Kilkenny turn up heat in extra-time to seal final spot
Kilkenny 1-23 Waterford 1-14 (After Extra-time)
THE free-taking prowess of Alan Murphy eventually eased Kilkenny past Waterford at Croke Park yesterday.
Murphy claimed the man of the match award and a haul of 11 points, 10 from placed balls, as the Cats set up a September 7 final with Galway or Limerick.
But the Noresiders needed extra-time to see off a Waterford side that will have left GAA HQ with some regrets.
In a repeat of last year's semi-final, the 2013 champions paid the price for a massive tally of 18 wides. And after failing to put away Kilkenny in normal time, Waterford were outscored by 0-1 to 1-7 in the extra 20 minutes.
John Walsh, who made a significant impact after coming on as sub, booted home a goal midway through the second period of extra-time to add gloss to the final scoreline.
And while Murphy will grab the headlines with that match-winning haul, full-forward Liam Blanchfield was excellent too, finishing with five points from play.
Waterford had decent contributions from free-taker Patrick Curran and Shane Bennett's second-half goal was an excellent solo effort. But after Murphy rescued Kilkenny with a well-taken '65' in the final minute of normal time, the Cats ran riot in extra-time.
Waterford were left counting the cost of some desperate shooting and decision-making and at the end of the regulation hour, they had posted 14 wides.
Better composure in front of goal could have seen Waterford through to a second successive final, but, instead, Kilkenny will play their first minor decider since 2010 next month.
And it's quite a turnaround for a team beaten heavily by Dublin in the Leinster championship, before Pat Hoban's charges transformed their fortunes to gain revenge on the Metropolitans in the Leinster decider.
Now, they've made it all the way to September and while vast improvement is required, Kilkenny won't fear either Limerick or Galway.
Hoban said: "I don't like using the word revenge. Obviously, we were very, very disappointed (last year). Young lads get one or two chances to get to an All-Ireland minor.
"Obviously, last year we had chances, but Waterford were the better team and went on to be All-Ireland champions. So, yeah, delighted, but revenge would be the wrong word."
Waterford lost a Munster final replay to Limerick before hitting back to slay Dublin in the quarter-finals. But neighbours Kilkenny proved a bridge too far and manager Derek Lyons insisted: "To get all the way to a semi-final and with two minutes to go in normal time you're a point up, I would say it's a decent enough defence of our title.
"We lost the Munster final as well, but in general terms we have six games played and we were one, two minutes short of being in an All-Ireland final again. I don't think we could have asked for a whole lot more in terms of defence.
"It's the quality of performance I'd be more annoyed with. Where we were today and where we needed to be, we just didn't reach those heights."
And, yet, Waterford, who trailed by 0-6 to 0-10 at half-time, came from behind to lead by a point before Murphy played Kilkenny's get out of jail card.
Bennett's goal in the 33rd minute brought the wind-assisted Deise roaring into contention and, when Patrick Curran added a point, the sides were level at 0-11 to 1-8. They were deadlocked again before Kilkenny found some momentum to establish a two-point lead on two separate occasions.
Ahead by 0-15 to 1-10 with 18 minutes of normal time remaining, Kilkenny were in a decent position, but Waterford hit back with points from Patrick Curran (two frees) and Cormac Curran to nose 1-13 to 0-15 clear.
Kilkenny were chasing a leveller and they managed to find one after Walsh went for goal and saw his effort diverted out for a '65' by Billy Nolan, who pulled off a brilliant save early in the second half to deny Luke Scanlon.
Murphy held his nerve to convert the '65' and Kilkenny made the most of that let-off with a strong finish.
Hoban said: "Alan is a really, really good player with a great head for the big day. That point he hit at the end was a massive score. He hit some great frees for us. Alan really has the head for it."
Scorers – Kilkenny: A Murphy 0-11 (7f, 3 '65's), L Blanchfield 0-5, J Walsh 1-1, S Morrissey, R Corcoran 0-2 each, C Browne, B Ryan 0-1 each. Waterford: P Curran 0-6 (5f), S Bennett 1-0, A Molumby 0-3, C Curran 0-2, S Ryan, C Roche, E Meaney 0-1 each.
KILKENNY – D Brennan; C McGrath, C Delaney, C Doheny; P Lyng, J Cleere, D Joyce; C Browne, L Scanlon; R Butler, S Morrissey, B Ryan; R Corcoran, L Blanchfield, A Murphy. Subs: J Walsh for Ryan (37), E Kenny for Butler (39), A Gaffney for Browne (56), L Hennessy for Morrissey (60), B Ryan for Gaffney (67), C Browne for Corcoran (77).
WATERFORD – B Nolan; D Prendergast, E Hayden, M Cronin; C Prunty, C Gleeson, J Mullaney; D Lyons, C Curran; S Bennett, C Roche, P Hogan; S Ryan, P Curran, A Molumby. Subs: E Meaney for Ryan (39), S Murray for Mullaney (48), J Allen for Molumby (60), S Ryan for Roche (72), A O'Sullivan for Hogan (75).
Ref – J Keenan (Wicklow).