The shadows were lengthening in the Ryan Stand on Sunday evening by the time these words were being excitedly pounded out onto the laptop.

While the stands in this hallowed portion of Tipperary had long since emptied and with the heart rate having just got back to normal, it was hard to believe what we’d all just witnessed.

He may have played ‘the garrison game’ but the phrase ‘Roy of the Rovers stuff’ was simply unavoidable when the time came to reflect on an astonishing Waterford victory.

Magnificent Semple Stadium, the greatest theatre in Irish sport, had just played host to one of those matches that will be spoken about forever and a day.

The funny thing was that, for the most part, Waterford and Galway had played out an interesting yet hardly spectacular All-Ireland hurling quarter-final.

Both goalkeepers had been called into serious action on just one occasion each, reflecting the good cover provided by their respective defences.

The game, while always competitive, may well have been deemed by a neutral to have been ambling along towards a seemingly inevitable Galway victory.

With 23 minutes remaining, they led by six points against a Waterford team which, while never lacking in spirit, appeared to be finding the going very tough indeed.

They weren’t quite hanging on by their coat tails, but one imagines had they gone further behind, that phrase could have been working its way into more than one match report.

If a team’s attitude mirrors that of its manager, then Waterford and Davy Fitzgerald are a much better fit than most (outside of the camp) have reckoned upon to this point.

As he said himself after the game, no-one can argue with facts when it comes to his time as Waterford manager. And those facts, undisputedly, make for impressive reading.

After all, Fitzgerald has now led this team to an All-Ireland final, a Munster final and back into an All-Ireland semi-final in less than a year. It’s an achievement for which he and selectors Peter Queally and Maurice Geary deserve enormous credit for.

Now that’s not bad for a team that’s been perceived by some national ‘experts’ to have been dying on its feet for the past two years.

It’s easy to see why players and selectors can get so cheesed off by us members of the notebook wielding brigade. After all, Galway had been made odds-on favourites for Sunday’s match despite having won just one meaningful outing this summer.

When asked in the run-up to the game about who would win, this column (hands-up time) felt that Galway might have a 51-49 edge since the last game they’d played was one they’d won.

But, as the game went on to illustrate, there was virtually nothing to choose between the two teams, with Waterford thankfully enjoying a two-point swing when taking the aforementioned assessment into account.

Quite why Waterford were universally written off by the national media in the week leading up to this game remains bewildering from a Munster Express standpoint.

When one considers that both Tipperary and Galway were trumpeted by some column inchers after their respective efforts against Kilkenny this year, the fact that both teams lost to the Cats was virtually ignored by some.

In equal measure, Waterford’s National League win over Kilkenny, which remains the only competitive defeat inflicted on Brian Cody’s team in 2009 fell into the ‘only the League’ dustbin according to more than one ‘expert’.

So here we are: Waterford still in the hunt for the McCarthy Cup, 50 years since last they won it. If they are to end a half-century wait, then, just like in 1959, Kilkenny will have to be beaten, just a game earlier this time around.

Can it be done? Why not? It’s flesh and blood facing flesh and blood and if Waterford are to win the game’s ultimate glory, beating the greatest power in the land would make such a success all the sweeter.

As those great men in white and blue proved in the dying moments last Sunday afternoon, if you keep believing, if you keep plugging away, if you never, ever give up, anything is possible.

That, after all, is the joy of sport. And all this column can offer is thanks to Davy and the boys for keeping the dream alive.


* PS: Let the good natured banter with the Cats begin!