Liam Cahill couldn't contain it any longer after Shane Bennett pulled out hurling's most forgotten skill
Waterford 1-30 Galway 3-20
If not one, then two Galway men were poised like greyhounds in the traps, heads on them like Shane Bennett, as he treaded dangerously close to the sideline, and Waterford were about to get sent a message.
Shane Bennett looked one way, he jinked the other and that was enough to send one of the Galway shadow-boxers flowing down the River Suir. The next man in marooon stepped out in front of the Ballysaggart bullock but before he knew what he was even trying to do, the bullock had the ball out of his hands, dropping to the floor and it was then when he started swinging that hurl like we should have known all along what was coming next.
Bennett is one of the last remaining hurlers who swears by the drop-shot and Aidan Harte could have sworn to you how sore it was when the ball was ripping off his back-side and out for a Waterford line-ball. Not that he was trying to before, but Liam Cahill didn't see any reason to contain himself anymore. The Tipperary man looked up, saw Bennett in front of him and slapped his back before punching the air in a way that told you the technical area and the fourth official behind him never stood a chance. Liam Cahill has been talking about errors, poor performances and no-shows long enough this season and though the game may have been only fifteen minutes old, something in the air told you that today was going to be an entirely different day.
A high ball lands from the sky on top of Calum Lyons and Conor Whelan. These two boys, all dynamism, expression and conviction are made for each other and though Whelan has sniped two early points the type he could have trademarked, it's the Ballyduff Lower man who comes from behind, wins the race and flicks it to a Waterford man in space. The show goes on. It was only a split second from a 70 minute game but for 60 of those seventy minutes, that was the story of the hour. Waterford men were first to the ball and when they reached it, there was another man in blue and white sprinting like a scalded cat off their teammate's shoulder.
More often than not, that galloping gazelle in the corner of their eye was the small man from Fourmilewater. It's hardly any coincidence that the Déise have been struggling without him but as he ran up and down Semple Stadium like he was mad at the grass, like he had the option to freeze this fast-paced pitch before picking the perfect pass, it was clear that Jamie Barron was back to the full of his health and it was clear that he was making up for lost time.
Waterford led 0-9 0-7 at the first water-break but it should have been 2-9 to 0-7. Still, if you were looking down at their base, you wouldn't have had to look twice to say that, by his body language in the huddle, Liam Cahill was a happy, happy man.
Oh the show goes on. It was as if the Bennett boys had some sort of Ballysaggart jungle juice instead of water because by the time the game had restarted, the three of them were hurling like they were cross. It's a strange thing to say but that's how they do it. They hurl with steel, they hurl with fury and when Kieran landed a beauty from the sideline, that gave his team a seven point lead.
Hurling is often called a game of swings and roundabouts these days but at this stage, there were no two ways about it. Jack Fagan looked livelier than he has done all year and when Dessie Hutchinson controlled a Barron sideline before everyone else in Thurles knew where the ball was, Fagan was gone and he wasn't coming back. It was a brilliant finish to buck-end a brilliant first half display that left Waterford 12 points ahead at the break.
Dessie Hutchinson's hands are so fast you didn't even know he was on the ball.
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) July 24, 2021
The second half was a free-for-all before it even started. Referee Sean Stack didn't help things, and you'd have to say it felt wrong that Conor Gleeson, 15 minutes after an off-the-ball clash with Canning, was only shown his red card when he came back out onto the field.
It would have been enough to shake the stuffing out of most teams but Austin Gleeson and the brilliant Peter Hogan scored the first two points of the half. By now, the stands were rocking and the players were fighting but there was only one team winning.
Dungarvan's Patrick Curran followed up a brilliant first half with a blistering start to the second and it was his pass that set up Jamie Barron for his second point in the space of 50 seconds. It could only have been a minute later when Barron was down at the other end of the field, sweeping up the rebound after a Canning free.
Galway came back. Jason Flynn, with two cracking goals, was the man who brought them there but Waterford still had the answers. U2o player Michael Kiely showed maturity beyond his years in the way he carried the ball past Shane Cooney before slotting over what seemed like a game-finishing point. Galway came back again but Stephen Bennett, with a brilliant catch and point from the sideline, had the last say.
Liam Cahill was smiling, because Waterford are still standing.