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It won’t win any prizes for prettiness, but as far as Waterford people will be concerned, beating Cork on a soaking-wet night beneath the Semple Stadium floodlights was both historic and handsome. This was hurling as a pure test of character. Not a beauty contest, but nor was it winning ugly. Anyone who didn’t appreciate Saturday night’s Munster final replay for what it was — whole heart and soul — should check out the English Premier League, then compare and contrast.
When Tony Browne flung himself in the path of Cathal Naughton’s angled drive at goal with just seconds of extra-time remaining (John Terry how are ya) it epitomised everything about the man and by extension what underlines this Waterford team: courage, commitment, and a love that lesser men would have given up on long ago. They literally do us proud.
Though a fluke kept Cork in contention, there was little or nothing in it for the most part. Another war of attrition where scores were almost secondary to the scrap. It was a dogfight, and Waterford made it that way with their intensity and a cast-iron assurance that no opposing player would get anything soft. A lot like what Clare were doing in the nineties, with a fair bit of Codyesque coaching thrown in.
Even his detractors would admit a grudging respect for what Davy Fitzgerald has done in taking a group many were all-too-eager to write off post-September ’08, adding a few new faces, and moulding them into a side that, while not as easy on the eye as Waterford once were, is ultra-resilient, manifest in their ability to immediately hit back with four successive points following Ben O’Connor’s fortuitous goal.
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