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Stunning comeback from Waterford sees them defeat Kilkenny to book All-Ireland final place

They advance to the final on 13 December.

Waterford 2-27
Kilkenny 2-23

IT ENDED WITH Austin Gleeson lofting over a point from underneath the Hogan Stand, the last hurling act on a remarkable November night to propel Waterford towards an All-Ireland final spot.

paddy-deegan-with-jack-prendergast Calum Lyons taking on the Kilkenny defence. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The blast of the final whistle moments later confirmed Kilkenny’s exit and Waterford’s progression, an outcome that had seemed scarcely believable earlier under the Croke Park floodlights.

Waterford finished with four points to spare, an ultimately well-merited success on the back of a simply stunning second-half display. But they looked to be in disarray in the first half, trailing by nine points at one juncture and still seven in arrears by the interval.

Yet they had drawn level by the 50th minute, were three clear at the water break and consolidated that position in a pulsating finale. Waterford displayed manic aggression after the break, hurling with massive energy and were rewarded in front of the posts as they amassed 2-17.

The brilliant Stephen Bennett set the tone with their first goal in the 37th minute, a strike that really ignited their charge and substitute Darragh Lyons grabbed the second  in the 59th minute to provide them with an important cushion on the scoreboard. 

Bennett finished with 1-10, another example of his outstanding attacking play, while Gleeson enjoyed a glorious second half as he fired over 0-4. Jack Fagan, Dessie Hutchinson and substitute Neil Montgomery were others to make critical contributions up front while further break Tadhg De Búrca and Jamie Barron were immense as the second half unfolded.

tj-reid-dejected-at-the-end-of-the-game A dejected TJ Reid after the match. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Kilkenny were left reeling as the county lost to Waterford in a senior championship game in Croke Park for the first time since 1959. TJ Reid notched 1-14 with his points from frees largely sustaining them but while Cillian Buckley and John Donnelly were prominent, they could not collectively summon a response when Waterford charged into contention in the second half.

If Waterford were on song in front of goal last Saturday against Clare, their scoring touch deserted them in the first half here. They chalked up nine wides – Austin Gleeson, Stephen Bennett and Jack Fagan particularly culpable – and of their five points registered from play, their dynamic wing-back Calum Lyons contributed two.

Kilkenny weren’t on fire at the opposite either as they amassed seven wides but they had Reid in prolific form from frees and demonstrated again their capacity to plunder goals. Just like they did in the second half of the Leinster final, they rattled the net twice into the Davin End in the opening period here.

Both goals came from long deliveries, the first direct from an Eoin Murphy puckout and the second from a booming clearance by Padraig Walsh after Murphy found him short. The opening score in the 11th minute saw Richie Hogan escape in behind, avail of Stephen O’Keeffe’s slow reaction in coming off his line and while the Ballygunner netminder repelled the Danesfort forward’s shot, Martin Keogan had the simple task of bundling home the rebound.

The second was a demonstration of Reid’s brilliance. The sliotar popped out of Conor Prunty’s hand in the air for a split second and was snatched away by Kilkenny’s marquee man. He raced clear and smashed home his shot.

tj-reid TJ Reid in action against Waterford.

When Eoin Cody snapped over an early second-half point, Kilkenny had moved 2-12 to 0-10 clear. Yet then Waterford started to get moving, Bennett’s splendid goal arrived in the 37th minute after Jack Fagan worked the opening. Their point-taking improved drastically as they chipped away at Kilkenny’s advantage.

They outscored the Cats by 0-6 to 0-3 from there until the 47th minute and then hit five in a row before the second-half water break. Gleeson illustrated his majestic striking with the levelling point and Montgomery’s 51st minute point nudged them ahead. They would never relinquish that advantage again, the goal from Lyons was an extra boost in the final quarter and the beaten Munster finalists crowned their evening with the last two points of the match from De Búrca and Gleeson.

Scorers for Waterford: Stephen Bennett 1-10 (0-6f), Austin Gleeson 0-4, Darragh Lyons 1-0, Dessie Hutchinson, Calum Lyons, Jack Prendergast, Neil Montgomery 0-2 each, Iarlaith Daly, Jamie Barron, Jack Fagan, Shane McNulty, Tadhg De Búrca 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-14  (0-12f), Martin Keogan 1-1, John Donnelly, Richie Hogan, Eoin Cody 0-2 each, Paddy Deegan, Cillian Buckley 0-1 each.

Waterford

1. Stephen O’Keeffe (Ballygunner)

2. Ian Kenny (Ballygunner)
3. Conor Prunty (Abbeyside)
4. Shane McNulty (De La Salle)

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5. Calum Lyons (Ballyduff Lower)
6. Tadhg de Burca (Clashmore-Kinsalebeg)
7. Kevin Moran (De La Salle)

8. Jamie Barron (Fourmilewater)
11. Kieran Bennett (Ballysaggart)

10. Jack Fagan (De La Salle)
9. Jake Dillon (De La Salle)
15. Jack Prendergast (Lismore)

13. Dessie Hutchinson (Ballygunner)
14. Austin Gleeson (Mount Sion)
12. Stephen Bennett (Ballysaggart)

Subs

24. Neil Montgomery (Abbeyside) for Dillon (18)
23. Darragh Lyons (Dungarvan) for Kieran Bennett (49)
25. Iarlaith Daly (Lismore) for Moran (61)
22. Conor Gleeson (Fourmilewater) for Prendergast (61)
20. Patrick Curran (Dungarvan) for Fagan (68)

Kilkenny

1. Eoin Murphy (Glenmore)

2. Conor Delaney (Erin’s Own)
3. Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels)
4. Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan)

5. Padraig Walsh (Tullaroan)
6. Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro)
7. Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels)

8. Conor Browne (James Stephens)
9. Conor Fogarty (Erin’s Own)

10. John Donnelly (Thomastown)
11. TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
12. Martin Keoghan (Tullaroan)

13. Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan)
14. Richie Hogan (Danesfort)
15. Eoin Cody (Ballyhale Shamrocks)

Subs

23. Walter Walsh (Tullogher-Rosbercon) for Keoghan (39)
22. Colin Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks) for Ryan (49)
26. Niall Brassil (James Stephens) for Hogan (56)
25. Ger Aylward (Glenmore) for Cody (57)

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole  / Reports from Croke Park

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