Waterford 2-19 Tipperary 0-15: A powerful final quarter burst — in which the home outfit outscored Tipperary by 1-8 to 0-1 — delivered Waterford a first Munster U21 hurling title in 22 years.
Central to Waterford’s breakaway spell was Peter Hogan’s 50th minute goal, a score instigated by a moment of beauty that perfectly captured the glorious inhibition associated with this grade.
An Austin Gleeson delivery was picked up by Patrick Curran, the Waterford corner-forward flicking possession to the nearby Stephen Bennett. Facing out towards the sideline on the terrace side, the older of the two Bennett brothers on the team controlled the sliotar on his hurley before throwing it back over his head and into the path of the onrushing Hogan.
The Waterford sub, now inside the cover, held his nerve to rifle the sliotar past Tipperary ’keeper Brian Hogan. The sight of the rippling net proved fatal for Tipperary and the staunch resistance they had offered over the previous 50 minutes ceased to exist thereafter.
Just as they had done when dethroning All-Ireland champions Limerick in the semi-final, the savage work-ethic tabled by the visitors frustrated Waterford for large spells of this entertaining decider. Paul Maher and Tom Fox led a defensive effort that refused to pay credence to the host of household names operating in the opposition attack.
Hogan’s goal and the manner it which was engineered, however, left them broken. And how quickly it all unravelled for William Maher’s side. Tom Devine pointed from the ensuing puck-out, the scoreboard now reading 2-14 to 0-14. Patrick Curran was next to fire over, followed by Stephen Bennett and Austin Gleeson. The strong home contingent in the crowd of 8,843 were delirious.
In the space of four minutes, Waterford had rattled off 1-4.
Josh Keane’s fifth free of the evening approaching full time was to prove Tipperary’s sole score of the final quarter. The underdogs pressed and pressed for a late goal to reignite their cause but found a Waterford defence in less than generous form. Sub Ronan Teehan came closest, but ’keeper Jordan Henley produced a fine save.
Patrick Curran’s sixth free stretched their lead out to 2-18 to 0-15, man of the match Austin Gleeson enjoying the final say when nailing a long-range placed ball effort in stoppages. The 10-point win delivered the county a first U21 provincial title since 1994, their fourth overall, and also represented just their fourth championship victory over Tipperary at this level.
The home outfit, for whom Gleeson, Shane Bennett, Colm Roche and corner-back pair Darragh Lyons and William Hahessy stood tallest, wasted little time in settling into proceedings and were four clear by the 10th minute — Patrick Curran (two frees and a ’65) and DJ Foran on the mark.
Andrew Coffey had Tipperary on the board after 11 minutes and Maher’s troops worked themselves back on level terms through Stephen Quirke, Conor Lanigan and Coffey — the visitors cleaning up under the Waterford puck-out.
Twice more they were level before Stephen Bennett crashed home the opening goal of the contest on 28 minutes, the inside forward reacting quickest to a mishit Patrick Curran free.
Ahead by 1-6 to 0-7 at the break, Waterford hit four of the first five scores of the second-half — Gleeson (0-2), Devine and Curran (free) the providers — to put significant daylight between the teams.
The expectation was that Sean Power’s charges would drive on from here. Instead, the opposite materialised. Tipperary’s growing dominance at midfield, where they now deployed an extra body, was the foundation which saw the Premier county outscore their opponents by 0-6 to 0-1 in a nine-minute spell to level matters at 1-11 to 0-14 on the 45-minute mark.
Coffey, Quirke (0-2) and Josh Keane (0-3, 0-2 frees) landed a plethora of scores from well out the field as the momentum swung in their favour. A lead score they couldn’t locate, however, and Waterford’s final quarter display was befitting of the silverware on offer.
Class, in the end, won out.
Scorers for Waterford:
P Curran (0-8, 0-6 frees, 0-1 ’65); Stephen Bennett (1-1); P Hogan (1-0); A Gleeson (0-5, 0-1 free); T Devine (0-2); DJ Foran, M O’Brien, C Roche (0-1);
Scorers for Tipperary:
J Keane (0-6, 0-5 frees); A Coffey (0-4); S Quirke (0-3); C Lanigan, R Teehan (0-1 each).
J Henley (Tallow); D Lyons (Dungarvan), C Gleeson (Fourmilewater), W Hahessy (Clonea); M Harney (Bunmahon), A Gleeson (Mount Sion), C Prunty (Abbeyside); C Roche (Shamrocks), Shane Bennett (Ballysaggart); M O’Brien (Ferrybank), T Devine (Modeligo), DJ Foran (Portlaw); M Kearney (Ballyduff Upper), Stephen Bennett (Ballysaggart), P Curran (Dungarvan).
P Hogan (Ballygunner) for Roche (42 mins); J Fagan (De La Salle) for Kearney (57); D Ryan (Fourmilewater) for Lyons (60); B Whelan (Tramore) for Hahessy (61); N Fives (Tourin) for Foran (62).
B Hogan (Lorra-Dorrha); T Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty Donohill), D Sweeney (Kiladangan), P Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash); S Ryan (Sean Treacy’s), R Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), R Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg); J Ryan (Toomevara), W Connors (Kiladangan); B McCarthy (Thurles Sarsfields), S Quirke (Moyle Rovers), A Coffey (Nenagh Éire Óg); C Lanigan (Thurles Sarsfields), M Russell (Lattin Cullen), J Keane (Golden-Kilfeacle).
R Teehan (Gortnahoe-Glengoole) for Ryan (HT); P Ryan (Newport) for Lanigan (52 mins); M McCarthy (Toomevara) for Coffey (57); T Nolan (Drom & Inch) for B McCarthy (60).
J Murphy (Limerick).
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