Feels like Championship in Walsh Park as Stephen Bennett raises the roof
Waterford 1-28 Tipperary 0-21
So many people streamed into the Walsh Park stand that, for a finish, the latest of them had to head for the terrace.
Two cheeky chaps, with no more than 16 years between them, sat down in front of me but while the press box was quiet, the stands were anything but. Liam Cahill was the same way. Taking up a his customary sumo squat position on the line, Cahill was down low enough to puck every ball with his Waterford team.
That doesn't mean he's their best friend every time. Mikey Kiely was told, in no uncertain terms to move his f*cking feet after dilly-dallying out by the line while, after hitting wide balls, Jack Prendergast and Neil Montgomery heard something similar.
Prendergast made amends about ten minutes later and on the line, his manager was roaring him on. You get your dues, but only when you earn it. Barry Heffernan is big enough and Darragh Lyons is small enough that, when they tore strips off each other before a first half throw-in, it resembled something of a David clashing with Goliath. Another thing it resembled, at least for a while, was a championship fare.
The bit soon faded but Tipperary and Waterford don't have too long to wait because, in this same venue on easter Sunday, these teams will get the Munster championship underway. On this evidence, and with the Ballygunner boys, Austin Gleeson and Calum Lyons to come back in for Waterford, the Déise will surely fancy themselves.
Tipperary, on the other hand, weren't missing too many and with the news that Seamus Callanan broke his hand last Friday, they've a long way to go to find positives.
The home side took the bragging rights and the points here but still, in five weeks time, it won't count for much. You still feel as though Liam Cahill and Mikey Bevans were eager to win this one because, having turned their native county down at the beginning of the year, this felt like a bit of a grudge game. They did nothing to change that on 55 minutes when, after Barry Heffernan laid out Stephen Bennett with a shoulder, Cahill got stuck into Bonnar and Bevans had a few words with Tommy Dunne.
They may be Toomevara club-mates but this is county hurling.
It's county hurling and Stephen Bennett is one of the best county hurlers in the game - he showed that once again here scoring points from a variety of angles, distances and postcodes. His second half colossus, off the back foot and from his own 65, set the Waterford crowd free for the biggest roar of the day. He was backed up by an in-form Patrick Curran, the Dungarvan man joining the party in scoring points from everywhere while the inspirational Iarlaith Daly can also be happy with his innings.
Stephen Bennett from so far down-town that he's in another post-code 📨pic.twitter.com/siPyOGqocN
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) March 6, 2022
Bennett himself ended the day with a barely believable 1-16 and even though Breen and Kehoe never stopped trying for Tipp, this was all too easy for Waterford. There's plenty to ponder for Colm Bonnar and Liam Cahill is surely feeling like he made a good choice.
“There's three things up for grabs, we're hoping to start off with the league ” 👊
Is é Stephen Bennett Laoch na hImeartha inniu!
Comhghairdeas leat! 👏@GAA_BEO @officialgaa @AllianzIreland
#GAABeo | #AllianzIreland | #AllianzLeagues
BEO/LIVE AR @TG4TV pic.twitter.com/NByL3mIPQc
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Shaun O'Brien, Conor Gleeson, Conor Prunty, Shane McNulty, Jack Fagan, Tadhg De Búrca (0-1), Iarlaith Daly (0-2), Cian Wadding, Darragh Lyons, Neil Montgomery, Patrick Curran (0-3), Kieran Bennett (0-1), Stephen Bennett (1-16, 0-14f), Michael Kiely (0-1), Jack Prendergast (0-2)
Subs: Michael Mahony (0-1) for Michael Kiely (53,) Shane Bennett for Kieran Bennett (53,) Pauric Mahony for Conor Prunty (63,) Billy Power for Prendergast.
Barry Hogan, Cathal Barrett, James Quigley, Brian McGrath (0-1), Dillon Quirke, Ronan Maher (0-1), Robert Byrne, Paddy Cadell, Barry Heffernan (0-1), Conor Bowe (0-2), Jason Forde (0-8, 0-6f), Michael Breen (0-4), Mark Kehoe (0-4), John McGrath, Jake Morris (0-1)
Subs: Alan Flynn for Paddy Cadell (HT,) Denis Maher for John McGrath (53,) Noel McGrath for Conor Bowe (63,) Cian Darcy for Morris (69)