Kilkenny dice with never-say-die Déise
Sports review of 2016: Malachy Clerkin reflects on an unforgettable evening at Semple Stadium as Kilkenny finally overcame Waterford
The Kilkenny players celebrate after seeing off Waterford in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final replay. Photograph: Inpho
Semple Stadium, August 13th
Kilkenny 2-19 Waterford 2-17
All-Ireland semi-final replay
Every game should end like this. A free to level it just on the edge of the shooter’s range. A ball falling through the night sky in a perfect arc over the black spot. The keeper’s hand extending a foot above the bar to pluck the win out of thin air. A clearance, a few scraps for possession, a man in space, the insurance point from midfield.
This wasn’t supposed to be the game of the year. Waterford were supposed to have left it behind them the first day, Kilkenny were supposed to treat the replay with the usual extreme prejudice. But then Austin Gleeson pinged a goal after six minutes and Colin Fennelly replied with a couple of scuds of his own and before the first quarter-hour had passed, we were standing at 1-3 to 2-2 and wondering how long they could keep this up.
Flashes. Richie Hogan with a point off his knees. Jake Dillon tunnelling under the Kilkenny cover to knife a goal. Stephen O’Keeffe saving from TJ Reid after a mazy run that deserved a finish. Brick Walsh playing the game of his life. Waterford hurling out of their skin, Kilkenny three ahead at the break, five up with 25 to go. Normal service.
Except not. No Kilkenny score from 53 minutes to 70. Waterford inching, inching.
Gleeson driving his team-mates mad with every shot that drops short, making them believe with every one that goes over.
Jamie Barron with an equaliser, sent away by Brick who is up to a ridiculous 1-6 in assists for the day. All square as the clock ticks 70. The pinball endgame.
Kilkenny saw it out, Waterford were left in ribbons. The rest of us had to go sit down a while.
The 23 minutes after Wes Hoolahan’s goal against Sweden in the Stade de France, during which an urgent, dominant Ireland team started to doubt itself and ultimately conceded an equaliser. A draw that felt like a defeat.