They play a small bit of football down in Mullinavat, but enough for Kilkenny substitute John Walsh to confidently employ the right boot when delivering the defining score of this entertaining minor semi-final.
The second period of extra-time was four minutes old when the ball broke to the Kilkenny sub on the Waterford 20-metre line. Snapping the ball into his right paw, Walsh swept past the close attention of David Prendergast and Michael Cronin; conscious of being hooked, he let fly with the right boot. Goal Kilkenny.
Walsh’s kick moved the Leinster champions 1-20 to 1-14 in front and that completely knocked the stuffing out of the Déise boys. Chief tormentors Alan Murphy (0-2) and Liam Blanchfield closed out the result subsequently, Kilkenny’s four-year wait to return to the minor decider ended.
“John’s goal was crucial,” reflected victorious manager Pat Hoban.
“Goals play a big part in any game. I thought Waterford getting the goal in normal time is what brought them back into it. We went from being four points up to being just one and Waterford drove on from there. We definitely felt we lost it for a while and fair play to Waterford; they made a real game of it.
“John is a great player,” Hoban said of the goalscorer. “He was on the team last year. This year we are using him off the bench as an impact substitute. His mother died back in March so I am just delighted for him.”
The requirement of extra-time was as much Waterford obstinacy as it was Kilkenny wastefulness – the winners finishing with 18 wides.
The Déise were fortunate to find themselves only four adrift at the interval (0-10 to 0-6) with Kilkenny having dominated the early exchanges. Then again, the reigning champions didn’t exactly aid their cause with poor decision making in front of goal.
And so with the criticism of manager Derek Lyons still reverberating in their ears as they re-emerged onto the Croke Park turf, Waterford began to play the brand of hurling which saw them overcome Dublin and Clare earlier this summer, and so very nearly Limerick as well.
Deliveries out of defence were no longer simply launched into the Dublin sky, passes started to stick and the scores followed suit.
Patrick Curran nailed his second free of the game, with the contest’s opening major arriving thereafter. Andy Molumby teed up Shane Bennett and the wing-forward sent a powerful low drive beyond ‘keeper Darren Brennan. The gap was cut to the minimum (0-11 to 1-7) – finally we had a game on our hands.
Bennett, Molumby, Eddie Meaney and Patrick Curran (0-2) traded blows with Walsh, Ronan Corcoran, Murphy and Blanchfield to level matters turning the bend for home and when Patrick Curran split the posts on 56 minutes, Waterford edged in front.
A minute out, Walsh drew a superb save from Waterford ‘keeper Billy Nolan. The sliotar flew out over the end line and Alan Murphy showed terrific composure to convert the resulting ’65. To extra-time we went, Waterford managing only a solitary white flag during the two periods.
“I don’t think we could have asked for a whole lot more in terms of defence,” said Waterford boss Derek Lyons.
“It’s the quality of performance I’d be more annoyed with. Where we were today and where were needed to be, we just didn’t reach those heights.”
John Walsh’s goal on 74 minutes. The gap stood at three (0-20 to 1-14) when the Mullinavat hurler kicked to the net — Waterford’s resistance ended there and then.
Kilkenny’s latest crop of young hurlers carry the ruthless streak which has defined the group who would take to the field later that afternoon. Sub John Walsh typified their merciless approach when rattling the net in extra-time, a scoring opportunity where nine out of 10 minors would have opted for the point. Scenting victory, Kilkenny swiftly moved in for the kill.
Limerick supporters chanting ‘Oh, Richie McCarthy’ during the second period of extra-time. Don’t think they realised the start of the senior game was put back by 15 minutes.
Eddie Hayden had an excellent game at full-back for Waterford and yet Kilkenny full-forward Liam Blanchfield finished with 0-5 to his name. The Bennettsbridge youngster was a thorn the Déise simply could not shake.
Kilkenny boss Pat Hoban moved quickly to correct any areas of perceived weakness. Though the offensive unit was causing the Waterford rearguard persistent bother, two of the Kilkenny half- forward line were withdrawn before the 40 minute mark. The changes would have more than the desired effect.
Allowed the game to flow where possible. Both sides were guilty of indiscipline, hence the high number of placed ball efforts presented to the respective free-takers.
Kilkenny await the winners of next Sunday’s semi-final between Galway and Limerick.
Scorers for Kilkenny: A Murphy (0-11, 0-7 frees, 0-3 ’65’s); L Blanchfield (0-5); J Walsh (1-1); S Morrissey, R Corcoran (0-2 each); C Browne, B Ryan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford: P Curran (0-7, 0-5 frees); A Molumby (0-3); S Bennett (1-0); E Meaney, C Curran, C Roche, S Ryan (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: D Brennan (St Lachtains); T Walsh (Tullaoan), C Delaney (Erins Own), C McGrath (John Lockes); P Lyng (Rower Inistioge), J Cleere (Bennettsbridge), D Joyce (Rower Inistioge); C Browne (James Stephens), L Scanlon (James Stephens); S Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), R Butler (O’Loughlin Gaels), B Ryan (Graigue Ballycallan); A Murphy (Glenmore), L Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), R Corcoran (Ballyhale Shamrocks).
Subs: J Walsh (Mullinavat) for Ryan (36 mins), E Kenny (Slieverue) for Butler (39), A Gaffney (Dickboro) for Browne (55), L Hennessy (Glenmore) for Kenny (64), B Ryan for Gaffney (68), C Browne for Corcoran (76).
WATERFORD: B Nolan (Roanmore); D Prendergast (Lismore), E Hayden (Ballygunner), M Cronin (Ardmore); C Prunty (Abbeyside), C Gleeson (Fourmilewater), J Mullaney (Stradbally); D Lyons (Dungarvan), A Molumby (Cappoquin); S Bennett (Ballysaggart), C Roche (Shamrocks), C Curran (Brickey Rangers); P Hogan (Ballygunner), P Curran (Dungarvan), S Ryan (De La Salle).
Subs: E Meaney (De La Salle) for Ryan (38 mins), S Murray (Cappoquin) for Mullaney (48), J Allen (Dungarvan) for Molumby (60), S Ryan for Roche (72), A O’Sullivan (Cappoquin) for Hogan (74).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).