Historic victory eludes Déise as Cats live again
Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30
As deafening cheers and roars boomed over Jones Road, it seemed almost inevitable that history would be made at Croke Park.
This year's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Semi-Final saw Kilkenny face Waterford in what turned out to be a tense clash of the ash.
If Waterford had won, it would have been their first victory over Kilkenny in 57 years.
And while the Déise succeeded in maintaining a lead in the second half, the Cats fought back with an equalising goal in the final minutes.
The raw emotion was tangible in the air following the crucial game, as fans from both sides recovered from the tantalising draw.
Left coping with coming so close to victory was Waterford supporter Helen Murphy, who told the Irish Independent: "I don't know if I'm ready to talk about it now. It's too soon."
Helen, from Ballygunner, Co Waterford, was disappointed after the draw but said the atmosphere in Croke Park was "amazing".
"As a Waterford supporter, you're kind of afraid to believe until the last five minutes," she said. "Seriously, I just have no words."
Helen added that she had faith in her team to secure another lead over their rivals, even in the last few minutes.
"I really thought they could get another couple of points if they played another couple of minutes," she said.
But she also said the game didn't disappoint as adrenaline levels soared in a tense bout of added time.
"After the Tipp game in Limerick, we just really wanted a good game and they gave us that," she said. "It was such a good game."
"But it's been 57 years - how many games is that against Kilkenny? To be that close to our chance, I don't think I'd be looking forward to another match."
Despite that, she stressed that she'd definitely come back for the replay for "the chance of making history".
Jason Nugent and Edel Byrne from Kilkenny were cheering on the Cats, but were just as invested in the nail-biting final minutes as Helen.
"It was probably the most stressful game I've been at in my life," Edel said.
"I definitely think Kilkenny will take it the next time though," she said. "Given today, I thought that was what was going to happen, but we'll see."
Meanwhile, Jason remained optimistic about the outcome of the replay.
"It wasn't our best game, but it was a good game. We drew," he added.
Also among the crowds was Nicky O'Regan from Waterford, who was drumming up a rousing speech for any disappointed Déise fans.
"It was absolutely brilliant, but Waterford should have won," he insisted.
"Kilkenny got out of jail, but we're not finished with them yet," he added. "There's still another day to come and we'll beat them. That's a promise."
Surrounded by his family, friends and fellow supporters, Nicky said they would all return for a replay in a heartbeat.
"Of course we'll be here. We'd be back for any match like that," he said. "We'd go anywhere in the country [for the replay], no matter where it is," he added, before claiming that a Waterford win would be a victory for "the whole country".
"The whole country are shouting for Waterford," he said.
But the Galligan family from Oldcastle, Co Meath, couldn't disagree more with Nicky's stirring battle cry.
"We're from Co Meath and are lifelong supporters of Kilkenny," Anne Galligan said. "Our grandparents hail from Kilkenny, so that's where our ancestry is."
"It was one of the best hurling games we ever witnessed," she added. "Waterford's intensity never waned for 70 minutes, it was brilliant."
Anne remained confident that Kilkenny would reassert their dominance in the replay, now scheduled for Saturday night.
"I don't know whether Waterford is going to be fit to put it up again, at that pace," she said.
"They never backed down. I'd say an awful lot of teams would back down during the second half, but they didn't."