/ GAA

Waterford 6-18 Antrim 0-15

Updated: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2008 02:44

Eoin Kelly celebrates hitting his first major at Walsh Park Davy Fitzgerald's reign as Waterford manager is off to a winning start
Eoin Kelly celebrates hitting his first major at Walsh Park Davy Fitzgerald's reign as Waterford manager is off to a winning start

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Antrim leaked six goals for the second week running as Waterford eased to victory in new manager Davy Fitzgerald's first game in charge.

Eoin Kelly (2-03) and John Mullane (2-02) notched two goals apiece in the first half at Walsh Park, with the impressive Eoin McGrath setting up two of them, as the Deise claimed a 4-06 to 0-10 half-time lead.

Paul Shiels' accuracy from frees kept Antrim competitive but the hosts pulled away with Stephen Molumphy and Gary Hurney adding further goals.

This All-Ireland second round qualifier win, which gets Waterford back on track after their Munster loss to Clare, puts them through to face the winners of Cork/Dublin or Limerick/Offaly in two weeks' time.

Fitzgerald was able to draft three All Star winners into his team for this afternoon's clash. Eoin Murphy, Ken McGrath and Eoin Kelly all returned after missing the Clare game, while another All Star, Paul Flynn, took his place on the bench.

The home side lined out as selected, with regular centre-back Ken McGrath tried out at full-back, while Antrim made a few late changes, bringing in PJ O'Connell, Shane McNaughton and Brendan Quinn.

The Saffrons, who suffered a 26-point defeat to Galway seven days ago, travelled down from the north yesterday, staying in Kilkenny overnight.

Joint-managers Dominic McKinley and Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton had their charges primed for a good start and they did so, backed by a strong wind.

With the overnight rain, underfoot conditions were particularly slippery and perhaps played into the visitors' hands in the first half as Dave Bennett uncharacteristically missed a number of frees from midfield.

Antrim took a 0-02 to 0-00 lead with Paul Shiels and Michael Herron both firing over, the latter after a slip by full-back McGrath.

But after two misses by Bennett, normal service was resumed in the fifth-minute when Gary Hurney, Bennett and Eoin McGrath linked up before Kelly was played in for a fine fifth-minute goal.

Antrim were not deterred and after a Michael Herron had been blocked, Shiels mopped up with the levelling point.

Waterford began to show glimpses of their quality as Michael 'Brick' Walsh improvised by kicking the sliotar forward for Eoin McGrath to race onto and flick over a point.

Overs from Shiels (free) and PJ O'Connell saw Antrim retake the lead at 0-05 to 1-01 but the Deise, and in particular Dan Shanahan, began to up the tempo.

The Lismore clubman flung over a point to tie up the game and put in some beefy challenges as the Waterford attack began to dominate their opponents.

All was not rosy for Fitzgerald though as Waterford had struck five wides - four from placed balls - by the midpoint of the half.

Soon after, John Mullane smashed home his first goal, beating Ryan McGarry from a tight angle after good approach work from Ken and Eoin McGrath, who did well again to beat his marker.

A typical catch, turn and strike followed from Shanahan who had to settle for a point, but Antrim stuck to their task with Shiels angling over a point after taking a diagonal ball from Karl Stewart and Shane McNaughton, son of the manager, also added his name to the scoresheet.

However, despite further points from Shiels and Ciaran Herron before the break, Antrim's full-back line was badly exposed in the half's closing stages with Mullane and Kelly collecting more goals.

Mullane hit a quick 1-01 in the 24th-minute when Eoin McGrath set up his point and a Gary Hurney hand-pass put the De La Salle sharpshooter through for a well-taken goal.

Hurney was causing problems for his marker Karl McKeegan and the Antrim rearguard struggled throughout to keep tabs on Eoin McGrath, who hit three first half points.

On as a blood substitute, Paul Flynn pointed with his first touch and as the rain began to dour down, Antrim's day darkened when, three minutes before the interval, Kelly buried his second goal after selling a dummy to Cormac Donnelly.

Waterford almost nabbed a fifth goal before the break but Ryan McGarry did well to parry Mullane's stinging shot after a lovely flick through from Kelly.

Eight points down at the turnaround, Antrim needed a solid start to the second period but Waterford were able to pile on the pressure with a flurry of scores.

They moved 4-14 to 0-12 ahead before Molumphy rattled the back of the visitors' net in the 50th minute.

Early points from Shiels and Stewart were swamped by efforts from Shanahan, Eoin McGrath, Bennett, Kelly and Mullane.

The goal, again created by Eoin McGrath, saw Molumphy bravely catch a high ball and stick a placed finish past the stranded McGarry.

The game became looser and looser after that, with the Munster men comfortably seeing out what was an expected win.

The sixth major followed just moments later when dual player Hurney showed off his footballing skills before re-gathering the ball and knocking it beyond the reach of McGarry.

That strike had Fitzgerald's men 6-14 to 0-14 ahead and the game was well and truly over as a contest.

The highlight of the closing minutes was the two-point contribution of Waterford substitute Jamie Nagle, while Antrim man O'Connell deservedly got his second point of the game.

So, a pleasing performance for Fitzgerald and his management team, but the Clare native was quick to point out that his side will face 'a savage test the next day', whoever they face.

For Antrim, they will have to rally themselves quickly again as they will face Laois in a relegation play-off in two weeks' time.

The losers of that play-off game will take on the winners of the Christy Ring Cup to decide who qualifies for the Liam MacCarthy Cup competition in 2009.

Waterford: C Hennessy; E Murphy, K McGrath, D Prendergast; S O'Sullivan, T Browne, J Kennedy; M Walsh (capt), D Bennett (0-01); E Kelly (2-03, 0-03f), G Hurney (1-00), S Molumphy (1-00); E McGrath (0-05), D Shanahan (0-04), J Mullane (2-02).

Subs used: P Flynn (0-01) for Kelly (26-30 mins, blood sub, 48-57 mins, blood sub), J Nagle (0-02) for Bennett, B Phelan for Browne (both 54), Flynn for Hurney (59), R Foley for Walsh, T Feeney for Prendergast (both 66).

Antrim: R McGarry; A Graffin, C Donnelly, J McKeague; C Herron (0-01), K McKeegan, J Campbell; E McCloskey, PJ O'Connell (0-02); S McNaughton (0-01), K Stewart (0-02), B Quinn (0-01); M Herron (0-01), P Richmond (capt), P Shiels (0-07, 0-05f).

Referee: Michael Haverty (Galway).

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