Waterford will face either Limerick or Galway in next month’s All-Ireland final following a 2-27 – 2-23 victory against Kilkenny on Saturday.
Kilkenny came out of the traps early racing into a three-point lead thanks to two TJ Reid frees and a point from Tullaroan forward Martin Keoghan. Calum Lyons and Stephen Bennett reduced the Cats’ lead but a point from Leinster Final hero Richie Hogan made it 0-04 – 0-02 after ten minutes. Then, left-half forward Keoghan got the first goal of the game, striking to the net after Richie Hogan’s shot was well saved by goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe. Waterford were wasteful early on, hitting four wides before Kilkenny’s goal. Points from Bennett and Lyons kept Waterford within range of Brian Cody’s side at 1-05 – 0-04. However, Kilkenny began to flex their muscles and a goal from Reid extended their lead, 2-07 – 0-05. Waterford remained stuck for scores, as 2017 Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson hit his second wide of the game after a shot from the 20-metre line. Points from Reid, Eoin Cody and John Donnelly gave Kilkenny a 2-11 – 0-10 point lead at half-time.
Kilkenny got the first point of the second-half through corner forward Cody. Waterford responded with a crucial goal from talisman Stephen Bennett in addition to a long range free making the score 2-12 – 1-11. Two former Hurler of the Year winners Reid and Gleeson exchanged points to keep the gap at four. Another two points from Bennett, one from play and one from a free cut the gap to two points, 2-13 – 1-14. Kilkenny replied to a good period of play from Liam Cahill’s men when Cillian Buckley scored a long-distance point. Waterford scored a further two unanswered points to close the gap to one-point, 2-14 – 1-16. Richie Hogan struck a crucial point to halt Waterford’s momentum.
Wides from Erins Own clubman Conor Fogarty and goalkeeper Eoin Murphy hampered Kilkenny’s chances of extending their lead. Waterford drew level for the first time since the start of the game with points from Austin Gleeson and Jamie Barron leaving the score at 2-15 – 1-18. The Deise took the lead for the first time in the 51st minute with a point from his own half by substitute Neil Montgomery. Another two points from Montgomery and Dessie Hutchinson made it 2-15 to 1-21 as referee Fergal Horgan signalled for the second-half water break.
Kilkenny free-taker TJ Reid hauled a point back from a long-range effort to cut the lead to two points. Waterford forward Stephen Bennet missed a scoreable free soon after in a welcome chain of events for the men wearing black and amber. Kilkenny substitute Niall Brassil couldn’t manage to finish a goal chance soon after he came on. Reid scored yet another point but a goal from Darragh Lyons made it 2-22 to 2-17 after 59 minutes. Reid struck another free, but Stephen Bennett took advantage of an Eoin Murphy mistake to make it 2-18 to 2-23. Thomastown’s John Donnelly got another score from play and a free from Reid brought Kilkenny back to within a goal. Reid scored another from play to make it 2-21 to 2-23. Gleeson scored yet another point, but Reid replied for the Cats to make it a two-point game as the four minutes of additional time began.
Neill Montgomery got his third point of the game before Paddy Deegan cooly put the ball over the bar. Tadhg De Burca made it 2-26 to 2-23 to Waterford and Austin Gleeson wrapped up an incredible comeback victory for Waterford to give the Deise their 29th score of the game.
Waterford eventually ran out 2-27 to 2-23 victors and will advance to next month’s final.