Waterford won in a thrilling encounter with Limerick at Semple Stadium on Sunday. Either side could have emerged as victors after a frenetic second half, but a late John Mullane goal clinched a 3-15 to 3-14 win for the Deise.
John Mullane was the hero for Waterford, scoring 2-2, while Kevin Downes scored two goals for Limerick.
Waterford edged the first half and held a deserved, slender 1-9 to 1-6 lead at half-time. Limerick lacked composure in front of goal for much of the opening period and hit numerous bad wides.
After a scrappy start, the match burst into life in the eighth minute when Waterford were awarded a penalty after Damien Reale dragged Brian O’Sullivan to the ground. Reale got a yellow card for his indiscretion, but Gavin O’Mahony stopped the penalty on the line.
The missed penalty was only a brief let-off for Limerick, however, as John Mullane scored his first goal in the 13th minute. The corner-forward left Tom Condon for dead and smashed a powerful shot past Limerick’s Nicky Quaid.
Waterford pressed home their advantage in the following period, with Pauric Mahony’s 32nd minute point giving the Deise a six point lead approaching half-time.
Limerick responded magnificently, ending a 12 minute scoring drought with 1-2 in the closing minutes of the half. Wayne McNamara made a long run in the 34th minute before firing the sliotar past Clinton Hennessey. Both sides added two points in added time and also created a decent goal scoring opportunity.
The Shannonsiders took control of the match in the opening six minutes of the second half, as Limerick scored 1-3 without reply to overturn a three point deficit. Kevin Downes scored the Limerick goal after he drifted skilfully past three Waterford defenders before applying a deft finish.
Waterford again responded magnificently, as Shane Walsh scored a well worked goal in the 43rd minute. The Deise scored three quick-fire points to regain their three point advantage.
The erratic flow of the game continued, with Limerick scoring 1-2 in a two minute period. Kevin Downes was again the Limerick goal scorer. The full-forward moved easily past a Waterford defender before scoring with aplomb.
The sides continued to attack and Waterford’s 60th minute point brought the score level for the fourth time. Limerick hit two disappointing wides, but took the lead in the 67th minute. Niall Moran doubled the lead a minute later with his fourth point of the day.
Waterford forced a free in the 69th minute and Eoin O’Kelly decided to go for goal. Limerick managed to scramble the sliotar away and the Shannonsiders appeared to be on the cusp of a famous victory.
It was not to be for Limerick, however, and John Mullane stole victory at the death for Waterford. The corner-forward fired a fantastic shot into the Limerick goal from a tight angle in the final minute. Mullane’s shot took a slight deflection, but Davy Fitzgerald’s men will care little.
Waterford progress to the Munster final, where they will face either Clare or Tipperary. Limerick enter the qualifiers and will be a feared opponent after a gutsy and impressive display against the Deise.