Minor All-Ireland final victory well worth the wait for Waterford
Strong finish by Déise is enough to best Galway and take title
Waterford’s Austin Gleeson, Michael Harney and Michael Kearney celebrate after the final whistle. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Waterford 1-21 Galway 0-15: Game on, and the weight of 65 years since Waterford’s last All-Ireland minor hurling title comes bearing down on their gifted young shoulders.
Galway, one of the reigning kings of the grade, who beat them in their last final appearance in 1992, have drawn level, 15 minutes left to play.
If there was to be a turning point in Waterford hurling history this would be it.
So what happens is that the young Waterford players outscore Galway 1-6 to 0-1 in the time that remains. If that didn’t prove them worthy winners of Waterford’s first minor title since 1948 – and only third such title ever – then nothing would.
In some ways it was almost worth the wait – and for the handful of Waterford survivors from that last team, in 1948, no doubt a weight off their shoulders too. In the end it was as fine a minor performance as ever delivered in Croke Park on All-Ireland hurling final day, with so many standout performances in the winning team that it’s hard to know where to start.
Picture of calmness
Yet chief among them has to be full forward Patrick Curran who not only hit 1-7 but was a picture of calmness throughout, especially when the Waterford supporters were biting their nails.
Galway drew level twice in the first half, and were really playing second best all the way, but drew level again for the third time with three-quarters of the game gone.
It was then that Curran stepped up another gear, setting up one of the points that eased Waterford back in front, before closing out the deal – his goal on 56 minutes after brilliantly batting down a poor Galway clearance, struck with such clever determination that nothing was about to stop it.
Curran was surrounded by equally able young men, especially fellow forwards Stephen Bennett and Michael Kearney – who both hit four points – and Colm Roche, who hit 0-3.
Mark O’Brien and Tom Devine helped lord midfield, with the half-back line of Micheal Harney, Austin Gleeson and Shane Bennett (younger brother of Stephen) proving the platform for them all.
Playing a leader’s role was full back and captain Kevin Daly.
A and while it was a complete team display, manager Sean Power couldn’t help singling out Curran for praise.
“Yeah, just fantastic,” said Power of his young full forward.
“There was talk during the week of similarities between the Waterford minor team of 1992 and this team, and similarities between Patrick and Paul Flynn. We know Paul Flynn and how well he went in the game of hurling. We all respect him and some of the great things he’s done. Hopefully it’s the beginning of Patrick Curran’s adult career, if you like.