Waterford 0-14 Kilkenny 0-10
A first competitive win over Kilkenny in seven years provided Waterford with the ideal start to the defence of their Allianz Hurling League title before a bumper Walsh Park crowd, the majority of whom went home decidedly pleased.
Despite striking 18 wides, six alone off the stick of the marauding Austin Gleeson, a physically dominant Waterford laid down a significant marker for 2016 against a Kilkenny side that now face into a massive meeting with Tipperary at Nowlan Park.
Of even greater significance, one could argue, to Waterford was their limiting the All-Ireland champions to only four points from play over 70 minutes played on a doughy Walsh Park surface.
By the seventh minute, Waterford were three points to the good, having opened proceedings most impressively, winning a host of loose ball, and keeping the All-Ireland champions pinned inside their own half.
Patrick Curran, Maurice Shanahan [via a free] and Jake Dillon all sent the white flag high, as the Deise men laid down a significant early marker.
But a fine TJ Reid effort inside eight minutes – ultimately his only score from play – got the Cats off the mark as they struggled to find an early foothold.
Reid fired over an eighth-minute free after being fouled by Austin Gleeson and three minutes later, Padraig Walsh advanced upfield to score after a smart free delivered by Kieran Joyce.
Gleeson instantly replied for Waterford with a fine effort after a through ball from Shane Bennett, only for another TJ Reid free to restore parity on the quarter hour.
Five minutes later, the impressive Colin Dunford struck a superb 40-metre point from wide on the left flank, but Reid cancelled that effort out with another free two minutes later.
Colin Fennelly put the Cats ahead for the only time all afternoon in the 27th minute, and picked up a yellow card a few minutes later, which would subsequently prove costly.
Dunford excellently found his range again on the half hour, with Shane Bennett and a Patrick Curran free sending Waterford in two points ahead at the break (0-08 to 0-06). But Waterford has already registered 11 wides by then, and, with steadier wrists, would have been out of sight by the break.
The complexion of the match didn’t alter significantly after the break, as a physically forceful Waterford outmuscled Kilkenny to telling effect.
Shanahan, Curran [free] and Shanahan again sent the hosts three clear by the 49th minute, but some poor decision making on the shooting front by Waterford kept Brian Cody’s side in the contest.
TJ Reid’s free ended a 19-minute wait for a Kilkenny score in the 58th minute and moments after Shane Bennett landed a 63rd-minute free at the opposite end, Colin Fennelly was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Bennett landed his second free four minutes later, to which Reid, again from a placed ball, replied only moments afterwards. But Waterford, for whom Stephen O’Keeffe was denied Padraig Walsh a goal in the dying seconds, completed the scoring thanks to Jake Dillon.
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; A Gleeson (0-01), D Fives, P Mahony; J Barron, K Moran; J Dillon (0-02), S Bennett (0-03; 0-02f), M Walsh (0-01); P Curran (0-03; 0-01f), M Shanahan (0-03; 0-01f), C Dunford (0-02). Subs: B O’Halloran for P Curran (66), C Roche for M Shanahan (61), S McNulty for N Connors (70).
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh (0-01), K Joyce, D Cody; C Buckley, C Fogarty; W Walsh, R Hogan (0-01), TJ Reid (0-07; 0-06); J Farrell, C Fennelly (0-01), M Kelly. Sub: J Maher for P Kelly (48).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).