Fintan O’Toole reports from Semple Stadium
WITH A SERIES OF impressive victories behind them and the core of their team having been prominent at senior level this summer, the Waterford U21′s arrived in Thurles today striving to meet the huge expectations surrounding them.
They justified all the hype in some style. By the final whistle they had swatted Galway aside by 16 points and claimed the county’s first Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling title in 24 years.
Stephen Bennett (2), Shane Bennett, Patrick Curran and DJ Foran all pitched in as Waterford went on a goalscoring rampage.
Galway could not cope as they leaked three goals in the opening quarter and while they did enjoy a productive spell in the third quarter, it was Waterford who finished strongly again to seal victory in front of their fans that provided the vast majority of the 14,410 in attendance at Semple Stadium.
Facing such a tough task from the off, Galway needed a solid start. Instead they suffered from the opening stages with the damage that Waterford inflicted proving irreparable. Waterford showed their class from the outset and essentially put the game to bed in the first quarter.
After 40 seconds DJ Foran careered through the Galway before lashing a shot to the net. Galway tried to steady themselves with captain Brian Molloy posting a few points before Waterford landed a couple more knockout blows.
Foran set up Patrick Curran in the 13th minute and the Dungarvan youngster batted a shot to the net. A minute later Curran placed Stephen Bennett for an emphatic finish for the third goal.
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Trailing by 3-4 to 0-3 was a daunting prospect for Galway and by the interval Waterford's advantage had swelled to 13 points - 3-10 to 0-6.
To Galway's credit they hurled with terrific spirit after half-time and made a dent in Waterford's lead in the third quarter.
They shot five points without reply with Sean Linnane, Conor Whelan, Molloy and Eanna Burke all doing their best to take the fight to their opponents in attack.
When Burke floated over a 47th minute point, they were 3-11 to 0-12 adrift but badly needed goals to stage a miraculous recovery.
Instead the green flags were raised at the opposite end as Waterford rounded off their evening’s work in style. Stephen Bennett drilled a delivery across the goal in the 49th minute that was met by a neat flick home by his younger brother Shane.
And then three minutes from the end, Stephen pulled a high ball down from the sky before swivelling and unleashing a rocket to the net.
That was Waterford’s fifth goal and was an appropriate conclusion to a superb performance that yielded an All-Ireland hurling win that the county will savour.
Scorers for Waterford: Patrick Curran 1-9 (0-6f), Stephen Bennett 2-0, Shane Bennett 1-1, DJ Foran 1-0, Michael Kearney, Austin Gleeson (0-1f) 0-2 each, Tom Devine 0-1.
Scorers for Galway: Brian Molloy 0-6 (0-3f), Eanna Burke 0-3, Sean Linnane, Conor Whelan 0-2 each, Kevin McHugo 0-1.
1. Jordan Henley (Tallow)
2. William Hahessy (Clonea)
3. Conor Gleeson (Fourmilewater)
4. Darragh Lyons (Dungarvan)
5. Míchéal Harney (Bunmahon)
6. Austin Gleeson (Mount Sion)
7. Conor Prunty (Abbeyside)
8. Mark O’Brien (Ferrybank)
10. Shane Bennett (Ballysaggart)
9. Colm Roche (Shamrocks)
11. Tom Devine (Modeligo)
12. DJ Foran (Portlaw)
15. Michael Kearney (Ballyduff Upper)
14. Stephen Bennett (Ballysaggart)
13. Patrick Curran (Dungarvan) – (Joint Captain)
17. Adam Farrell (De La Salle) for Devine (56)
18. Dermot Ryan (Fourmilewater) for Lyons (57)
20. Billy O’Keeffe (Ballygunner) for Harney (60)
19. Barry Whelan (Tramore) for Hahessy (61)
24. Peter Hogan (Ballygunner) for Shane Bennett (61)
1. Cathal Tuohy (Tommie Larkins)
2. Conor Jennings (Loughrea)
3. Darragh O’Donoghue (Kilnadeema Leitrim)
4. Declan Cronin (Cappataggle)
5. Vincent Doyle (Turloughmore)
6. Shane Cooney (St Thomas)
7. Sean Loftus (Turloughmore)
8. Darragh Dolan (Cappataggle)
9. Dan Nevin (Cappataggle)
10. Kevin McHugo (Tommie Larkins)
11. Brian Molloy (Kilnadeema Leitrim – Capt.)
12. Sean Linnane (Turloughmore)
13. Thomas Monaghan (Killimordaly)
14. Conor Whelan (Kinvara)
15. Eanna Burke (St Thomas)
19. Eamon Brannigan (Rahoon-Newcastle) for Monaghan (half-time)
21. Jack Grealish (Gort) for McHugo (42)
17. Fintan Burke (St Thomas) for Nevin (55)
20. Cian Burke (Athenry) for Linnane (60)
18. Adrian Morrissey (Liam Mellowes) for Dolan (60)
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)
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