Kilkenny display killer instinct to dismantle Deise
A familiar August tale of Kilkenny efficiency and Waterford shortcomings colliding to produce a predictable result.
Just as they had done over five previous seasons, Kilkenny booked in for another All-Ireland final date without having to show their full hand, while, yet again, Waterford failed to cross the class line which has proved so elusive for so long.
They were infinitely better than in the Munster final where Tipperary humiliated them, but still came up quite some way short.
Nobody could question Waterford's workrate, resolve or resilience, but even a tightly-packed combination of all three was never going to be enough to dislodge Kilkenny in their obsessive drive to return to the All-Ireland final.
If Waterford were to succeed where they failed repeatedly against Kilkenny over the last seven years, they needed to perform at a level not reached this season.
It would also have required Kilkenny to drop down a few notches, a scenario that looked most unlikely when they hit Waterford for 1-2 in the opening six minutes.
Ominously, Kilkenny's first score was a goal from Danesfort sniper Richie Hogan, who smashed the ball to the net in the third minute.
Could this turn into a repeat of the 2008 All-Ireland final where Kilkenny scourged Waterford in a manner not seen on the big day for a very long time?
With the memory of the seven-goal Munster final massacre still lurking dangerously close to the surface, Waterford must have feared that unless they stopped the bleeding immediately they were in line for a second embarrassing defeat in four weeks.
To their credit, they stemmed the flow and, having done that, they set about trying to wound Kilkenny.
For a time, they succeeded, cutting a 1-3 to 0-1 Kilkenny lead after 10 minutes to just a two-point deficit after 31 minutes.
Much of the credit for the recovery belonged to John Mullane, whose driving runs from centre-forward seriously discommoded the Kilkenny defence.
Moving Mullane out from the corner has reinvigorated him and he continued to cause serious problems for Kilkenny all day.
He scored 1-6 -- all from open play -- and was desperately unlucky not to have landed a second goal in what became a match-turning minute just before half-time.
Mullane hit his first goal in the 25th minute and eight minutes later looked certain to strike again when he pulled the trigger from close range.
However, Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity, who was extremely secure all day, made a brilliant block, diverting the ball into the air before collecting it comfortably.
It was the worst possible outcome for Waterford, who might have had a goal, a point or even a '65' off Mullane's drive.
However, their bad luck got worse almost immediately when Kilkenny broke downfield and Colin Fennelly played in Hogan,
who batted the ball to the net.
It was a six-point turnaround in the space of a minute, leaving Kilkenny leading by 2-9 to 1-7 when they could so easily have been trailing by 2-7 to 1-9.
Henry Shefflin pointed a free just before the interval to further depress Waterford as they headed for the dressing-room.
They needed a positive start to the second half, but instead it was Kilkenny who retained the initiative, out-scoring Waterford by 0-5 to 0-1 in the third quarter.
It left Kilkenny leading by 10 points after 51 minutes and, while Waterford pared it back by one around the hour mark, it still looked as if they were headed for a comprehensive beating.
However, Waterford summoned a late of burst of energy, firing over four unanswered points to come within striking distance with seven minutes left, but, as Kilkenny have done so often in the past, they tightened their defensive security, ensuring that Waterford couldn't get through for the goal they so badly needed.
Subs Paddy Hogan and Eddie Brennan scored late points for Kilkenny before Mullane closed out the scoring, leaving Kilkenny six points clear and comfortably through to their ninth All-Ireland final in 10 seasons.
They did it with the minimum of fuss while always giving the impression they had plenty in reserve if tougher questions were asked.
Eight Kilkenny men scored in the first half -- seven from open play -- while only four countered for Waterford, three from open play.
That was a significant difference on a day when Mullane's excellence was the only redeeming feature of the Waterford attack.
Shane Walsh scored two goals against Kilkenny in the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final, but found no room to manoeuvre yesterday; Eoin Kelly made no impression, while Pauric Mahony, who has done well overall in his debut season, had a lean time too.
Tony Browne, Michael 'Brick' Walsh and Noel Connors did well in the Waterford defence, but, in terms of overall balance, Kilkenny held the edge all over the field.
Paul Murphy, Jackie Tyrrell and Tommy Walsh were ultra-vigilant in defence, Michael Fennelly emerged as the day's most influential midfielder, while in attack Hogan's goals, Shefflin's leadership and Colin Fennelly's industry left Waterford with a range of difficulties.
Kilkenny's only blip was their inaccurate shooting. They shot seven wides in the first half and were off-target 10 times in the second, an error rate which suggests that target practice will be high on the agenda in Nowlan Park over the coming weeks.
Waterford had their shooting problems too, especially in the opening 15 minutes of the second half when they shot five wides, while scoring just one point.
It left them with far too much to do and while they showed commendable appetite for the recovery effort, they needed goals to really rattle Kilkenny.
They dropped lots of lengthy deliveries in front of the Kilkenny goal, but the defence sealed all approach routes in front of Herity.
In the end, then, it was business as usual for Kilkenny, while Waterford are once again facing the reality that, despite their best efforts, they just can't break through the barrier which continues to torment them in August.
Kilkenny, in contrast, are back in the All-Ireland final after straight-forward wins over Wexford, Dublin and Waterford.
Scorers -- Kilkenny: H Shefflin 0-7 (4f), R Hogan 2-0, M Fennelly 0-3, C Fennelly, E Larkin 0-2 each, M Rice, B Hogan, TJ Reid, P Hogan, E Brennan 0-1 each. Waterford: J Mullane 1-6, E Kelly 0-3 (2f), P Mahony (2f), M Shanahan (1f) 0-2 each, S Molumphy, S Prendergast, R Foley (f) 0-1 each.
Kilkenny -- D Herity 8; P Murphy 8 N Hickey 7, J Tyrrell 8; T Walsh 8, B Hogan 6, JJ Delaney 7; M Fennelly 8, TJ Reid 6; M Rice 7, R Power 7, H Shefflin 7; C Fennelly 7, E Larkin 7, R Hogan 8. Subs: P Hogan 7 for Reid (h-t), E Brennan 7 for Rice (61).
Waterford -- C Hennessy 7; N Connors 7, L Lawlor 6, D Fives 6; T Browne 7, M Walsh 7, D Prendergast 5; K Moran 6, S O'Sullivan 6; S Prendergast 6, J Mullane 9, P Mahony 5; S Molumphy 6, S Walsh 5, E Kelly 5. Subs: J Nagle 6 for D Prendergast (h-t), M Shanahan 7 for Mahony (44), T Ryan 6 for Kelly (52), R Foley 6 for S Walsh (53).
Ref -- B Kelly (Westmeath).