Cyril Farrell: Behind-the-scenes work has made Cats as hungry as ever
Published 10/08/2015 | 02:30
Kilkenny needed a tough test and they'll be all the better that they got one, but Waterford can hold their heads up high.
The level of intensity matched that of the physicality, but there wasn't a single dirty stroke in the entire game.
Players took the hits on the chin and there was no feigning injury or lying down.
Waterford threw the kitchen sink at Kilkenny, but you always felt as if they were in control of proceedings.
When you consider the goal chances that Kilkenny missed, it might have been an altogether different story, but Waterford will have learned plenty of valuable lessons from what has been a good year for them.
The challenge that Derek McGrath now faces is to make sure that his side build on what has been achieved this year.
Plenty of teams give it everything against Kilkenny, but eventually die on their feet, but you couldn't say that about Waterford yesterday.
Kilkenny had their trademark second-half burst, but Waterford were able to stay with them, with Colin Dunford coming much more into the game.
McGrath will know that his system will need to be further developed if they are to step it up a level next year.
He's done a brilliant job. His players all understand their role and I think they'll come back strong.
At times, they had just one forward, which isn't going to work against the top teams. You need at least five to cause a team like Kilkenny problems and it's those sort of little things that need to be worked on.
Too often, Maurice Shanahan was left isolated and although that changed in the second half, when he was moved further out the field and Brick Walsh went in closer to the square, they still couldn't reel Kilkenny in.
There were glimpses of the 'old Kilkenny' and no one epitomised that more than Cillian Buckley. I thought he was exceptional and his season is getting better with every game.
He's a real warrior and with Paul Murphy sweeping everything up, Waterford really struggled to break down their defence.
Eoin Larkin is the only player left from the 2008 team, so when you consider that this Kilkenny side is going through something of a transition, the way in which their relentless pursuit of winning All-Ireland titles never lets up is hugely impressive.
A lot of that has to be down to Brian Cody, but when he has the likes of TJ Reid and Richie Hogan to call upon, he is very rarely let down.
Ger Aylward is another who is having a fine season and he chipped in with a couple of lovely scores.
Cody has again found the right balance between the young and older players, but having the more experienced ones to rely on is crucial at this time of the year.
Kilkenny look as hungry as ever and that's a testament to what goes on behind the scenes. They hurl on their instincts and have to be hot favourites going into the final.
The composure that they show under pressure is fantastic and it's what sets them apart from everyone else.
Reid is at the peak of his powers and is a joy to watch. The way in which he created his goal was very clever and although some people will say it was poor defending, Reid used his body to great effect.
That was the crucial moment because after that, Waterford were always chasing the game and needed a goal of their own.
They made a couple of sloppy errors at the back and when you do that, Kilkenny don't need a second invitation.
It has to be said that they did look human at times in missing a couple of goal chances, but Cody will know that he can get more out of his players the next day.
When you're in yet another All-Ireland, but still have improvements to make, it shows you how strong the situation is that Kilkenny find themselves in.
I have no doubt that Kilkenny will step it up to another level for the final. It's going to take a huge effort from either Galway or Tipperary to stop them.
I hear that Richie Power is back in training and as big a boost as that will be to Kilkenny, it's ominous for whoever it is that they end up playing.
Waterford's year is over, but the foundations have been laid for success further down the line.
Their supporters will be disappointed with yesterday's result, but when they look back on the year, they will realise that their two defeats came against the two best sides in the country. There is no shame in that.
As for Kilkenny, they are still the benchmark. Some things never change.