Eight minutes after half-time at a rain-soaked Semple Stadium yesterday, the Déise looked in complete control as they led by nine points, (1-10 to 0-4).
That was before a run of five unanswered Clare points dragged the challengers back into contention and while Waterford surged six points clear again, three late Banner County points left the South East outfit hanging on at the finish.
With two minutes remaining, Seán Chaplin’s sixth point of the day had cut the gap back to a goal (0-13 to 1-13) but Waterford held firm in the remaining two minutes of normal time, plus two extra added on by referee Noel Cosgrove.
Waterford will now meet Limerick or Cork in next month’s final as they go in search of just a second Munster intermediate hurling title, and first since 2007.
For Clare, the fruitless wait for a first provincial title at this grade will continue for at least another season although the county’s famed fighting qualities were very much in evidence in the second half.
With a strong breeze blowing into the Killinan End favouring Waterford in the opening half, they wasted no time in racking up a healthy lead. Liam Óg Daniels’ charges were happy to shoot on sight from long range and with 21 minutes on the watch, Waterford had opened up a 0-8 to 0-1 lead.
Lively corner forward Pádraig Hickey ended a 23-minutes barren spell for Clare with a 26th minute score and Hickey struck again a minute later to keep his side clinging onto Waterford’s coattails.
At half-time, Waterford led by 0-9 to 0-4 and they struck for the game’s only goal five minutes after the restart as full-forward Nicky Jacob brilliantly blocked down Cathal Chaplin before whipping the loose ball to the net.
Mark Gorman’s free sent Waterford nine points clear but Clare, featuring 2009 All-Ireland U21 winning captain Ciaran O’Doherty at corner back, took advantage of the breeze behind them to make a real fight of it until the finish.
Scorers for Waterford: M Gorman 0-5 (3f), N Jacob 1-1, J Kearney, D Murphy & C O’Gorman 0-2 each, J Hurney 0-1.
Scorers for Clare: S Chaplin 0-6 (5f), M Duggan 0-3, P Hickey & P O’Connor (1f) 0-2 each.
WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; S Kearney, J O’Leary, J Coffey; S Hannon, P Murray, J Hurney; D Murphy, N O Murchadha; C O’Gorman, M O’Gorman, J Kearney; M Gorman, N Jacob, K Landers.
Subs: B Phelan for Landers (26), JJ Hutchinson for J Kearney (53), A Lawlor for O’Gorman (60).
CLARE: G O’Connell; M O’Regan, D Shannon, C O’Doherty; P Kelly, M Hawes, P O’Connor; K Dilleen, C Chaplin; S Chaplin, T O’Donovan, J O’Connor; M Duggan, A Brigdale, P Hickey.
Subs: M O’Donnell for Brigdale (20), D Russell for J O’Connor (42), D Kennedy for Hickey (inj, 46), M Earley for Shannon (51), F O’Grady for O’Regan (56).
Referee: N Cosgrove (Tipperary).