Second-half goals from John Mullane and Michael Walsh saw Waterford to a 2-17 to 1-13 win over Laois in the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers, but the Deise had a tougher than expected time of it at a drenched O'Moore Park.
The Deise – with only Ken McGrath and top scorers Mullane and Michael Walsh playing near full tilt – bagged their third win of the SHC qualifier series to predictably top the Group A table.
Their dismissal of Galway last Sunday effectively decided the plum placings in the group.
Today's win, which was in some doubt until Walsh's 60th-minute goal, sets Waterford up for an All-Ireland quarter-final clash against either Tipperary or Wexford, the two provincial runners-up.
McCarthy was forced into a late change with Tom Feeney vacating the full-back slot and Kevin Moran, who helped Waterford IT to their seventh Fitzgibbon Cup title this year, stepping into the breach.
With Laois having waited ten games before posting their first competitive win of the season against Westmeath last week, the Deise would have been expected to comfortably control the first half.
In driving rain, they did move four points clear, 0-08 to 0-04, just past the midpoint of the first half with John Mullane (0-02) and Walsh (0-02) hitting successive points. But Laois, aided by the industry of midfielders Joe Phelan and Joe Fitzpatrick, struck back on 27 minutes with a deserved goal.
A long ball into the visitors' defence saw James Murray and Moran both fumble badly and corner-forward Damien Culleton snapped onto it, placing a stinging shot across the body of Clinton Hennessy and into the far corner of the net.
A third point of the half from James Young, Laois' undoubted talisman, squared up the game at 1-05 to 0-08. Waterford, though, just had that extra gear and a succession of rangy points saw them turn around with a 0-11 to 1-05 lead – Walsh hit a peach from 50 metres to close out the half.
Six minutes after the restart, Mullane, who finished with 1-03, was toasting a brilliant goal. The 2003 All Star rose highest to collect a neat through ball by Dave Bennett, and drove it first time past Laois' reserve goalkeeper Tadhg Doran.
The Midlanders' regular stopper and captain Patrick Mullaney was injured during the first half when saving from Eoin McGrath.
Weathering a slight storm from Waterford, scores from Shane Dollard, Phelan and Young, who took his points tally to six in the 55th-minute, kept Dinny Cahill’s underdogs in touch at 1-14 to 1-10.
The unmarked Mark Rooney really should have done better when he shot straight at Hennessy in the Waterford goal, and he paid the price when the Laois defence failed to deal with a ball in from the right from Seamus Prendergast on the hour.
Full-forward Walsh gobbled up a weak clearance and sniped through to beat Doran from close range.
Laois: P Mullaney; B Campion, Pakie Cuddy, J Walsh; C Healy, P Mahon, M McEvoy; J Phelan, J Fitzpatrick; T Fitzgerald, J Young, S Dollard; D Culleton, M Rooney, D Carter.
Waterford: C Hennessy; J Murray, K Moran, E Murphy; T Browne, D Prendergast, B Phelan; K McGrath, D Bennett; D Shanahan, E Kelly, S O’Sullivan; J Mullane, M Walsh, E McGrath.
Referee: Eamonn Morris (Dublin).