Déise delight as 22-year Munster famine is ended
Bord Gais Munster U-21 HC final: Waterford 2-19 Tipperary0-15
Walsh Park rocked to a pounding beat last evening as Waterford's young guns fired the Déise onto an ever-soaring orbit, with a first Munster U-21 hurling title triumph since 1994.
It was achieved in the sweetest of circumstances in front of their own people, beating a county that had humiliated their seniors in the Munster senior final 17 days previously.
Several of the Waterford senior squad were aboard the U-21 side as it added the next layer to a success story that started with the 2013 All-Ireland minor win. The multi-talented crop now have built on their expanding ambitions by taking the Munster U-21 title and can look ahead to an All-Ireland semi-final outing against the Ulster champions on August 20.
Dublin and Galway are on the other side of the draw but Waterford are favourites to win the title for the very first time since 1992 after prevailing in a province that has produced six of the last seven All-Ireland winners.
It was truly emotional occasion for Waterford, typified by the reaction of their supporters in the crowd of 8,843 as they swarmed in front of the stand to watch joint-captains, Patrick Curran and Adam Farrell, accept the trophy.
Curran was their top scorer on 0-8 (0-7 from placed balls) and he also contributed generously in open play on an evening when all of Waterford's senior stars showed impressive leadership.
Curran, Tom Devine, Shane and Stephen Bennett, Conor Gleeson and Mikey Kearney all did well but the real star of the show was centre-back Austin Gleeson.
He gave a truly memorable performance, controlling Waterford's No 6 area with commanding authority while also galloping forward to hit four points from open play before closing out the scoring with a long-range free deep in stoppage time.
It climaxed a hugely enterprising second-half performance by Waterford, who led by 1-6 to 0-7 at half-time. They increased their lead to five points early in the second half but Tipperary's dogged resistance brought them level (0-14 to 1-11) at the three-quarter mark.
However, they managed just one more point while Waterford scored 1-8, the goal coming from sub Peter Hogan in the 51st minute after being played through by a delightful flick from Stephen Bennett.
Waterford made a lively start, clipping over four points in the opening seven minutes and looking very much as if they had switched on for the big challenge much better than the visitors. It was a worrying time for Tipp but their response was impressive as they fired over four unanswered points to draw level at the end of the first quarter. And when Andrew Coffey scored his third point in the 19th minute, Tipperary were ahead and hurling with impressive rhythm.
It was level after 25 minutes before Waterford pounced for a goal three minutes later when Stephen Bennett displayed his opportunist instincts after Curran had mis-hit a free.
It flew low into the goal area and Bennett reacted first to beat Tipperary goalkeeper Brian Hogan from close range.
Josh Keane pointed a late free for Tipperary to leave them trailing by two points at the break.
It looked quite promising for Tipp as Waterford had played with the wind but, similar to what they did against Clare, the home side raised all facets of their game in the second half to clinch a decisive win.
Scorers - Waterford: P Curran 0-8 (6 f, 1 '65), A Gleeson 0-5 (4f), Stephen Bennett 1-1, P Hogan 1-0,T Devine 0-2, DJ Foran, M O'Brien, C Roche 0-1 each.
Tipperary: J Keane 0-6 (5f), A Coffey 0-4, S Quirke 0-3, C Lanigan, R Teehan 0-1 each.
Waterford -J Henley; W Hahessy, C Gleeson, D Lyons; M Harney, A Gleeson, C Prunty; Shane Bennett, C Roche; M O'Brien, T Devine, DJ Foran; P Curran, Stephen Bennett, M Kearney.
Subs: P Hogan for Roche (43), J Fagan for Kearney (57), D Ryan for Lyons (61), B Whelan for Hahessy (62), N Fives for Foran (62).
Tipperary - B Hogan; P Maher, T Fox, D Sweeney; S Ryan, R Maher, B Heffernan; B McCarthy, J Ryan; J Keane, M Russell, A Coffey; W Connors, S Quirke, C Langan.
Subs: R Teehan for J Ryan (h-t), P Ryan for Lanigan (53), M McCarthy for Coffey (58), T Nolan for McCarthy (61).
Ref - J Murphy (Limerick)