Waterford 1-16; Galway 0-18

How sweet was that? How good did it feel when Diarmuid Kirwan sounded the final whistle at the end of an extraordinary afternoon’s hurling?

How proud were you inside this great arena or at home in front of your television of every man in white and blue? How sweet was that?

That Dan Shanahan, introduced with just six minutes remaining, played so influential a part in turning defeat into sensational victory, was the stuff of a Hollywood scriptwriter.

That John Mullane, stifled for so much of the match by the great Ollie Canning, fired over a glorious winning point in the dying seconds, was the stuff of Shakespeare.

That Waterford, so unfairly derided by so many in the national media, demonstrated such ‘liathróidí’ when the tide had flowed against them for large swathes of this game, was inspiring.

They remain major contributors in the telling of this Championship story and they thoroughly deserve another shot at Kilkenny at Croke Park on Sunday week.

At half-time, they trailed by four points to a Galway side which had been dominant off either puck-out, had lorded matters in midfield and had carried a greater all-round attacking threat.

But the Tribesmen had also proven far more profligate than Waterford from several good scoring positions, while the Munster finalists had converted a greater share of their scoring opportunities.

Waterford remained firmly in the game and were never likely to throw the towel in – and so it proved. But no-one could have banked on such a remarkable finish to a game which was, in parts, quite ordinary from the purists’ perspective.

With Ollie Canning shackling Mullane superbly, Galway’s fans must have thought that they were halfway there. But they conceded a raft of frees and in Eoin Kelly, Waterford has a free taker as accurate as the famed Joe of Portumna.

Critically, despite a couple of hairy moments in defence, Waterford hunted in packs whenever a man in maroon advanced with the ball, with Aidan Kearney, Noel Connors, Tony Browne and Eoin Murphy excelling.

Joe Canning did what Joe Canning does – kicking over an extraordinary point from all of 20 metres (though he did drop his hurley in so doing). He was even credited with a point when his shot had clearly went wide after 28 minutes.

Before half-time, Eoin Kelly brilliantly doubled a ball over the bar at the Killinan End, but the umpire didn’t concur with those sitting in the Kinane Stand who clearly saw the sliothar going over.

Two critical first half decisions had gone Galway’s way and all one hoped was that the result wouldn’t come to rest on two blatantly obvious officiating errors.

Waterford, first to the field ahead of the resumption, began brightly. Mullane, for once losing Canning the elder’s shadow, bee-lined towards goal, but he didn’t strike his shot cleanly, with Colm Callanan smothering his effort.

His De La Salle club mate Kevin Moran, redeployed at wing-forward, pulled instinctively over his shoulder to bisect the Town End uprights with a beautiful point. Two minutes later, Eoin Kelly added a free. The margin was narrowing.

Waterford voices were raised in the stands; players’ spirits on the sod were similarly lifted.

But back came Galway, with Ger Farragher putting in a fine shift in midfield and Cyril Donnellan providing Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh with his sternest test this summer.

The next three four scores all went the way of John McIntyre’s side, their lead increased to five points; the road back for Waterford growing longer by the minute.

But again, and to their eternal credit, Davy Fitzgerald’s men refused to buckle and while Mullane may not have been scoring, he was winning frees from which Kelly profited.

Maurice Shanahan replaced Jamie Nagle and proved a nuisance from the moment he entered the action, also winning a free which Kelly fired over from.

Cyril Donnellan, so vital a link-man in the Galway side, couldn’t shake off a knock and was replaced with nine minutes remaining. His absence undoubtedly affected the flow of their hurling.

But just as Waterford looked to be eking their way back into contention, Galway won a couple of puck-outs and their surge towards to the finish line was aided by points from Joe Gantley and Damien Hayes.

Four minutes to go. Galway led by four. Surely they’d done enough.

Just moments before Hayes’s point, his team’s 18th, Dan Shanahan had entered the fray. Waterford’s situation demanded high ball into the full-forward line. It demanded Dan the Man.

In the 67th minute, Shanahan climbed above Eugene McEntee, 12 yards from goal, with 30,125 breaths held in the home of hurling. Dan struck the ball sweetly, but it whizzed a couple of feet wide of Callanan’s left upright.

A minute later, Dan, in 2007-like fashion, plucked a long clearance despatched by Aidan Kearney from the grey Thurles sky.

The Lismore man passed the ball to the onrushing Shane Walsh, who slammed the ball low and true into the Galway net. Two minutes of added time were announced. Galway led by the minimum.

By now it was all Waterford, with Kearney and the remarkable Tony Browne keeping the fires out at the other end as this sensational finale unfurled to the disbelief of the masses.

Big Dan remained a thorn in Galway’s side under another high ball as he won his team another free in injury time. Eoin Kelly knocked over his 12th point and the sides were level for the first time in 52 minutes.

With extra-time looming and Galway shell-shocked, Waterford went for the jugular. And how fitting it was that the lionhearted Mullane, scoreless until that sensational moment, delivered the killer blow. He leapt for joy. And so did we. 

Waterford: Clinton Hennessy; Eoin Murphy, Declan Prendergast, Noel Connors; Tony Browne, Michael Walsh, Aidan Kearney; Kevin Moran, Shane O’Sullivan; Jamie Nagle, Seamus Prendergast, Stephen Molumphy; John Mullane, Eoin Kelly, Shane Casey.

Scorers: Eoin Kelly (0-12; 0-11f); Shane Walsh (1-0); Kevin Moran (0-2); Seamus Prendergast and John Mullane (0-1 each).

Substitutes: Maurice Shanahan for Jamie Nagle (44 mins); Shane Walsh for Shane Casey (55 mins) and Dan Shanahan for Kevin Moran (64 mins). 

Galway: Colm Callanan; Damien Joyce, Eugene McEntee, Ollie Canning; Fergal Moore, John Lee, Eoin Lynch; Ger Farragher, Kevin Hynes; Aongus Callanan; Cyril Donnellan, Andy Smith, Damien Hayes, Joe Canning, Niall Healy.

Scorers: Joe Canning (0-9; 0-6f; 0-1 65′); Damien Hayes (0-3); Aongus Callanan and Ger Farragher (0-2 each); Andy Smith and Joe Gantley (0-1 each).

Substitutes: Joe Gantley for Niall Healy (55 mins); Kevin Hayes for Cyril Donnellan (61 mins) and Alan Kerins for Andy Smith (70 mins). 

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).