UCC dominated the opening quarter, Michael Rice firing to the net on six minutes.
But the college side were guilty of wayward shooting, and Waterford pounced for a goal on 11 minutes through Conor Carey.
The students weren’t flattered by their 1-8 to 1-6 half-time lead, but Waterford were level within five minutes of the restart.
Gearoid O’Connor’s 41st minute point gave Waterford the lead for the first time and it was one they never subsequently surrendered.
In a frantic final few minutes Paul O’Brien and Cha Fitzpatrick pulled UCC within a point, but Waterford did enough to hold on.
Scorers Waterford: C. Carey (1-2); E.Kelly (0-3, 0-1 free); J. Kennedy (0-3); J. Mullane (0-2); G. O’Connor (0-2); E. McGrath (0-2).
UCC: M. Rice (1-3); J. Fitzpatrick (0-4, frees); M. O’Connor (0-2); R. Conway, E. Hanley, S. O’Sullivan, P. O’Brien (0-1) each.
WATERFORD: C. Hennessy; D. Coffey, T. Feeney, E. Murphy; B. Phelan, J. Murray, D. Bennett; E. Kelly, E. McGrath; D. Shanahan, J. Kennedy, J. Mullane; G. O’Connor, C. Carey, G. Power.
Subs: J. Hartley for Phelan (inj); A. Kearney for Shanahan.
UCC: E. Martin; P. Donovan, J. Tennyson, S. Flannery; S. O’Neill, P. Murray, K. Hartnett; S. O’Sullivan, T. Kenny; R. Conway, M. Rice, E. Hanley; J. Fitzpatrick, M. O’Connor, P. O’Brien.
Subs: J. Crowley for O’Connor (inj); S. Cronin for Murray; I. McCarthy for Hanley.
Referee: D. Richardson (Limerick).