After 27 games over four months, the race for the GAA hurling All-Ireland championship is now down to two: Galway and Waterford
Waterford joined Galway in the final with an 11-point win over Cork in the second semi-final. The September outing will be Waterford’s first appearance in the final since 2008 (they lost to Kilkenny) as they seek to win the title for the first time since 1959, while Galway haven’t been crowned champions since 1988.
Waterford lost to Cork in the Munster semi-final in June but have since beaten Offaly, Kilkenny, Wexford and Cork.
Galway took the direct route to the final, beating Dublin, Offaly, Wexford and Tipperary.
One of the most telling statistics of this weekend’s Senior Championship Hurling clash is that Galway and Waterford have never met in the All-Ireland final in its 130 years of existence.
To add further novelty, it is the first final since 1996, when Wexford beat Limerick, that has not featured one of the traditional ‘big three’ of Cork, Kilkenny or Tipperary.
Arguably more interesting is that Galway have never beaten Waterford in championship history, with the Deise holding a formidable ten wins from ten games.
Waterford’s most recent success came in 2011 when they won an All-Ireland quarter-final by 2-23 to 2- 11. Darragh Fives, Noel Connors, Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, Kevin Moran and Pauric Mahony, all of whom played last Sunday, were aboard for Waterford that day, as were David Burke, Joe Canning and Aidan Harte from the current Galway squad.
The last competitive clash between the counties was in the Allianz League quarter-final in April when Galway won by 2-22 to 2-19 after trailing by ten points in the third quarter.
But both teams have in their arsenal two of the most exceptionally skilled players of this generation, although both at completely different stages in their inter-county careers.
Every hurling fan hopes that Galway’s Joe Canning does not become the best player never to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Since he burst onto the scene as a teenager in 2008 he has made a huge impression on hurling and has entertained the masses, Galway fans and neutrals alike.
In a Galway team that have struggled to dent Tipperary and Kilkenny’s dominance over the past decade, the 28-year-old Portumna man has emerged as the championship’s fourth top-scorer of all time.