WATERFORD reached the final of the Waterford Crystal Cup with a two-point victory over Limerick IT at a very soft Fraher Field in Dungarvan, yesterday.
Substitute Paudie O'Brien's injury-time goal cut the deficit to a point , but the home side responded in style and Dave Bennett's point from a 65 sealed the win.
Limerick IT, who will shortly set out in defence of the Fitzgibbon Cup, eased into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead midway through the opening half. But it was Waterford who finished the half on a high, Eoin Kelly's goal from a 20-metre free in the 30th minute enabling them to retire leading by 2-5 to 1-6.
Dan Shanahan got Waterford's opening goal on 24 minutes. Joe Canning hit a cracker of a goal four minutes later, he was wayward in his free-taking, wasting three gilt-edged chances from placed balls.
Waterford never lost their lead and looked firmly in control when they went six points up at the three-quarter mark as Kelly kicked the ball to the net.
He was fortunate to be still on the field at that stage following the only flare-up of the game and to complete a day of mixed fortunes, he went off with an elbow injury in the closing minutes.
Try as they might, Limerick IT couldn't erase the deficit. Cyril Donnellan and Canning worked hardest, with Donnellan having a particularly fine game, but despite the injury-time goal the Waterford defence, marshalled by half-backs Wayne Hutchinson, Brian Phelan and Jack Kennedy, stood firm.
For Waterford manager Justin McCarthy, the game threw up a number of plusses notwithstanding the absence of a number of regulars including experienced Mount Sion duo Ken McGrath and Tony Browne. Kelly was top scorer with 2-3, but the one to really catch the eye was corner forward Shane Walsh.
Scorers -- Waterford: E Kelly 2-3, D Bennett 0-4, D Shanahan 1-0, J Mullane 0-2, S Prendergast, S Casey, S Walsh 0-1 each. Limerick IT: J Canning 1-6, P O'Brien 1-0, C Donnellan 0-3, S Herlihy, B Gaffney, J Clancy, G O'Mahony 0-1 each.
Waterford -- C Hennessy; T Feeney, D Prendergast, E Murphy; W Hutchinson, B Phelan, J Kennedy; M Walsh, D Bennett; J Mullane, S Prendergast, E Kelly; S Walsh, D Shanahan, S Casey. Sub: P Kearney for E Kelly (inj).
Limerick IT -- M Ryan; M Walsh, A Byrne, M O'Brien; W Hyland, S Maher, G O'Connell; J McInerney, J Clancy; N Healy, C Donnellan, S Herlihy; B Gaffney, J Canning, S Tobin. Subs: P O'Brien for Tobin, I White for Herlihy, G O'Mahony for McInerney.
REF -- Ambrose Heaney (Clare).