it was remarkable that it took Waterford until the 31st minute to take the lead for the first time.

The home side, with nine first half wides, wasted too many opportunities in front of the Tipperary goal.

The teams were level on three apiece after twenty minutes before James Egan had Tipp's first score in eighteen minutes and a point from Seamus Grogan edged Tipperary ahead.

Waterford responded with scores from Kevin Power, who was winning a massive amount of possession for Waterford at centre forward, John Hurney and Briggs, a score which finally put Waterford in the lead with four minutes left in the half.

Waterford never lost that lead to a Tipperary team that failed to pick up their performance in the second half.

Waterford continued to dominate through Power and Briggs and within two minutes of the restart added two more excellent scores from half back Eamon Walsh and Kevin Power.

Waterford were piling the pressure on now as they dominated the proceedings from the centre of the field. Tipperary offered little in attack and remained in the game thanks to Paul Fitzgerald and Waterford's inability to extend their lead despite the plentiful possession they enjoyed.

A Brian Mulvihill point from a free and a Barry Grogan score seventeen minutes into the half managed to keep Tipperary in contention just two points adrift. Waterford full forward Patrick Hurney made Tipp's task more difficult when he added a brace of scores in a three minute period to give his team a four point lead with ten minutes left.

Tipperary managed to lift their game in that final ten minutes as they pressed Waterford. Substitiute Conor Sweeney narrowed the game with two points, one from play and one free, but it was too little too late for Tipp.

Brian Mulvihill had a half chance for a goal in injury time but his effort went wide and Waterford ran out deserving winners to progress to the semi final.

Tipperary - Paul Fitzgerald, Lorcan Egan, Paddy Codd, Andrew Morrissey, Ciaran McGrath, Niall Curran, Cathal Dillon, George Hannigan, Brian Jones, Peter Acheson(0.1), Seamus Grogan (0.1), Brian Mulvihill (0.1), James Egan (0.2), Stephen Hahessy,Brian Grogan (0.2).

Subs - Aldo Matassa for Stephen Hahessy, Conor Sweeney (0.2) for James Egan, Darragh Dwyer for Seamus Grogan

Waterford - Kieran Cotter, Kieran Connery Thomas O'Gorman, Conor Phelan, Eamon Walsh(0.1), Shane Briggs(0.1), John Hurney (0.1), Brian Phelan, Tommy Prendergast,Wayne Hennessy, Kevin Power(0.3), Brian Wall(0.1),Sean Fleming, Patick Hurney(0.3), Mark Ferncombe(0.1).

Subs - Glen Kelly for Kieran Cotter, John Phelan for Eamon Walsh, Justin Walsh for Kieran Connery, Michael O'Gorman for Brian Phelan, Joe Veale for Sean Fleming.