Waterford 0-22 Clare 1-15
Waterford had to dig deep to get the better of Clare’s exciting youngsters at Semple Stadium.
Davy Fitzgerald, facing his native county in championship action for the first time, eventually saw his Deice side turn on the power in the second half to qualify for the Munster SHC final.
Darach Honan’s goal helped the Banner to a four points interval lead, and an upset was very much on the cards.
Clare boss Ger O’Loughlin had handed out six championship debutants, and by the end of a thrilling encounter, he had used 10 members of last year’s All-Ireland winning U21 side.
But in the end, Waterford’s experienced campaigners came good, with a raft of second half substitutes, particularly Declan Prendergast, making a massive contribution to their comeback win.
Stephen Molumphy and John Mullane were on target early on for Waterford, but Clare showed no fear of the big occasion and began to perform with conviction, confidence and flair.
Sean Clancy, Jonathan Clancy and John Conlon all finished off moves which had their origins in terrific tackling, with wing back Pat Donnellan an outstanding figure at the back.
Midfielder Nicky O’Connell steered over three points as the Banner men eased ahead by 0-8 to 0-3 after 20 minutes.
Eoin Kelly kept the Decies in touch from long range frees, and Mullane belted over his second with a spectacular overhead strike.
Waterford had narrowed the gap back to two points when Banner full forward Darach Honan picked up a loose ball to blast home a brilliant 33rd minute goal.
Kelly and Kevin Moran responded with points, but at the break, it was the Clare men who led by 1-10 to 0-9.
Once the Decies got the wind in their backs in the second half, they carried a much greater threat.
With 37-year-old veteran Tony Browne driving his younger colleagues on from the half back line, they set about dismantling Clare’s lead.
Kevin Moran, Molumphy, Maurice Shanahan and Mullane were all on target, with Declan Prendergast firing over three gems.
Clare were far from finished, though, and went back in front through substitute Cormac O’Donovan and Honan.
But Waterford had the will to produce a response each time their opponents registered, and late scores from Kelly, McGrath and Seamus Prendergast sealed the win and a place in the decider.
Waterford: C. Hennessy, E. Murphy L Lawlor N Connors, T. Browne, M Walsh, J Nagle, R Foley, S O'Sullivan, D Shanahan, K Moran (0-2), S Molumphy (0-3), J Mullane (0-3), E Kelly (0-6, 4f), M Shanahan (0-2).
Subs: D Prendergast (0-3) for Nagle (h-t), S Prendergast (0-2) for M Shanahan (49), S Walsh for D Shanahan (59), K McGrath (0-1) for Moran (64), E McGrath for Molumphy (70)
Clare: D Touhy, P Vaughan, C Dillon, C Cooney, B Bugler, D McMahon, P Donnellan, B O’Connell, N O’Connell (0-3, 1f), S Collins (0-2), J Conlon (0-1), J Clancy (0-3), F Lynch, D Honan (1-3), C Ryan (0-1).
Subs; C O’Donovan (0-1) for Ryan (44), D O’Donovan for B O’Connell (51), D Barrett (0-1) for Lynch (56), A Markham for Clancy (65)
Referee: B Galvin (Offaly)