So 45 years of waiting has come to an end . . . almost.
The next two and a half weeks will seem like an eternity for Waterford fans as they look towards the mother and father of all hurling collisions with their black and amber neighbours.
But having had to be patient since ’63 when they last met in the big one – and the bitter pill of defeat was the Deise’s lot – the blue and white hordes will doubtless relish the build-up to Croker on September 7 and the prospect of long delayed revenge.
That’s despite the fact that most of them weren’t around all those years ago when an ageing Grimes, Power (by 2), Flynn, Morrissey, Flannelly, et al, had to give way to an Eddie Keher inspired Kilkenny in the first ever televised hurling All-Ireland.
As has been many times recounted, Keher, then 22, scored 14 points that day and 19 year old Tommy Walsh helped himself to two goals as they ran up an incredible 4-17 total. Waterford rammed six goals past Ollie Walsh, the prince of goalies at the time, but with only eight white flags in support, they fell three points short of the winners’ total.
That meant the Deise returned home still with just two All-Irelands in the bag and it is only now, despite many great players passing through the ranks in the interim, that they have the opportunity of adding to their meagre haul.
Of course they are up against it big time, because in order to win the county’s third top title they will have to grind it out against what is arguably the best team of all time (no doubt about it in this writer’s opinion).
But on foot of their defeat of a fine, hotly fancied Tipp side last Sunday – and the manner of it – who can say for sure that, in a one-off clash of the titans, Davy Fitzgerald and his exciting band of hurling brothers won’t devise and implement a victory plan.
In the meantime, the players and fans are entitled to bask in the warm afterglow of last Sunday’s performance in what was yet another classic involving this glamour team, the most exciting to watch through hurling’s golden years.
Even with Big Dan the talisman still struggling for his best form, they found reserves of strength, mental and physical, which were sufficient to see them through; you know that if they go down against Kilkenny it will not be for want of heart, commitment or character.
Probably the most satisfying aspect of Sunday’s showing, apart from the win itself after so many semi-final disappointments, was the performance of emerging players like Kevin Moran, Jamie Nagle and Jack Kennedy when he came on, not to mention the success of Declan Prendergast at full back, aided by a support plan which helped him carry out his primary duties so efficiently.
There’s little fear now for Waterford’s future, irrespective of what happens next day, particularly if Davy Fitz’, shrewd and hurling mad, stays on to continue building upon the great work of the McCarthys before him. No doubt he will, given the bond already cemented with a marvellous bunch of players.