Waterford to face Cork in league final

Waterford's Maurice Shanahan celebrates after the final whistle with teammates
Waterford's Maurice Shanahan celebrates after the final whistle with teammates


Underdogs Waterford recovered from the concession of two early goals to knock last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists Tipperary out of the race for the 2015 Allianz League title.

Before an attendance of 16,445 at Nowlan Park a last-minute free from ace free taker Pauric Mahony - after he drew a foul on himself - proved the winning score after an entertaining contest.

Once again he was Waterford's top scorer with a 0-13 tally.

Tipp would have suffered a more embarrassing loss were it not for the eight-point contribution from Seamus Callinan, who only had his red card rescinded by the GAA's Central Appeals Committee on Thursday night.

This will be Waterford's first appearance in a league decider since they won the title by defeating Kilkenny in 2007. 

Their final against Cork on May 3 is four weeks ahead of the Munster championship showdown between the counties.

For now, however, Derek McGrath will concentrate on the league decider. Reaching the final via Division 1B is a considerable achievement and an endorsement of the team's defensive formation.

Their fitness, work rate, crowding tactics and refusal to panic when the contest was turning against them finally yielded a rich reward at the death.

While Tipperary were understrength and will probably not lose too much sleep over this loss nonetheless it did underline that they have work to do before the start of the championship.

Their finishing in the second half was woeful as they hit seven wides with wing back Ronan Maher responsible for three of them; they landed another two shots into the hands of Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe near the end and all those misses ultimately came back to haunt them.

Waterford's second-half comeback was launched by two spectacular Maurice Shanahan points.

But the key score was a brilliant 52nd minute goal from Colin Dunford which originated when Tipp substitute Shane Bourke was blocked down at the other end of the field.

Tipp went eleven minutes without a score during this period of Waterford dominance in which the Deise scored 1-3. 

A couple of Callinan frees and a mighty long range effort from Padraic Maher tied up the contest with three minutes remaining but Waterford had the final say with Mahony's winning free.

It was a different story in the first half. When a team is set up as defensively as Waterford the last thing they need is to concede goals. 

But having conceded just three goals in their previous six league ties this season they were obliged to pick the sliotar out of the net on two occasions in the first 13 minutes against Tipperary.

Patrick Maher who lined out at full forward did the early damage as he picked up the ball from broken play; found space and headed straight for goal and made no mistake from close range.

Waterford had scarcely recovered from that blow when they were caught again. This time it was Tipperary's excellent combination play with Jason Forde, Brendan Maher and John O'Dwyer involved before the latter found the net.

So after 13 minutes the Deise found themselves 2-2 to 0-3 behind. In fairness they regrouped well. With Tadhg De Burca operating as a sweeper and Stephen Bennett proving an excellent outlet for Stephen O'Keeffe's puck outs Waterford got back into the game.

As usual it was the razor accurate free taking of Pauric Mahony which proved crucial. He hit nine first-half points - seven frees and one 65 to keep the Deise in touch. And they reaped the rewards for all their tenacity in the second half.

TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; P Stapleton, C OMahony, P Curran; M Breen, Padraic Maher (0-1), R Maher; J Woodlock (0-1), S McGrath; J O'Dwyer (1-1), B Maher, J Forde (0-1); S Callanan (0-8, 5f, 1 65), Patrick Maher (1-0), N O'Meara (0-2). Subs: J Barry for Stapleton 43m; S Bourke for O'Dwyer 45m; C Kenny (0-1) for Forde 53m; G Ryan for McGrath 58m; J Meagher for Curran 66m.

WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; T De Burca; A Gleeson, Philip Mahony; J Barron (0-1), S O'Sullivan; K Moran, Pauric Mahony (0-13, 11f, 1 65), J Dillon (0-1); M Shanahan (0-3), M Walsh, C Dunford (1-1). Subs: B O'Halloran for Bennett 51m; T Devine for Dillon 56m; S O'Sullivan for Walsh 63m; E Barrett for Moran 71m.

REFEREE: B Kelly (Westmeath)