They left it late, but the Kilkenny minor hurlers showed their class in extra-time as they dethroned Waterford to reach the All-Ireland final.
Having led for much of the 60 minutes Kilkenny got stuck fast as Waterford found a foothold in the game nearing the final whistle.
After putting his side a point up, Patrick Curran felt that Waterford would have the chance to hold onto their crown for the second year running.
Alan Murphy kept his cool however, the sharpshooter grabbing an excellent score for Kilkenny in the dying seconds to send the game to extra-time.
Changes to the team for the extra-time period allowed the side to romp home in clinical fashion. They outscored their opponents in the 20 minute period by 1-6 to a single point.
Injury concerns hampered Kilkenny’s pre-match preparations as right corner back Conor Doheny was replaced by the 16-year-old Tommy Walsh. There were doubts also over captain Darragh Joyce, who took to the field with a heavily-bandaged knee.
The team took a few minutes to get into their groove, as Liam Blanchfield collected a low delivery before popping the hand pass to Alan Murphy. Murphy quickly pointed and Kilkenny had registered their first score.
Andy Molumby had already opened the scoring with a fine effort from midfield. The number nine would continue to cause Kilkenny problems all afternoon.
Blanchfield fired over in the sixth minute when Pat Lyng played a sweet pass into the corner for the Bennettsbridge forward, whose well taken score allowed the Kilkenny support to find their voice.
Sean Morrissey pointed his second and Kilkenny had started as the far brighter side in the first 15 minutes. The forward line had been coming across their scores more easily, while Luke Scanlon took control of the middle third.
Billy Ryan pointed under pressure and an injury-time free from Alan Murphy meant that Kilkenny went into the break leading by 0-10 to 0-6.
The game had been an open affair in the first half and Kilkenny had benefitted from the lenient nature of referee John Keenan, who let the game flow at every opportunity.
The Deise needed a big start to the second half and duly got it. The game exploded into life when, within three minutes, they bagged their crucial goal. Shane Bennett received possession from Peter Hogan before slipping past the attentions of the Kilkenny half-back line to lash the ball past Darren Brennan.
A swift point from Patrick Curran followed, levelling the sides. Kilkenny’s four point lead had been extinguished in as many minutes.
John Walsh pointed with a fine effort as Andy Molumby grabbed his third point of the afternoon. Points from Ronan Corcoran and Alan Murphy kept Kilkenny rolling, yet as they tried to get away Waterford pegged them back.
A free flowing move ended with John Walsh on the 14 yard line, but his low effort was pushed away for a 65. Alan Murphy showed maturity as he calmly slotted the ball over the bar to bring the game to extra-time (0-16 to 1-13).
Waterford had been outplayed for much of the game, but Kilkenny had wasted large amounts of possession. A high wides tally, and a tactic of dropping their efforts on top of the Waterford keeper gave their opponents a chance to reach the final once more.
As the rain came pouring down during extra time Liam Blanchfield and Alan Murphy had shot Kilkenny two points ahead, leading by 0-19 to 1-14 at the break.
Waterford tried to burst out of the traps after the short break, but Kilkenny’s superb work rate allowed their opponents no time on the ball.
The games defining moment came with just five minutes remaining. A long ball down field was broken by Murphy, who flicked the sliotar into the path of the galloping substitute John Walsh.
As the Mullinavat man bore down on goal his hurl was knocked away. Rather than panic, Murphy used his head - and his right foot, curling a shot that flew into the roof of the net.
The goal crushed any remaining hopes Waterford had of turning the game their way. As for Kilkenny, the Cats could look forward to their first All-Ireland final since 2010.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - Alan Murphy (0-11, 0-7 frees, 0-3 65), Liam Blanchfield (0-5), John Walsh (1-1), Sean Morrissey, Ronan Corcoran (0-2 each), Billy Ryan, Conor Browne (0-1 each). Waterford - Patrick Curran (0-6, 0-5 frees), Shane Bennett (1-1), Andy Molumby (0-3), Colm Roche, Cormac Curran, Shane Ryan, Eddie Meaney (all 0-1).
Kilkenny - Darren Brennan, Tommy Walsh, Conor Delaney, Cathal McGrath, Pat Lyng, Jason Cleere, Darragh Joyce, Conor Browne, Luke Scanlon, Sean Morrissey, Ross Butler, Billy Ryan, Alan Murphy, Liam Blanchfield, Ronan Corcoran. Subs: John Walsh for Billy Ryan, 37 mins; Eoin Kenny for Ross Butler, 39 mins; Andrew Gaffney for Conor Browne, 56 mins; Liam Hennessy for Eoin Kenny, 60 mins; Billy Ryan for Andrew Gaffney, 68 mins; Conor Browne for Ronan Corcoran, 77 mins.
Waterford - Billy Nolan, David Prendergast, Eddie Hayden, Michael Cronin, Conor Prunty, Conor Gleeson, Jack Mullaney, Darragh Lyons, Andy Molumby, Shane Bennett, Colm Roche, Cormac Curran, Peter Hogan, Patrick Curran, Shane Ryan. Subs: Eddie Meaney for Shane Ryan, 39 mins; Shane Murray for Mullaney, 48 mins; Joe Allen for Molumby, 60 mins; Shane Ryan for Colm Roche, 72 mins; Aaron O’Sullivan for Peter Hogan, 75 mins.
Referee - John Keenan (Wicklow).