Waterford march into League Final
WATERFORD 3-23 LIMERICK 1-18
Defending title holders, Waterford reached their second League title on the spin for the first time in their history when they demolished Limerick with a clinical second-half performance in Thurles.
Behind by a point at the break, Waterford opened up in the second half.
Goals from Shane Bennett (penalty), Patrick Curran and substitute Tom Devine decorated a workmanlike performance.
Limerick were effectively overran in the second half and the ultimate the failure of their forwards to make an impact against Waterford's mass defence proved their undoing.
Curran was Waterford's top scorer with a 1-10 contribution while Shane Bennett chipped in with 1-3 as the Déise bandwagon shows no signs of being derailed any time soon.
As usual nowadays innovative tactical formation were again in vogue – particularly with Waterford.
Essentially, Shane Bennett was their only forward who operated as an orthodox attacker.
The remainder of their outfield players drifted back into defence with Darragh Fives operating as a sweeper.
Limerick had a more orthodox formation – Tom Morrissey drifting away from the corner while at the other end Ronan Lynnch – and at times Richie English – acted as sweepers in their defence.
There was nothing to separate the sides in the first quarter – as evident by the fact that the sides were level on six occasions.
No team were ever more than two points in front while there wasn't even a hint of a goal chance being created.
Waterford had created marginally more chances but hit four wides compared to two for the opposition.
A feature of the exchanges was the number of block-downs executed as players in possession were relentlessly chased down on both sides.
The other feature of the early exchanges was the ability of Limerick forwards to put pressure on Waterford's short puck-outs and one of their early points came after Darragh Fives was dispossessed.
Given the fact that rucks developed so often it wasn't surprising that both teams coughed up a succession of scorable frees and predictably it was the teams' two free-takers who were the top scores in the half with Waterford's Patrick Curran hitting five points from placed ball while Ronan Lynch converted four of his five efforts.
Limerick, who had 100 possessions in the first half compared to 90 for Waterford, had the better of the exchanges in the closing stages of the half and twice moved two points ahead but a late Curran point left Waterford trailing by a point at the break (0-12; 0-11).
Away from the free taking contest, Limerick's Tom Morrissey was the most accurate forward on view – he gave Shane Fives a testing time – as he hit three points from play.
One unique feature of the half was the fact that two Waterford players - Tadhg De Burca and Austin Gleeson - both picked up a yellow card in the same incident involving Limerick's Kevin Downes.
Finally after 37 minutes of action the game threw up it's first goal-scoring chance when a fetch from Austin Gleeson and his acceleration took him clear on the right flank but his effort was brilliantly parried by Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid at the expense of a 65.
Patrick Curran nailed the 65 and the score kicked off a sequence of Waterford scores as they took control on the scoreboard for the first time.
The crucial one came in the 43rd minute when Shane Bennett got clear and the referee adjudged that Richie English had fouled him in the square.
Bennett stepped up and drove the penalty to the net and by the 46th minute Waterford were six clear (1-16 to 0-13) having scored 1-4 without reply in the space of nine minutes. Patrick Curran's over-the-shoulder point from the sideline was the highlight of their tally.
Limerick initially responded well – finally hitting their first score from play in the half through substitute Tom Condon and hitting three without reply to narrow the gap to three (1-17; 0-17). But that was at good as it got for the Treaty County.
At the business end of the contest it was Waterford who dictated the exchanges and controlled the tempo.
When Patrick Curran got Waterford's second goal nine minutes from the end of normal time after brilliant approach play from Man of the Match Michael Walsh, Derek McGrath's side had stretched their lead to nine points. As a contest the game was over.
In lost time there were two more goals – Limerick substitute Shane Dowling scored direct from a 25m free but Waterford went straight up the field and after Shane Bennett did the spade work substitute Tom Devine applied the finishing touches.
After a dearth of goals in the competition so far, this contest produced four but a measure of Waterford's dominance was the fact that they outscored Limerick 3-12 to 1-6 in the second half.
Waterford: S O'Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; D Fives (0-1), T de Burca (0-1), P Mahony; J Barron, K Moran (0-1); M Walsh; P Curran (1-10, 7f, 2 65), J Dillon; A Gleeson (0-3, 1f), S Bennett (1-3, 1g from pen), C Dunford (0-2). Subs: B O'Halloran (0-1) for Dunford 48m, S McNulty for S Fives 54m; T Devine (1-1) for Dillon 58m; Pauric Mahony for Walsh 65m, S O'Sullivan for Moran 66m
Limerick: N Quaid; S O'Brien, R McCarthy, R English, P O'Brien, D Byrnes (0-2), R Lynch (0-7, 7f) G O'Mahony, P Browne (0-1); G Hegarty, J Ryan (0-1) C Lynch; B Nash (0-2), K Downes, T Morrissey (0-3). J Fitzgibbon for Hegarty 48m; T Condon (0-1) for S O'Brien 50m; S Dowling (1-1, 1 g free) for P O'Brien 61m, G Mulcahy for C Lynch 65m
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)