If ever we needed a morale boost, now was the time. With the economy still in dire straits the whole county got a lift last weekend after the Munster Final replay win in extra time over old rivals Cork.
The fine month of June and the opening of the House of Waterford Crystal in the city centre have lifted spirits but a sporting success does even greater wonders and that is what we had last week.
The games against Cork over two weekends were not exactly pretty in terms of style and panache such as Waterford would often display. It was more about standing up to Cork aggression, marking their players well and not letting them control the game. Davy Fitzgerald, the manager from Clare, has turned Waterford players into a more tactical team not willing to give up and to have great fighting spirit. In both matches they came back after going behind in the second half after conceding goals. In the past, this would have killed them off but not so any more.
Captain Michael Walsh was a great inspiration last Sunday as he led with great example putting in a man-of-the-match performance. Veteran Tony Browne was another one to shine. National pundits have admired Waterford hurling in the past decade but see a difference in terms of the superior tactics of this team.
They may be missing some of the star players of yore, like Fergal Hartley, Stephen Frampton, Paul Flynn and Sean Cullinane but they have a great bunch of young lads coming up. A blend of youth and experience has worked to get them to an All Ireland Semi Final and perhaps more after they face either Tipperary or Galway.
Bringing in many new players to the squad, introducing older ones like Dan Shanahan as the impact sub has really worked a treat. Dan may have had some detractors in the last year but he put them to rest as his key goal last Sunday was the deciding factor. It was wonderful for him and the rest of the team.
At the final whistle John Mullane, who got many points from play over the two games, was ecstatic. He made a fantastic contribution as did the midfielders,
Shane O Sullivan and Richie Foley. Defender Noel Connors, who just two years ago played a Schools Harty Cup Final with De La Salle, was a revelation. He and Liam Lawlor handled the large Cork forwards extremely well. They were able to subdue Cork aggression and outnumbered them on many occasions in what was an unusual turn for Waterford. They fear no one and made Waterford people very proud.
To be at Thurles Semple Stadium last week and to see the joy on the faces of the players and supporters will be a special memory of the year. What a pity that more did not travel as the GAA did make a price concession. Semi-final ticket prices will have to be keen also if more supporters are to be encouraged to travel to Croke Park, as last year the attendance was less than expected.