THE gutsy way Waterford bounced back after the horror of the Munster final to destroy Galway in the All-Ireland hurling championship will inspire teams for years.
The Deise were given a painful 21-point mauling by All-Ireland champions, Tipperary in their previous game, but on Sunday in Thurles they hit back with a vengeance.
“That is Waterford,” said Kilkenny selector, Martin Fogarty, admiringly. Now the Suirsiders face the Cats in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park on Sunday week.
“That Waterford performance will stand out for years to come as an example of how a team can pick itself up and drive on,” Mr Fogarty added. “It will inspire others in the future. I was hugely impressed, although not particularly surprised.”
The Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) clubman admitted he hadn’t foreseen Waterford producing the powerful hurling storm they did, although he knew they were far from finished after the disappointment of the Munster final.
“You have to admire Waterford the way they picked themselves up off the floor,” he continued. “They showed tremendous character.
“It was a tremendous turn around for them; for management the way they had the players prepared and for the players the way they responded to the challenge.”
This win was particularly praiseworthy because the events in Munster were potentially a season destroying experience.
“It would be very difficult for any team to pick themselves up after getting a beating like they did,” Mr Fogarty continued. “All credit to Waterford. Now they are in an All-Ireland semi-final.
“The next day and challenge stand on its own feet. They are in a semi-final. They are there on merit. They won’t be afraid to let rip because they have nothing to lose.”
The last time the counties met in the championship was in 2008 when Kilkenny walloped their neighbours by 3-30 to 1-13 in the final.
The bookies have no doubt about how the championship will pan out from here on. Paddy Power have installed Kilkenny as red hot favourites (1-9 on) to win their semi-final, while Waterford can be backed at 7-1.
Tipperary are the roaring favourites in the second semi-final (1-20 on) to beat Dublin.
The bookies betting on a Tipperary/Kilkenny final has the champions at 4-6 favourites with Kilkenny at 11-8. A draw can be backed at 16-1.
“Sport doesn’t always work out as people think it might,” Mr Fogarty suggested. “Waterford have nothing to prove to anyone.
“For years they have been one of the best teams around. They have excited people with their hurling. Kilkenny players respect them hugely.”
He said Sunday’s effort was typical Waterford. The never give up or lie down. Even the year Kilkenny beat them in the All-Ireland final they bounced back.
“They are a good bunch of players, a good bunch of people,” the Kilkenny selector insisted. “They are genuine hurling people. Kilkenny didn’t need any warning about the dangers ahead.
“Kilkenny knew that whatever team they would be meeting in the semi-final would take beating. Thurles on Sunday spelled out the dangers. We always knew we would have to have everything spot on or we won’t make the final. Northing has changed.”
The good news from the training camp was that all the players were fit and well, and preparations were progressing smoothly.