Waterford finally brush off Kilkenny after epic extra-time affair

Cats rage against the dying of the light in seismic Semple Stadium clash

Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan celebrates after the All-Ireland hurling qualifier win over Kilkenny at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan celebrates after the All-Ireland hurling qualifier win over Kilkenny at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Waterford 4-23 Kilkenny 2-22 (aet)

It finished with Kilkenny raging in vain against the dying of the light, their best years surely now behind them, as Waterford eventually brought not just their championship run to a shattering end but perhaps something far greater too.

Because this victory may mark the beginning of something great too, only Waterford’s second ever championship win over Kilkenny, and their first since the 1959 All-Ireland final replay, that being the year of Waterford’s last title win too. Just saying.

Last summer it seemed like love couldn’t tear these teams apart and this time it felt more like a force of destiny, or whatever power decides these impossibly close matters, Waterford surviving Kilkenny’s late rage in normal time to progress after extra-time to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Goals in either period of extra-time – the first from Jamie Barron, and the second from Maurice Shanahan – is what ultimately sealed theirs and Kilkenny’s fate, but it was a game Waterford should have won – had won – in normal time, before Kilkenny did what only can Kilkenny can do.

Trailing by eight points, 2-15 to 1-10, going into the last 10 minutes, Kilkenny somehow set Semple Stadium alight, forcing extra-time, some Waterford panic time – and the switching on of floodlights.

Substitute Lester Ryan kicked off the comeback, before their goal on 67 minutes began the charge, finished by TJ Reid despite what looked like some obvious barging from Michael Fennelly.

Now trailing by just two, up popped another substitute, under-21 standout Richie Leahy, to close the gap to one, just before the announcement of four minutes of added time. Waterford’s nerves visibly frayed, Kilkenny then pounced for the equaliser with Colin Fennelly, his first point of normal time coming at prime time.

Still there was time for Waterford to reel in the winner in normal time, Stephen Barrett winning a free close to the left sideline, on the 65 metre line. Free-taker Pauric Mahony had just been replaced, so instead Maurice Shanahan eagerly stepped up, only to see his shot drift narrowly right and wide.

So the extra 20 minutes, but in this time Waterford would not be denied – limiting Kilkenny to some last-gasp efforts from TJ Reid and Leahy, their rage now put to bed. Shanahan added two brilliant frees to complete the deal and substitute Tommy Ryan had the last word with a brilliant long-range effort.

It was just reward for the patience and persistence of Waterford manager Derek McGrath, as complete a team performance as he could have hoped for.

At the same time a first qualifier defeat for Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, who will know his team was beaten by the better side on the evening, earlier goals from Shane Bennett and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, some wonderful points from the impeccable Austin Gleeson, and serious efforts throughout more than enough to cease Kilkenny’s case. The margin of seven in the end sufficiently rewarding.

Played out at balmy Semple Stadium before a double-bill audience of 33,181, Waterford were organised, disciplined, and hungry like the wolf. And played throughout without a single note of cold play.

Their moods coming in looked equally intent, Kilkenny pressing their way past Limerick; Waterford shooting a record number of points against Offaly – but from the start the greater intent here was with Waterford.

Things heated up considerably in the 16th minute, Cody laying his hands on the fourth official, Wexford’s Justin Heffernan, when contesting a sideline ball. The implications of that will only be known in due course. Richie Hogan was booked for pulling on Austin Gleeson moments later.

There were markers laid down all over the field in the first half: Darragh Fives swallowing ball at will, as Pauric Mahony’s consistency with the placed ball built Waterford’s early advantage.

They were five points to the good after half an hour, 0-8 to 0-3, Kilkenny’s paltry return in front of goal not helped by two poor wides by Reid, both well within his range, and further misfiring from Walter Walsh and Kevin Kelly.

Austin Gleeson, meanwhile, ruled his position at centre forward, firing off two from play, as Conor Gleeson dropped back to mark Hogan.

Then some hope from Kilkenny, three minutes before the break, when Hogan was pulled down in front of goal: Reid made no mistake the penalty, buried to the right and low, even though Stephen O’Keeffe got his stick to it.

Yet Waterford, with another mark of their intent, cancelled it out before the break, Shane Bennett fetching a clean ball in front of goal, and despite the close attention of Paul Murphy, passed off to ‘Brick’Walsh, who duly shook the net. They went in for the caffeine gels with Waterford up 1-10 to Kilkenny’s 1-5.

In the end though it marks the first time Kilkenny have failed to reach the All-Ireland quarter finals or semi-finals since the hurling championship opened its back door, 20 years ago.

Times they are a-changin’.

WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; C Gleeson, B Coughlan, S Fives; N Connors, T de Burca, Philip Mahony; J Barron (1-3), K Moran, capt (0-2); Pauric Mahony (0-6, five frees, one 65), A Gleeson (0-5), M Walsh (1-0); D Fives, Shane Bennett (1-0), J Dillon (0-1).

Subs: P Curran (0-1) for Dillon (48 mins), Stephen Bennett for Shane Bennett (61 mins), M Shanahan (1-3, three frees) for Walsh (69 mins), B O’Halloran for Mahony (74 mins), T Ryan (0-2) for Bennett (78 mins), C Dunford for Curran (84 mins), S McNulty for Connors (86 mins)

KILKENNY: E Murphy (0-1, a free); P Murphy, P Walsh, R Lennon; C Fogarty, C Buckley, J Lyng; M Fennelly, P Deegan (capt); K Kelly (0-1), W Walsh, TJ Reid (2-12, one penalty, one 65, 10 frees); R Hogan (0-1), C Fennelly (0-1), J Farrell.

Subs: L Ryan (0-3) for Deegan, G Aylward (0-1) for Farrell (both h/t), C Bolger for Kelly (49 mins), R Leahy (0-2) for Hogan (63 mins), L Blanchfield for Fennelly (73 mins, extra-time), R Hogan for Aylward (85 mins)

Referee: James Owens (Wexford).

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