Déise's delight marred by late red-card setback
Waterford 1-23 Wexford 1-19, All-Ireland SHC Quarter-final
Tadhg de Búrca played a significant role in getting Waterford into their third successive All-Ireland semi-final but will he be part of the massive effort that awaits them as they attempt to reach the final for the first time since 2008?
He won't unless he can convince disciplinary chiefs that his 66th-minute red card, picked up after a clash with Wexford sub Harry Kehoe wasn't warranted.
He is likely to face a charge of interfering with an opponent's helmet during an off-the-ball tangle which prompted a linesman to bring the incident to the attention of referee Fergal Horgan.
A flash of red sent De Búrca on his way to the Páirc Uí Chaoimh bench at a time when it looked like a good day for Waterford was heading for the perfect ending.
They were five points ahead at the time, a margin they extended to seven before Wexford sub Jack O'Connor whizzed home a goal deep in stoppage-time after Jack Guiney's close-range free had been saved.
So instead of eagerly looking forward to a semi-final date, the De Búrca case will be uppermost in Waterford minds over the coming days.
Derek McGrath said afterwards that neither Cork nor Galway would be overly-concerned by Waterford on the basis of yesterday's performance and they will be even less worried if De Búrca is missing.
He has been one of the most reliable components in Waterford's defensive programme for quite some time and carried it on again yesterday until the incident which could ruin his and Waterford's season.
Meanwhile, Wexford's progressive year has ended, having come up short against Galway and Waterford, both of whom are far more advanced in terms of squad development.
While Wexford will be disappointed at the turn of events since beating Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final, the experience gained in their last two games will be invaluable when they regroup for 2018. The different stages of the respective squads' cycles was evident even before the start yesterday. Davy Fitzgerald's strategy for a relaunch after the Leinster final defeat involved making four changes from the announced line-up, including the promotion of Rory O'Connor to senior championship action.
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He did well too and looks certain to have a big future but the fact that Wexford were looking to a 19-year-old to step up at this stage of the season underlines how early the squad is in its development.
When Fitzgerald looked to his bench to reinforce the effort in the second-half, he didn't have anything like the same number of options that were at McGrath's disposal.
Granted, O'Connor's older brother Jack did well for the final half-hour, during which he scored 1-2, but it wasn't enough to save this particular day.
McGrath sent on Maurice Shanahan, Brian O'Halloran, Stephen Bennett, Colin Dunford and Tommy Ryan, a highly-skilled quintet who are well-accustomed to life in the pressurised lane. And they still had Patrick Curran, Mikey Kearney and Shane McNulty to call on.
In effect, Waterford won because the painstaking process of building and maintaining a squad is more advanced than in Wexford.
Liam Dunne made a good start and would have probably made more progress last year if it weren't for a spate of injuries and now Fitzgerald has moved things on again.
However, it will take time to bring them up to the level they encountered in their last two games.
So when Wexford pack away the disappointment from those defeats, they can still take lots of positives from the year, topped by promotion to Division 1A and wins over Kilkenny in league and championship, which was important in building confidence.
Yesterday's test was always likely to be beyond them, especially if they allowed Waterford to set the early pattern. That's exactly what happened as the Déise's venerable veterans Michael 'Brick' Walsh and Kevin Moran made an immediate impact.
Walsh won three frees, which Pauric Mahony converted into points, while Moran fired over two points.
Waterford led by four points after 21 minutes before Wexford enjoyed a good spell during which they scored 0-3. They had pared the margin back to two points in stoppage-time when a defensive malfunction allowed Moran to fire home the only goal of the afternoon.
It changed the complexion of the game, sending Waterford to the dressing-room with a five-point advantage, 1-12 to 0-10.
Similar to when they found themselves trailing against Galway at half-time in the Leinster final, Wexford would have felt it was an unfair portrayal of their endeavours, leaving them with a real test of their resolve on the re-start.
In fairness, it was shown to be strong and resolute as they held Waterford scoreless for 11 minutes, during which they scored 0-3. That was as good as it got for Wexford and once Pauric Mahony settled Waterford with two pointed frees, the air began to hiss from Wexford's balloon.
There was actually little doubt past the 50-minute mark that Waterford would win as they had Wexford in a tight bind, if not exactly under full control.
Despite their high work-rate, Wexford just couldn't get closer than four points in the closing quarter. Set up to keep defensive damage to a minimum, they didn't have sufficient numbers deep in their offensive area to threaten Stephen O'Keeffe's goal.
It left their recovery bid relying on points, a pursuit hindered by some wayward shooting and passing.
Their defensive discipline had been a problem all day, conceding frees which, with one notable exception when he mis-hit the ball, Pauric Mahony pointed. By the end, he had amassed 0-9 via this route.
Giving away so many scoreable frees is usually a sign of a side with technical issues or else lacking experience. It was more a case of the latter for Wexford but as with many other problem elements of their game, that will probably come right in time.
Scorers - Waterford: Pauric Mahony 0-9 (9f); K Moran 1-3; A Gleeson 0-3 (2f); M Shanahan, B O'Halloran 0-2 each; M Walsh, J Dillon, D Fives, C Gleeson 0-1 each. Wexford: J Guiney 0-6 (6f), J O'Connor 1-2, L Chin 0-3 (2f), D O'Keeffe 0-2, E Moore, C McDonald, P Morris, A Nolan, L Ryan, R O'Connor 0-1 each.
Waterford - S O'Keeffe 7; S Fives 7, B Coughlan 7, N Connors 7; C Gleeson 7, T de Búrca 7, Philip Mahony 7; J Barron 6, K Moran 9; J Dillon 6, A Gleeson 8, Pauric Mahony 7; Shane Bennett 6, M Walsh 7, D Fives 7. Subs: M Shanahan 7 for Dillon (44), B O'Halloran 7 for Shane Bennett (46), Stephen Bennett for Walsh (54), C Dunford 6 for Barron (62), T Ryan for Pauric Mahony (70).
Wexford - M Fanning 7; W Devereux 6, L Ryan 7, J Breen 7; E Moore 6, M O'Hanlon 7, D O'Keeffe 7; S Murphy 7, R O'Connor 7; D Redmond 5, L Chin 7, J Guiney 6; P Doran 6, C McDonald 6, P Morris 6. Subs: A Nolan 7 for Redmond (28), J O'Connor 8 for Morris (41), H Kehoe 6 for McDonald (59), S Tomkins for Doran (63).
Ref - F Horgan (Tipperary).