Waterford Crystal Cup WATERFORD I.T. 2-17 TIPPERARY 1-19
After the glory of last year's All-Ireland triumph and the sunshine of Jamaica on the recent team holiday, it was back to reality for Tipperary's hurlers when manager Declan Ryan took charge of the team for the first time in Sunday's Waterford Crystal Cup game against Waterford I.T. at Clonmel Sportsfield.
The narrow defeat means that Tipp's participation in the tournament has ended and the focus now turns to their preparations for the National League, which starts with an All-Ireland Final re-match against Kilkenny under the lights of Semple Stadium three weeks from next Saturday, February 12th.
The new manager didn't seem unduly bothered by the defeat in the post-match interviews, especially considering that four of Sunday's side that figured in last season's All-Ireland victory (Conor O'Brien, David Young, Conor O'Mahony and substitute Gearoid Ryan), as well as other starters including Darren Gleeson, Hugh Maloney, Jody Brennan and Pa Bourke, only returned from Jamaica the previous Tuesday.
Even in defeat there were plenty of encouraging signs for the new regime. James Woodlock appeared as a half-time substitute for his first appearance in a blue and gold jersey since the 2009 All-Ireland Final, following that horrific leg break that he suffered while playing for Drom/Inch in the County Final against Thurles Sarsfields a month or so later.
He looked as if he had never been away with a typically busy display in midfield that included one trademark burst of speed that set up a point for Sean Carey. Carey, a star of last season's All-Ireland winning U-21 team, was always industrious in the middle of the field while another of last year's U-21s, John O'Neill, was at his best in the first half, when he put the finishing touches to Paddy Fanning's solo for Tipp's only goal, which came after 5 minutes.
Pa Bourke was Tipp's top scorer with 11 points, 3 of which came from play, and he showed some delightful touches. Boherlahan's Darragh Hickey made a good impression with a pair of points from play before being withdrawn at half-time.
David Young was always prominent at wing back, John Coghlan was robust and eager at number three while centre back Conor O'Mahony and Hugh Maloney (on the other wing) also stood out, especially in the second half.
One of the best Tipp players lined out for the opposition; Timmy Hammersley scored 1-10 for the students, including 1-3 from play. He scored his team's second goal in the 29th minute, following good work by Luke Harney and his fellow county man Brian "Buggy" O'Meara. Hammersley also had a major hand in their opening goal 10 minutes earlier when set up Cathal Parlon with a lovely lay-off and the Offaly player, who looked sharp throughout, buried the opportunity.
As well as Hammersley and O'Meara three other Tipp players featured for Waterford I.T. – Willie O'Dwyer, Ray McLoughney and Michael Sheedy, a nephew of Liam Sheedy's, who provided a link to Tipp's last management team.
Waterford I.T.'s goalie, Kilkenny's Liam Tierney, pulled off a series of good saves while Waterford's Noel Connors was their star turn in defence.
A fine-sized attendance took advantage of a sunny afternoon to have a look at the All-Ireland champions, who were understandably understrength, in their first outing of the year. They were rewarded with a brisk and lively encounter that saw the lead change hands three times and the sides level on four occasions before the students snatched victory in additional time.
Timmy Hammersley had been replaced by the time they won a late, long-range free but Waterford's Stephen Power, a 58th minute substitute, admirably and successfully assumed the free-taking duties by converting the chance that secured the win.
Tipp had opportunities to force extra time but a "square" ball was given when goalkeeper Darren Gleeson's free landed in the danger zone, and then Pa Bourke's free from near halfway drifted wide.
Tipp made the early running, thanks principally to John O'Neill's goal, and were 7 points ahead by the time the students opened their account through Timmy Hammersley's opening score (a free) in the 7th minute.
Despite playing against the breeze Tipp had dominated the early exchanges and they came close to another goal when goalie Liam Tierney blocked Dara Egan's one-handed swing. Hammersley's scores edged the Waterford college closer and when he set up Parlon's goal and scored from play the scores were level by the 20th minute (1-6 each).
Tierney again denied Dara Egan, this time with an even better save, and then Hammersley's goal enabled Waterford I.T. to lead by 2-10 to 1-9 at the break.
A point from Cathal Parlon and a long-range free from Timmy Hammersley meant that the Waterford side led by 6 points early in the second half, but Tipp didn't let them out of their sights. David Young and Sean Carey landed long-range points, Pa Bourke converted a free and a '65 and goalie Darren Gleeson replicated Brendan Cummins's achievement at Croke Park last September when he converted a free from some distance.
Liam Tierney again sprang to Waterford's rescue when he saved from John O'Neill, before three Pa Bourke points, a '65 and two frees, levelled the scores with 14 minutes remaining (2-14 to 1-17).
Extra time looked a distinct possibility as the game continued to ebb and flow, but the students won it with that late effort from Stephen Power.
Tipperary – Darren Gleeson (Portroe 0-1 free), Conor O'Brien (Eire Og Annacarty), John Coghlan (Moyne/Templetuohy), Eddie Connolly (Loughmore/Castleiney), David Young (Toomevara 0-1), Conor O'Mahony (Newport), Hugh Maloney (Nenagh Eire Og), Sean Carey (Moyle Rovers 0-2), Michael Gleeson (Thurles Sarsfields), Jody Brennan (Upperchurch/Drombane), Paddy Fanning (Moneygall), Darragh Hickey (Boherlahan/Dualla 0-2), John O'Neill (Clonoulty/Rossmore 1-1), Dara Egan (Kildangan) and Pa Bourke (Thurles Sarsfields 0-11 including 5 frees and 3 '65s).
Substitutes – Stephen Lillis (Thurles Sarsfields 0-1) for Darragh Hickey, James Woodlock (Drom/Inch) for Michael Gleeson and John O'Dwyer (Killenaule) for Dara Egan (all half-time), Timmy Dalton (Arravale Rovers) for Jody Brennan (52 minutes) and Gearoid Ryan (Templederry) for Paddy Fanning (56 minutes).
Waterford I.T. – Liam Tierney (Kilkenny), Brendan Kenny (Galway), Shane Fives (Waterford), Noel Connors (Waterford), Wayne Hutchinson (Waterford), David Langton (Kilkenny), Enda Barrett (Clare), Willie O'Dwyer (Tipperary), Luke Harney (Kilkenny 0-1), Cathal Parlon (Offaly 1-4 including 0-1 sideline), Brian O'Meara (Tipperary), Kieran Grehan (Kilkenny 0-1), Ray McLoughney (Tipperary), Michael Sheedy (Tipperary) and Timmy Hammersley (Tipperary 1-10 including 7 frees).
Substitutes – Eddie Hickey (Kilkenny) for Willie O'Dwyer (half time), James Gahan (Wexford) for Michael Sheedy and Stephen Power (Waterford 0-1 free) for Kieran Grehan (both 58 minutes) and Bernard Burke (Galway) for Timmy Hammersley (70 minutes).
Referee – Jason O'Mahony (Limerick).