The win was all the more impressive considering that they were facing a UL outfit who possessed far more household names, and who were full value for their 0-9 to 0-5 interval lead.
UL set a high tempo to the opening half and despite being bereft of Tipperary senior Willie Ryan, who was a hamstring victim, they possessed an able deputy in Shane Dooley as the Tullamore player struck a quartet of points. Tommy Connors, Matthew Ruth and Brian Carroll all chipped in with stylish efforts from play, and Michael Malone and Seamus Hickey are hurling well at the back.
WIT in contrast were being crippled by a reliance on Timmy Hammersley for scores and when Shane Dooley tacked on a free early in the second half, UL looked certain to push on for success.
However WIT launched a superb recovery. That was largely founded on greater defensive resilience where Shane Fives, Noel Connors and Wayne Hutchinson tightened up considerably and depriving the UL attack of open spaces they enjoyed in the first half. Enda Barrett added a combative edge to their midfield play, Fintan O’Leary foraged hard in the half-forward line and sub Brian O’Meara made a big impression when introduced, grabbing a brace of points.
But the biggest factor underpinning WIT’s revival was the input of corner-forward Hammersley. Once again the Clonoulty-Rossmore man gave a scoring masterclass, managing the not inconsiderable feat of surpassing the 0-13 return he registered in the group stages against UCC, striking a stunning 1-13. His free-taking was marvellous as he converted placed balls from an array of distances and angles. In a rocky first half for WIT, his scores were vital and he managed two lovely efforts from play in that spell.
Yet it was the game’s only goal which proved the standout score. After trailing 0-10 to 0-5, WIT quickly trimmed the margin thanks to a trio of Hammersley frees before his net buster arrived in the 40th minute. Substitute O’Meara did brilliantly to break a Fintan O’Leary pass kindly into the path of Hammersley and he sprinted through before unleashing a rocket past Thomas Lowry.
With that score, WIT crept into the lead for the first time and their spirits were lifted. UL were shell-shocked but they rallied sufficiently to stay in touch. They possessed a lethal freetaker themselves in Shane Dooley and his accuracy meant the teams were tied 0-13 to 1-10 by the 47th minute. WIT could well have pounced for a second goal in the 44th minute but O’Meara could not get enough purchase on his shot and elected to scoop over the bar.
The match remained balanced on a knife edge with Dooley and Hammersley trading a point apiece from a free and the vista of extra-time loomed with three minutes left. But WIT were wonderful battlers and after displaying the heart to get back into contention, they were not to be denied entering the final straight. O’Meara banged over a superb effort from the left wing and Hammersley nailed three frees on the trot to seal victory.
Scorers for Waterford IT: T Hammersley 1-13 (0-11f), B O’Meara 0-2.
Scorers for UL: S Dooley 0-9 (0-7f, 0-1 ‘65), M Ruth, T Connors, B Carroll, S Hickey, A Quinn 0-1 each.
WATERFORD IT: A Power (Waterford); B Kenny (Galway), S Fives (Waterford), N Connors (Waterford); W Hutchinson (Waterford), E Barrett (Clare), PJ Rowe (Kilkenny); W O’Dwyer (Tipperary), M Molloy (Wexford); F O’Leary (Cork), K Reade (Tipperary), R Good (Cork); T Hammersley (Tipperary), K Grehan (Kilkenny), R McLoughney (Tipperary).
Subs: R McCarthy (Limerick) for O’Dwyer (34), B O’Meara (Tipperary) for Reade (38), B Johnson (Cork) for Molloy (43).
UL: T Lowry (Tipperary); P Stapleton (Tipperary), M Malone (Kilkenny), C Fogarty (Kilkenny); K Joyce (Kilkenny), J Devane (Tipperary), S Hickey (Limerick); M Walsh (Kilkenny), N O’Murchu (Waterford); T Connors (Waterford), R O’Dwyer (Tipperary), B Carroll (Offaly); A Quinn (Clare), M Ruth (Kilkenny), S Dooley (Offaly).
Subs: D Hayden (Offaly) for Joyce (47), P Murphy (Tipperary) for Quinn (48), M Heffernan (Tipperary) for Walsh (52), D Burke (Galway) for Ruth (52), M Whelan (Laois) for O’Murchu (57).
Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).