Waterford will meet All-Ireland title holders Kilkenny in next month’s All-Ireland semi-final after comfortably seeing off the challenge of Dublin in Semple Stadium, Thurles.
A scoring burst immediately after half time which yielded 1-5 with just a solitary reply from Dublin effectively decided the contest. It will be their first semi-final appearance since 2011 when they lost to the Cats.
Despite losing key defender Noel Connors before half time Waterford always looked to be playing within themselves, thought they trailed by a point at the break.
Ultimately it was a disappointing end of an unfulfilling season for Dublin. One wonders whether veterans such as Conal Keaney, David O’Callaghan – despite hitting 0-3 – and Ryan O’Dwyer will be back next season.
The reality is that Dublin need fresh talent – particularly up front. It was a workmanlike performance from Waterford but after the disappointment of losing the Munster final and the U-21 Munster semi-final they will be content to prolong their season into August.
Waterford won the toss and opted to play against the breeze; but the big surprise was their decision to dispense with their massed defensive system and go man for man with Tadhg De Burca, who had been filling the role of sweeper this season, playing as a traditional centre back.
With fewer bodies back in the Waterford half, Dublin were able to create more scoring chances – even if they never looked like scoring a goal in the next half.
Seven different Dublin players got on the score sheet in the first half with all but three of their first half tally of 0-13 coming from play. After a slow start Danny Sutcliffe thundered into the game hitting three points from the left flank in the second quarter.
But Waterford were more proficient at winning their own puck out which resulted in the Dublin defence, which was also set up in an orthodox fashion, being under a lot of pressure and they responded by conceding a succession of frees.
Maurice Shanahan converted fives frees and two 65’s – one of which shouldn’t have been awarded.
But only two other forwards, Kevin Moran – who played as a third midfielder where he was well shackled by Shane Barrett – and Colin Dunford got on target. The latter hit two poor wides and overall they hit twice as many wides as the Dubs (6-3).
Dublin led 013 to 0-12 at the break but there was nothing between the sides in what was an interesting rather than an absorbing half.
Waterford started the second half in dramatic fashion; Kevin Moran flashed over a point before Stephen Bennett hit a wonder goal after Maurice Shanahan spotted him loose. But Dublin will be disappointed that they were guilty of two handling errors in the movement.
Predictably, Waterford reinstalled their sweeper immediately afterwards and appeared quite content to let Dublin come at them, though they continued to hit scores on the break.
By the 52nd minute Waterford were cruising as they led by seven points (1-19 to 0-15) when Dublin finally made the breakthrough with Ryan O’Dwyer setting up Mark Schutte for a goal.
In truth the goal didn’t set up a grandstand finish. Dublin lacked nothing in effort but their forwards simply didn’t have the craft to break down the massed Waterford defence and significantly three of their forwards, Paul Ryan – who failed to score from play - Conal Keaney and and Danny Sutcliffe were substituted.
Any remote chance of an upset disappeared five minutes from the end when a delightful move, involving substitutes Patrick Curran and Shane Bennett culminated in Maurice Shanahan beating Gary Maguire from close range.
And Dublin’s day of woe continued right until the end when Liam Rushe was red carded after a clash with Shanahan.
Dublin: G Maguire; S Barrett, C O’Callaghan, P Schutte; C Crummey (0-1), L Rushe, J Boland; J McCaffrey, N McMorrow (0-1); P Ryan (0-5, 5f), R O’Dwyer (0-2), D Sutcliffe (0-3); D O’Callaghan (0-3), C Keaney. M Schutte (1-2). Subs: P Kelly for Barrett 48m; C Boland for McMorrow 54m; D Treacy (0-2, 1f) for Ryan 64m; O O’Rourke for Sutcliffe 72m.
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; A Gleeson (0-4, 1 sideline), T De Burca, P Mahony; J Barron, D Fives; K Moran (0-2), S Bennett (1-0), M Walsh; M Shanahan (1-12, 8f, 2 65s), J Dillon (0-1), C Dunford (0-2). Subs: S Daniels for Connors 31m, P Curran for Dunford 55m; T Devine for Dillon 68m, Stephen Bennett for Shane Bennett 71m, E Barrett for Gleeson 71m
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary)