The dream of a third All-Ireland spluttered and died this day in Croke Park, the last rites been administered by Kilkenny once again. An extraordinary statistic of Waterford-Kilkenny clashes is that in five matches Waterford have actually won on aggregate yet have lost three and only won one of the five! Our three defeat were by two, one and one point respectively while our win was by eight. It’s a stat which makes the defeat all the more difficult to swallow as the cute Cats put one over us again.
For passion, the game lacked nothing. For skill it was seriously deficient. The quality of shooting by both sides was chronic. Kilkenny had the strong wind in the first half and looked completely unable to use it. So bad was their shooting that they were actually losing 0-5 to 0-4 with half an hour gone. DJ Carey was one of the biggest culprits dropping a few right clangers especially from frees. He was booed on each occasion, something which I won’t get upset over but….more of that later.
When Dan Shanahan put us in front five minutes from the break I thought we had them. We were to have the wind in the second half after all. Kilkenny had other ideas though. A quick blitz of scoring put them two points up at the break and only a fantastic save from Brendan Landers kept it down to that. Optimism was still high. Optimism that Kilkenny soon crushed.
The decisive moment in the game came early in the second half. DJ Carey had a 65 under the Cusack Stand. The danger of booing showed itself in what followed. I don’t do it because you inevitably end up with egg on your face. Carey fluffed the shot but in the ensuing scramble it fell to PJ Delaney who hit an arrowing shot low in the net. In such a low scoring game it was always likely to be crucial and so it proved.
Kilkenny were soon seven points to the good and the Déise looked doomed. I was waiting for the white flag to be run up as had happened so often before. But this teams capacity to surprise is amazing. They stuck to their task with great heart and almost pulled off the comeback. The shooting proved woefully inaccurate however. Peter Queally lorded the midfield yet seemed unable to do much with it. The curse that afflicted Kilkenny in the first half did for us in the second. The high point was the goal. Paul Flynn’s free from about 25 metres was blocked but Tony Browne managed to scramble it over the line making the game a contest again. As time ticked away Waterford threw everything at the Cats. As it went into injury time Pat O’Neill got to a Stephen Frampton bomb first, got it clear…and the ref blew the final whistle.
Twenty-seven stinking seconds! What was the ref thinking? Would it have made a difference? Probably not, but having come so far it was a bitter pill to swallow. The season was over. It had promised so much; and in truth, it had delivered. Hopefully this was the first of many All-Ireland semi finals to come.
Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Brian Flannery, Stephen Frampton (capt.), Fergal Hartley, Brian Greene, Tony Browne, Peter Queally, Dan Shanahan, Ken McGrath, Dave Bennett, Billy O’Sullivan, Anthony Kirwan, Paul Flynn
HT: Waterford 0-5 Kilkenny 0-7
Referee: Pat O’Connor (Limerick)