Waterford could rue gifting scalded Cats another life
Kilkenny 1-21 Waterford 0-24
The one that got away for Waterford? It's been 57 long years since the Déise tasted victory over Kilkenny in senior championship hurling but yesterday was as close as they've got.
They ran the Cats to extra-time in a 2013 qualifier in Thurles but at Croke Park yesterday they had Brian Cody's charges by the throat but couldn't finish them off.
Four points down with 59 minutes on the watch, All-Ireland champions Kilkenny were in serious trouble but they somehow managed to salvage a replay, next Saturday in Thurles (6.45).
Austin Gleeson, scorer of five points, thought he'd bagged a sixth with five minutes left but the electronic HawkEye said no.
Three minutes later, the umpire waved the white flag but referee James Owens received word in his ear to check the technology, which judged Kevin Moran's effort wide.
That was a time when Waterford were three points clear - 0-23 to 0-20 - and a four-point lead might have killed off Kilkenny.
Consider, too, that Moran had Patrick Curran in acres of space and clean through on goal if he popped a pass but the captain went for broke and was inches wide.
Kilkenny were hanging on but somehow, Walter Walsh conjured an equalising goal in the 69th minute.
Back came Waterford as Jamie Barron won a free from Colin Fennelly that allowed Pauric Mahony to pop over his 14th point of the game.
Waterford had the lead again but there was still one more, final twist left.
In the fourth minute of stoppage time, barely a minute after Mahony's lead score, up stepped Kilkenny midfielder Conor Fogarty from distance with a long-range effort. It was boom or bust time but Fogarty's Hail Mary dropped over the crossbar and referee James Owens blew for full-time.
Waterford bodies slumped to the turf as if they were beaten. Maybe they are, considering Cody has only ever lost one championship replay in charge.
It was a spell-binding end to a gripping encounter at GAA HQ, as the pendulum swung one way and then the other.
Waterford adopted a far more conventional system, ditching the sweeper and going 15 on 15. But when they had that late lead, perhaps fear took over and they reverted to type. Kilkenny sensed they were still in it, hung in grimly and got their reward.
At the end of a first half that was level five times, Waterford held a slender lead, 0-13 to 0-12 in front.
And yet small things cost them an even greater lead, two diagonal balls spilled by Colin Dunford leading to Kilkenny scores at the other end. And against Kilkenny, it's always fine margins. Next Saturday, Waterford could find that out to their cost.
KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley; C Fogarty 0-2, M Fennelly 0-1; W Walsh 1-1, R Hogan 0-4, TJ Reid 0-11 (10f, 1 65); J.J. Farrell, J Power, C Fennelly 0-1.
Subs: E Larkin 0-1 for Farrell (46), L Ryan for Joyce (49).
Yellow cards: Walsh (18), C Fennelly (24), Reid (35). Red cards: 0
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; Philip Mahony, T de Búrca, C Gleeson; J Barron, K Moran 0-1; M Walsh, A Gleeson 0-5, P Mahony 0-14 (9f, 1 65); C Dunford, S Bennett, J Dillon 0-2.
Subs: M Shanahan 0-1 for Dunford (h.t.), P Curran 0-1 for Bennett (53), B O'Halloran for Dillon (66).
Yellow cards: B Coughlan (35), K Moran (35), C Gleeson (61). Red cards: 0
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).