Dublin 6-19 Waterford 5-13
Once again a Waterford hurling team has been beaten in an All-Ireland final after Liam O’Connor’s minors were defeated by Dublin in a remarkable semi-final last Sunday.
The physically bigger Dublin team took the game to Waterford right from the throw-in and the Deise boys just had no answer to the Metropolitans’ pace and power.
During the second half, Waterford did mount a comeback of sorts but they had given themselves far too much to do, meaning Dublin progress to take on Galway in the All-Ireland decider.
Dublin made a change before the throw-in with Emmet O’Conghaile moving from wing-forward to full-forward where he proceeded to give Damien Ahern a torrid time.
Dublin took the lead after three minutes when Jamie Desmond put over a 65. They took control of the game two minutes later when over-elaboration in defence by Darren Foley led to a chance for Ciaran Kilkenny who fired past Paddy Cooke from 12 yards.
Waterford did respond well to the concession of this goal and they then enjoyed their best spell of the half.
Captain Gavin O’Brien led the way scoring from the right touchline and this was added to by an excellent point a minute later from the hard-working Peter O’Keeffe.
It looked as if Waterford had at last got to the pace of the game and further points from O’Brien and Cathal Curran left just a point between them.
However, Waterford faded out of the game as quickly as they had come back into it. The Dublin midfield duo of Colm Cronin and Glenn Whelan were winning all the aerial ball in that sector.
With Dublin on the front foot, a point from Ciaran Kilkenny followed before they raised another green flag when Cormac Costello scored after being set up by the dangerous O’Conghaile.
Waterford then faded badly and with Dublin winning every break in the middle third most of the game was played in the Waterford half.
They had so much time that they were able to pick out their forwards with ease and some excellent points were scored through Cormac Costello, Glenn Whelan, Paul Winters and Ciaran Kilkenny.
All of this meant that ‘Chuck’ O’Connor was forced to perform major surgery on the team with both Damien Ahern at full-back and Darren Foley at centre-back being replaced before the half was finished.
When the goal chances, arose, Dublin really went for the jugular and their third goal duly arrived in the 22nd minute. It came courtesy of Winters, who was on hand to tap home the simplest of goals after Cooke had saved well from O’Conghaile.
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Waterford. And when they managed to get the ball into the forward line, they looked quite dangerous and registered some fine points via Breathnach, O’Brien and Dillon. Unfortunately, the ball wasn’t left into them as often as they’d have liked.
The game was effectively put to bed in the final minute of the half when Cormac Costello flicked home Dublin’s fourth goal, which had more than a suspicion of square ball about it.
This left Dublin leading by a substantial margin of 17 points at the break, and Waterford facing a near impossible task,
And while Waterford would go as far as 21 points behind in the second half, they rallied magnificently.
They kicked it off with three points on the trot from Stephen Bennett, Dillon and O’Brien before a burst from Dillon set up Cormac Heffernan for a goal.
The joy was short-lived as Costello plundered his fourth goal shortly afterwards but Waterford continued to give it a wonderful lash.
Ray Barry was hurling up a storm at centre-back and delivering good ball into the forwards.
Substitute Cein Chester rifled over a point as did Dillon who showed a remarkable return to form.
In the 47th minute, Gavin O’Brien dropped in a 65 and Adam O’Sullivan, who kicked in two goals in the Munster final, was on hand to kick in another.
It got even better for Waterford in the 50th minute when Gavin O’Brien fired in a sensational goal, finding the top corner from 20 yards.
Four minutes later, Waterford supporters were on their feet again when Jake Dillon was brought down and a penalty was awarded. Up stepped Stephen Bennett to bury the ball into the Canal End goal and in the process narrowing the gap to eight points!