Waterford advanced to a fourth successive Munster SHC final following a thrilling 2-17 to 1-18 victory against Clare at Semple Stadium this afternoon.
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald was undone by the team he managed for three and a half seasons prior to taking over in his native Banner County.
An Eoin Kelly penalty and a Shane Walsh goal helped Waterford to lead by 2-08 to 1-09 at half-time, with John Conlon on target for a superb Clare goal.
The sides were level twice in the second half before Waterford found an extra gear to sneak over the line and set up a final meeting with Tipperary or Cork on 15 July.
But this was a game that Clare will look back on with a certain sense of regret, a game that was there for the taking.
Nicky O’Connell was off target with two frees and a 65 in the second half at crucial times while goalkeeper Patrick Kelly saw his 20m free blocked by Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe as Clare chased a winning goal in stoppage time.
O’Keeffe, one of four championship debutants in the Waterford side, had also performed heroics to keep out Clare’s Conor McGrath in the final minute of normal time, blocking the corner forward’s shot at his near post.
Two minutes into stoppage time, another opportunity presented itself for Clare, but when well placed sub Darach Honan couldn’t get the ball into his hand and the chance was gone.
Clare will also point to the award of a 12th minute penalty to Waterford, which was clinically sent to the net by Eoin Kelly.
TV replays showed that Cian Dillon was fouled first by Kelly before referee James McGrath awarded the penalty, with Dillon’s misery compounded by the receipt of a yellow card.
Kelly’s penalty sent Waterford 1-03 to 0-04 clear in front of a disappointing attendance of 12,296 in Thurles.
And a second Déise goal, in the 19th minute, sent the winners six points clear – 2-5 to 0-5.
It followed an error from Clare goalkeeper Patrick Kelly, who hesitated and allowed Shane Walsh to beat him to a breaking ball before the full-forward tapped home into an empty net.
But Kelly would later redeem himself with a good save to deny Gavin O’Brien, before popping over a 50th minute long-range free that put Fitzgerald’s charges 1-14 to 2-10 in front.
In an entertaining first half, Clare hit back from the concession of those two goals with a fine strike of their own. Conlon was on target in the 23rd minute with a blistering strike after taking a pass from Padraig Collins, a late pre-match replacement for his injured brother Sean.
The game was very much in the melting pot in the closing stages, but Waterford dug deep and called upon their vast reserves of experience to get the job done.
Scorers for Clare: J Conlon 1-2, N O’Connell 0-5 (4f), C McGrath 0-4, C Ryan 0-3f, J Clancy 0-3, P Kelly 0-1f.
Scorers for Waterford: M Shanahan 0-7 (5f), S Walsh 1-2, E Kelly 1-0 pen, J Mullane 0-3, P Mahony, S Molumphy, S Prendergast, G O’Brien & M O’Neill 0-1 each.
Clare: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, C Dillon, C Cooney; B Bugler, J McInerney, P O’Connor; P Donnellan, N O’Connell; J Conlon, J Clancy E Barrett; P Collins, C Ryan, C McGrath.
Subs: L Markham for McInerney (45), F Lynch for Barrett (54), S Morey for O’Connor (59), D Honan for Collins (60), A Cunningham for Ryan (65).
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; A Kearney, L Lawlor, S Daniels; R Foley, M Walsh, K Moran; P Mahony, S Molumphy; M Shanahan, D Prendergast, E Kelly; J Mullane, S Walsh, G O’Brien.
Subs: N Connors for Kearney (h.t.), P O’Brien for G O’Brien (49), T Ryan for S Walsh (59), D Twomey for Foley (61), M O’Neill for Kelly (68).
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).