■□■ View More Photos
(Purchase these Photos from our store: www.munster-express.ie/photographs)
Even for Waterford, this was something new. Over the past decade they’d treated us to just about every sight and sound and sensation imaginable, barring those associated with victory on the first Sunday of September.
Last weekend, however, they somehow contrived to break virgin ground.
For the remainder of our time on the planet, a small part of the collective subconscious of those of us who were present in Semple Stadium will always respond to the memory of summer Saturday nights and rain and floodlights and Big Dan with his arms in the air. Sense memories. And what memories.
It was epic stuff without being an epic match, epic stuff without quite being an epic two-parter. It was too dour and gruelling and relentless for that.
But great struggles can themselves make for compelling viewing, and this was an almighty struggle as two sides who no longer possess the verve they possessed a few years ago consequently, by their very limitations, became entangled in a deathgrip that required 160 minutes to break.
Unquestionably Waterford were slightly the better team and thus deserving victors.
Certainly they were better in both first halves, they ought to have closed it out in normal time on Saturday (as Cork ought to have closed it out in normal time the previous Sunday) and they outscored their opponents by three flags to one in extra time.
No quibbles, then, not that the losers will be devoid of regrets or anything close to it. Just imagine if Noel Connors hadn’t emerged from the next parish – correction, from the parish beyond the next parish – to foil Patrick Horgan on the goal line midway through the first half.
Imagine too if Clinton Hennessy’s shoulder had not got in the way of Michael Cussen’s angled drive three minutes before the interval. Davy Fitz’s Waterford model is not built to chase leads, even if they’d managed to erase a five-point deficit in the first game.
What they are built to do is to defend leads and be tight and compact and difficult to break down.
They were that on Sunday week and they were that again on Saturday, the keystone in the arch – the most important brick in the wall, as it were – being Michael Walsh.