Waterford 3-23 Limerick 1-18
Dominant Waterford are back in another Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final after defeating Limerick by 11 points at Semple Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The holders opened up with an outstanding second-half display to advance to the 1 May decider, where they will meet Clare or Kilkenny.
Limerick led by 0-12 to 0-11 at half-time but found themselves on the wrong end of a heavy beating, as Patrick Curran and Shane Bennett excelled for Waterford.
Curran led the way in the scoring stakes with a haul of 1-10, but he was sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
Bennett cracked home 1-3, including a 43rd-minute penalty goal as Waterford opened up with a run of 1-5 without reply to put daylight between the sides.
Curran, rather fittingly, scored his side’s second goal following good work by sub Brian O’Halloran and hard-working Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, and Waterford were home.
The sides traded goals in stoppage time, sub Shane Dowling lashing home a 20-metre free before Waterford replacement Tom Devine struck at the other end moments later.
Although the sides racked up 0-23 between them in the opening half, there was little to suggest that goals would follow.
The Déise have been criticised in some quarters for not scoring enough of them but they delivered an emphatic response to the critics as the League holders outscored Limerick by 3-12 to 1-6 in the second half.
Both sides set up defensively from the start, Limerick appearing to operate with two sweepers, and space was at a premium until it began to open up in the second half.
Waterford took full advantage as their greater levels of physicality and more time spent on refining the sweeper system began to tell.
Limerick’s top scorer Ronan Lynch hit all seven of his points from placed balls and Shane Dowling emerged second top on the Treaty list of hitmen with a 1-1 haul from frees, despite the fact that he only came on late in the second half.
Tom Morrissey was good for Limerick in the first half, hitting 0-3 from play as the Shannonsiders opened up a narrow half-time lead.
They found themselves six points down quickly, though, as Waterford gained a foothold and while Limerick did cut the gap back to three points, 0-17 to 1-17, McGrath’s charges, even without talismanic forward Maurice Shanahan, roared to victory and into another showpiece decider.
Limerick: N Quaid; S O’Brien, R McCarthy, R English; P O’Brien, D Byrnes (0-02), R Lynch (0-07f); G O’Mahony, P Browne (0-01); G Hegarty, J Ryan (0-01), C Lynch; B Nash (0-02), K Downes, T Morrissey (0-03).
Subs: J Fitzgibbon for Hegarty (48), T Condon (0-01) for S O’Brien (50), D Hannon for Downes (57), S Dowling (1-01f) for P O’Brien (61), G Mulcahy for Lynch (65).
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; D Fives (0-01), T de Búrca (0-01), Philip Mahony; A Gleeson (0-03, 1f), J Barron; M Walsh, K Moran (0-01), C Dunford (0-02); J Dillon, S Bennett (1-03, 1-00 pen), P Curran (1-10, 0-07f, 0-02 65s).
Subs: B O’Halloran (0-01) for Dunford (48), S McNulty for S Fives (55), T Devine (1-01) for Dillon (59), Pauric Mahony for Walsh (64), S O’Sullivan (Ballygunner) for Moran (67).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)