Waterford 4-19 Cork 0-20
The neutrals have the All-Ireland final they want, with Waterford set to take on Galway in the Liam MacCarthy showdown on 3 September.
The Deise beat 14-man Cork in a semi-final packed with incident and talking points. The pivotal moment came on 51 minutes, when the game was finely poised.
Cork went down a man for the last 19 minutes plus stoppage time following Damien Cahalane’s red. He picked up a first half yellow for a pull across the legs of Austin Gleeson in the first half and another after the break following a high tackle on Conor Gleeson.
At this stage the Rebels were a point up and they responded well to the set-back of losing their full-back with three points on the bounce, but Waterford established dominance with two goals inside 90 seconds.
The first came from the impressive Jamie Barron and the second from current Hurler of the Year Aussie Gleeson, who did it all himself when he had options around him. This pushed them into a five point, 3-14 to 0-18 lead with little over ten minutes of normal time on the clock.
It finished 13 v 14 when Cork’s Patrick Horgan and Waterford Conor Gleeson saw straight reds for jabbing each other with their sticks away from the play. Gleeson now faces the possibility of a suspension for the All-Ireland final.
Michael Walsh’s early goal gave Waterford a strong foothold in this game, coming three minutes in following a cutting ball across the target from Pauric Mahony. ‘Brick stuck the ball through goalkeeper Anthony Nash’s legs and this gave the Deise a 1-01 to 0-02 lead.
This was a free-wheeling affair early on, with the ball zipping up and down the field. It was 23 minutes before Waterford were awarded any sort of a free by referee James Owens, by which stage Cork had six.
Both sides deployed sweepers; Darragh Fives for Waterford named in the number 15 jersey and Cork centre-back Mark Ellis dropping right in front of his own goals with no centre-forward to mark as Aussie Gleeson roamed.
Fives got his hands on plenty of ball, though it’s hard to say how much the Deise missed the influence of the suspended Tadhg de Búrca, their regular sweeper, whose ban was confirmed by the GAA’s Disputes Resolution Authority in the early hours of Friday morning.
Waterford’s shot selection left much to be desired, as nine first-half wides would suggest, while Cork struggled for scores simply because they couldn’t get their hands on primary possession.
Goalkeeper Nash occasionally found his targets, including Patrick Horgan showing well as he came out to the half-forward line, but with the press on it often ended up in Waterford hands or across the sideline.
One of the most interesting duels of the day was on the sideline between two selectors, two old sparring partners on the edge of the square from their playing days.
Cork’s Diarmuid O’Sullivan and Dan Shanahan of Waterford eyeballed each other on a number of occasions and referee Owens had to chat to them at one stage when they came onto the pitch following a breakdown in play.
There was a great crowd in Croker, with an official attendance of 72,022, though the scoring rate and entertainment levels dropped off in the second quarter, with only four points - three of them for Waterford - coming in the countdown to the break.
It didn’t take long for the fuse to light at the start of the second half and the action was relentless. A tight finish looked on the cards before Cahalane’s red.
The impressive Jamie Barron put the icing on Waterford’s case with a stoppage time goal and ensure the county’s first All-Ireland final appearance since 2008.
Scorers for Waterford: Pauric Mahony 0-08, 5f; Jamie Barron 2-01; Austin Gleeson 1-02; Kevin Moran 0-04; Michael Walsh 1-00, Maurice Shanahan 0-02; Darragh Fives, Conor Gleeson, Brian O’Halloran 0-01 each.
Scorers for Cork: Patrick Horgan 0-12, 6f; Alan Cagodan, Conor Lehane 0-02 each; Shane Kingston, Seamus Harnedy, Luke O’Farrell 0-01 each, Darragh Fitzbiggon 0-01, 1 sideline.
Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe; Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors; Kieran Bennett, Conor Gleeson, Philip McMahon; Jamie Barron, Kevin Moran; Michael Walsh, Austin Gleeson, Pauric Mahony; Shane Bennett, Jake Dillon, Darragh Fives.
Subs: Shanahan for Dillon 45 mins; O’Halloran for Shane Bennett 54 mins; Ryan for Walsh 59 mins; Dunford for Mahony 68 mins; Patrick Curran for Barron 72 mins.
Cork: Anthony Nash; Stephen McDonnell, Damien Cahalane, Colm Spillane; Christopher Joyce, Mark Ellis, Mark Coleman; Bill Cooper, Darragh Fitzgibbon; Luke Meade, Conor Lehane, Shane Kingston; Alan Cadogan, Patrick Horgan, Séamus Harnedy.
Subs: M Cahalane for Meade HT; Kearney for Cooper 64 mins; O’Farrell for Cadogan 64 mins.
Referee: James Owens (Wexford)