By Tomás McCarthy
Waterford 2-19 Tipperary 0-15
Man of the match Austin Gleeson gave an inspirational display as Waterford won their first Munster U21 hurling title since 1994 with a 10-point victory over Tipperary at Walsh Park.
Joint captains Patrick Curran and Adam Farrell raised the trophy high in front of the white and blue faithful as the home side celebrated their fourth provincial win and first in 22 years.
Mount Sion-man Gleeson took centre stage during the second period before a crowd of 8,843.
He smashed over five points (four from play) and lorded the skies. Curran, Shane Bennett, Tom Devine, Mark O’Brien, Conor Gleeson and Darragh Lyons also struck top form for Sean Power’s side on a memorable night at the city venue.
Waterford advance to meet Antrim in the last four of the All Ireland series next month.
The sides were all square entering the final quarter but the Déise devoured their guests 1-08 to 0-01 for the remainder to coast home.
Substitute Peter Hogan buried the sliotar to the bottom corner with 10 minutes remaining before late points by Devine, Curran, Stephen Bennett and Gleeson secured the win.
Waterford had led 0-04 to 0-00 after 11 minutes. Curran rattled off three dead balls (two frees and a 65) before DJ Foran grabbed Waterford’s first from play.
Tipp answered with the next four. The lively Andrew Coffey was responsible for two with Stephen Quirke and Conor Lanigan also on target.
Mark O’Brien and Coffey traded points and then Tipp hit the front for the first time through a Josh Keane free on 21 minutes before Patrick Curran levelled for the third time with another successful free.
Two minutes before the interval, Curran mishit a free from the right but corner-forward Stephen Bennett forced it home past Brian Hogan to make it 1-06 to 0-07 at the break.
On the resumption, Gleeson swept over two inspirational points inside his own half before substitute Ronan Teehan got one back for the Premier.
Tom Devine and Curran (free) established a five-point lead after 36 minutes but Tipp were proving stubborn opponents and Coffey scored his fourth to start a revival.
Stephen Quirke and Keane chipped away at the lead and Quirke floated over the point of the evening, his third in total, from the stand sideline to narrow to one.
Colm Roche briefly interrupted that momentum but a brace of Keane points tied the game up for a fourth time entering the last quarter (1-11 to 0-14).
Gleeson stood up to the plate as Mark O’Brien and Stephen Bennett combined for the centre-back to register his third and Curran stretched the lead to two.
With ten minutes remaining, Gleeson delivered the ball to Stephen Bennett and his gorgeous assist sent Peter Hogan racing away into open space.
The Ballygunner substitute rammed it to the bottom corner of the cobwebs. It was curtains for Tipp and celebration time for the Déise.
Waterford: J Henley; D Lyons, C Gleeson, W Hahessy; M Harney, A Gleeson (0-05, 1f), C Prunty; Shane Bennett, C Roche (0-01); M O’Brien (0-01), T Devine (0-02), DJ Foran (0-01); Stephen Bennett (1-01), P Curran (0-08, 6fs, 1 65’), M Kearney.
Subs: P Hogan (1-00) for Roche (43), J Fagan for Kearney (58), D Ryan for Lyons (60), B Whelan for Hahessy (63), N Fives for Foran (63).
Tipperary: B Hogan; P Maher, T Fox, D Sweeney; S Ryan, R Maher, B Heffernan; W Connors, J Ryan; B McCarthy, S Quirke (0-03), A Coffey (0-04); C Lanigan (0-01), M Russell, J Keane (0-06, 5fs).
Subs: R Teehan (0-01) for J Ryan (H-T), P Ryan for Lanigan (53), M McCarthy for Coffey (58), T Nolan for B McCarthy (60).
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick)