All-Ireland (SHC) Replay
Kilkenny’s hurlers are preparing for yet another trip to Croke Park on the first Sunday in September after a hard earned two-point victory over Waterford in Thurles last Saturday evening. But while many will not be surprised with the result one has to admire the Waterford team who left nothing behind on Tipperary’s hallowed turf.
Nevertheless manager Derek McGrath was still inconsolable at the final whistle as he attempted once again to pick his team after another heart-breaking defeat.
However the big difference on this occasion is that this is a real Waterford team destined for better days and with the consolation of more than likely an U21 All-Ireland title next month the future of Waterford hurling has never been more promising. But for neighbours Kilkenny it’s another All-Ireland final and another replay win and another ending that looked inevitable long before it was breathlessly played out.
And while two-goal Colin Fennelly and to a lesser extent Richie Hogan will grab the headlines one cannot underestimate the role played by near invincible manager Brian Cody played in yet another famous Kilkenny victory.
When big calls are required reputations mean nothing to him and although an unchanged team was announced early in the week nobody believed that would be Kilkenny’s starting XV. The introduction of Liam Blanchfield was an example of Cody’s astuteness and to a lesser extent Mark Bergin while Eoin Larkin also looked certain to start and all three players played key roles in Kilkenny’s victory. And although Waterford threw everything they had at the Cats here; timber, heart – the works, it was all to no avail.
By the end, it was one of those frantic, chaotic passages the great hurling matches always finish with, a Richie Hogan point deep into injury-time. But the sporting moment of the weekend belonged to Kilkenny goal-keeper Eoin Murphy who leaped above his crossbar to deny a Waterford equalising point from a Padraig Mahony free that appeared set to take the game to extra time.
But that was just one incident of an evening of action-packed drama beginning with the moment Austin Gleeson rattled the Kilkenny net after six minutes followed by a Colin Fennelly twogoal strike before Jake Dillon scored another cracker for Waterford.
However crucially as the first half ended with both teams neck and neck, Kilkenny hit three crucial points to open up a three-point cushion. But a serious injury to the influential Michael Fennelly temporarily threatened Kilkenny’s supremacy. However it was the introduction of Maurice Shanahan that almost tipped the balance in Waterford’s favour before the dramatic final moments unfolded. With 90 seconds to go and Kilkenny a point up, Pádraig Walsh won a free off Gleeson which bizarrely, Reid missed.
Jamie Barron equalised from distance after a sumptuous dummy but Blanchfield won another from closer range that Reid pointed for Kilkenny’s first score in 18 minutes.
Richie Hogan won another free before Maurice Shanahan pulled one back but Shane Fives was fouled and Mahony had a free to send us to extra-time or so it was thought before Eoin Murphy’s amazing leap above his crossbar.
Scorers: Kilkenny – TJ Reid 0-7 (6f), C Fennelly 2-0, R Hogan 0-4, L Blanchfield 0- 3, P Walsh 0-2, M Fennelly, W Walsh, E Larkin 0-1 each. Waterford – Pauric Mahony 0-9 (7f), A Gleeson 1-2, J Dillon 1-0, J Barron, Shane Bennett, M Shanahan 0-2 each.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh, C Fogarty, C Buckley; R Hogan, M Fennelly; W Walsh, TJ Reid, E Larkin; M Bergin, C Fennelly, L Blanchfield. Subs: L Ryan for M Fennelly (60), J Farrell for Bergin (60), K Kelly for Blanchfield (72).
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; Philip Mahony, T De Búrca, C Gleeson; J Barron, K Moran; M Walsh, A Gleeson, Pauric Mahony; Stephen Bennett, Shane Bennett, J Dillon. Subs: M Shanahan for Stephen Bennett (47), P Curran for Shane Bennett (55), T Devine for Dillon (62)