In the end Kilkenny’s first ever championship victory over Waterford looked easy, but it was only in the second period of extra time that the young Cats secured their All-Ireland final place.
During the first half Kilkenny looked the more accomplished side. They displayed greater team-work and effort than the Deise in that period, but it was a much more even contest during the second 30 minutes.
Kilkenny dominated for much of the opening half and should have led by far more than four points at the interval. Failing to convert some gilt-edged scoring chances might prove costly on another occasion.
The supporters from both sides were barely back in their seats after the half-time break when a goal and a point had Waterford back on level terms with their neighbours. After a sluggish first half, the Deise badly needed those scores.
Within three minutes Kilkenny had a great goal-scoring opportunity from Alan Murphy following a pass from Sean Morrissey. In hindsight it might have been better had the Bennettsbridge attacker gone for goal himself.
Lady Luck smiled on Kilkenny in the 40th minute when Waterford failed to convert an excellent goal-scoring opportunity. They did manage to get a point from the attack, but failing to raise a green flag was a big disappointment for the Munster men.
Throughout the second half both sides missed numerous chances. Far too often the ball ended up in the opposing goalkeeper’s possession. From a Kilkenny perspective, a big improvement will be required in every facet of the team’s play in the final.
Kilkenny should have made the tie safe close to the finish but an attacker went for a goal when a point was the easiest option. That old saying, ‘take your points and the goals will come’ needs to be mentioned to the Kilkenny attack at training in the coming weeks.
In the end it was the coolness of Alan Murphy that brought the game to extra time with a superbly struck 65.
A draw in normal time was probably a fair outcome as both teams had periods of dominance. Although it was noted in the match programme, it did come as a surprise to many that there would be extra-time.
From the opening moments of extra-time Waterford looked in deep trouble as a number of their players looked very tired.
With Kilkenny now taking a firm grip on the tie Waterford’s cause was not helped by some erratic play from their goalkeeper. The young player’s errors were emphatically punished by the excellent Alan Murphy.
Goal seals game
Heavy drizzle greeted the players as the second period of extra-time started. Within five minutes the game was over as a contest when John Walsh scored a great goal for Kilkenny. That score may well see the Mullinavat youngster start in the final.
Darren Brennan in the Kilkenny goal brought off a smart save moments later. Tired limbs forced the Waterford players into basic errors and Kilkenny went on a scoring spree as the game headed to a conclusion.
It is difficult to explain how the Waterford players tired so visibly in extra time. A nine-point loss, though, was not a fair refection of the efforts of the young Deise men.
It must be said of this Kilkenny side that they are improving with every outing. Granted last Sunday’s game might have gone either way in normal time, but there was only one team in it during extra-time.
The All-Ireland final will require further improvement irrespective of the opposition. Too often last Sunday Kilkenny players took the wrong option.
The players now have a couple of weeks to hone their skills as they deservedly head to Croke Park on the first Sunday in September.