Waterford finally laid their Kilkenny ghost to rest at Semple Stadium on Saturday, 4-23 to 2-22, but only after an epic clash which had it all.
The Deise were always going to have to dig deep to defeat the Cats in Championship hurling for the first time since 1959, and so it proved.
Waterford manager Derek McGrath, said: “You go to two league finals, you go to two Munster finals, you don’t turn up for last year’s Munster final, you go to two epic All-Ireland semi-finals last year, so the pressure was building on all of us, the management and players to go the next step.
“We’re in the quarter-final now but I suppose we’re advanced in terms of the opposition we’ve beaten. The challenge for us it to just take it on again.”
Waterford looked set for a comfortable enough win when they led by 2-15 to 1-10 with ten minutes to play, but Kilkenny summoned an incredible comeback that saw them score an unanswered salvo of 1-5 to bring the match into extra-time.
Waterford supporters must have felt haunted at that moment, but when their team needed moral courage most they proved they had it in spades.
They refused to be dismayed by their late collapse in normal time, and instead emerged for extra-time with renewed vigour and goals from man-of-the-match Jamie Barron and Maurice Shanahan sealed a famous win.
McGrath added: “Any modicum of doubt at the end of normal time was put to bed by the performance of the subs in extra-time which is really pleasing.
“I think we were good value for the win overall, albeit we did it the hard way.”
Defeat for Brian Cody’s Cats, who were dumped out of Leinster by Wexford, defeat means that Kilkenny exit the All-Ireland hurling championship before the quarter-final stage for the first time since 1996. Cody, though, was defiant.
“I think they (the Kilkenny players) proved tonight how resilient they are, how competitive they are, how determined they are, and also how skilful they are,” he said.
“They showed an awful lot tonight.
“It went to extra-time, and they regrouped well. The momentum that they were able to rediscover, and there was some very good hurling, obviously.
“They were more consistent in their play over the 90 minutes than we were, but the resilience, spirit and determination we showed are the hallmarks of everything a team has to have.”
It could yet get worse for Cody, who could face a ban from Croke Park for appearing to place his hands on fourth official, Justin Heffernan, during his side’s defeat to the Deise.
Sunday Game panellist Michael Duignan, however, has leapt to Cody’s defence. Speaking on The Sunday Game, he said: “There’s nothing in it. There was no aggression [towards the official], no malice. His malice was to Derek McGrath.
“I think it’s crazy if there is a suspension out of that.”
In the weekend’s other Round 2 Qualifier defending All Ireland champions Tipperary sent out a message that they have no intention of surrendering their crown, as they annihilated Dublin 6-26 to 1-19 at Semple Stadium.
Seamus Callanan finished with 3-11 to his name, 3-4 of which was scored from play, while John McGrath hit 2-2. John O’Dwyer and Jason Forde scored four points apiece.
Dublin simply couldn’t cope in the face of such firepower, and were riddled with bullet-holes by the time the final whistle blew.
Scorers for Waterford: Jamie Barron 1-3, Pauric Mahony 0-6 (6f), Austin Gleeson 0-5, Maurice Shanahan 1-3 (3f), Shane Bennett 1-0, Michael Walsh 1-0, Kevin Moran 0-2, Tommy Ryan 0-2, Patrick Curran 0-1, Jake Dillon 0-1.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 2-12 (1 pen, 10f, ‘65), Lester Ryan 0-3, Richie Leahy 0-2, Richie Hogan 0-1, Eoin Murphy 0-1, Kevin Kelly 0-1, Ger Aylward 0-1, Colin Fennelly 0-1
WATERFORD: Stephen O’Keeffe; Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors; Darragh Fives, Tadhg De Burca, Philip Mahony; Jamie Barron, Conor Gleeson; Kevin Moran, Austin Gleeson, Michael Walsh; Shane Bennett, Jake Dillon, Pauric Mahony.
Subs: Patrick Curran for Jake Dillon, 49; Stephen Bennett for Shane Bennett, 61; Maurice Shanahan for Michael Walsh, 69; Brian O’Halloran for Pauric Mahony, 72; Tommy Ryan for Stephen Bennett, 79; Colin Dunford for Patrick Curran, 84; Shane McNulty for Noel Connors, 86.
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Pádraig Walsh, Robert Lennon; Conor Fogarty, Cillian Buckley, Joe Lyng; Michael Fennelly, Paddy Deegan; Kevin Kelly, Walter Walsh, TJ Reid; Richie Hogan, Colin Fennelly, Jonjo Farrell.
Subs: Lester Ryan for Paddy Deegan, ht; Ger Aylward for Jonjo Farrell, ht; Chris Bolger for Kevin Kelly, 49; Richie Leahy for Richie Hogan, 63; Liam Blanchfield for Michael Fennelly, 74; Richie Hogan for Ger Aylward, 85.