By Jackie Cahill in Clane
Waterford 2-13 Tipperary 3-10
Maria Delahunty’s free, with 33 seconds left on the clock, salvaged a draw for Waterford in a terrific Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 3 final against Tipperary in Clane this afternoon.
Last year’s All-Ireland intermediate champions Waterford led by eight points in the first half, 2-9 to 1-4, but were reeled in by their Munster rivals in the second half.
Shelagh Carew’s point in the closing stages looked to have secured the silverware for Tipperary but Delahunty held her nerve to rescue a replay, with the date, time and venue for that to be confirmed in due course.
The sin-binning of Michelle McGrath with nine minutes left on the clock left Waterford hanging on at a crucial stage with 14 players.
Sensational Tipp forward Aisling Moloney netted for Tipp soon after, following a goalkeeping error, to bring the Premier County girls to within two points.
Aisling McCarthy and Gillian O’Brien popped over scores to level matters at 3-7 to 2-10 before Tipp's leading scorer Moloney, who collected 2-4 from play, put them ahead during a real purple patch.
Waterford hit back with a Sinead Ryan leveller before sub Becky Hogan's point nudged them one clear.
It was Tipp's turn to rouse themselves again as Edith Carroll equalised before Carroll's lead score.
Delahunty’s free ensured ultimate stalemate and in the closing seconds, Tipp defended desperately before the full-time hooter sounded.
Tipp may feel aggrieved, however, that what appeared to be a legitimate second half point from Moloney, in the 40th minute, was ruled out.
A sideline official went onto the pitch to speak with referee Gavin Corrigan but the Down whistler was unmoved and in a game of such tight margins, it was a big decision.
At half-time, Waterford appeared to be on course for a comfortable win – and the bigger prize of promotion to Division 2 in this straight shoot-out.
Katie Murray waltzed through the Tipp defence for a goal in the very first minute and Waterford were 1-5 to 0-2 clear before their opponents settled.
Tipp captain Edel Hanley scored a crucial goal midway through the half but Waterford had clear daylight again in the 28th minute when Delahunty’s 45 was spilled into her own net by goalkeeper Patricia Hickey.
But Tipp hit back with a vital goal in the final minute of the half, Cahir star Moloney on target.
The sides traded early second half points before the intensity, and drama, visibly increased.
In the proverbial game of two halves, it was Tipp who appeared to have the greater running power in the second period, after Waterford were the dominant force before the interval.
Scorers for Waterford: M Delahunty 1-4 (1-2f, 0-1 45f), K Murray 1-2, S Ryan 0-4 (1f), C McGrath, L Devine & B Hogan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tipperary: A Moloney 2-4, E Hanley 1-0, G O’Brien 0-2, S Carew, E Myles, E Carroll & A McCarthy 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: K Hannon; L Wall, M McGrath, E Murray; M Wall, M Dunford, L Ryan; G Kenneally, K Murray; C McGrath, M Ryan, M Delahunty; S Ryan, L Devine, A Wall.
Subs: C Hurley for Kenneally (23), Kenneally for Wall (37), B Hogan for M Ryan (42), A Mullaney for Kenneally (51).
TIPPERARY: P Hickey; B Condon, S Lambert, S Delahunty; A O’Dwyer, J Grant, C Carroll; L O’Shea, S Carew; C Walsh, M Morrissey, E Myles; A Moloney, G O’Brien, E Hanley.
Subs: B Ryan for Carroll (1), A McCarthy for Ryan (h.t), E Carroll for Walsh (44), K Hackett for Hanely (54).
Referee: G Corrigan (Down).