Waterford 3-16 Tipperary 5-18 (AET)
Defending champions Tipperary survived a massive Munster Under-20 hurling semi-final scare before demonstrating their class to pull clear of a Waterford side which came within a minute of a massive scalp.
With the wind in their favour, Waterford led by 1-08 to 1-05 at the half-time break, having struck eight wides to Tipperary's four, a telling statistic given how the game concluded after 66 energy-sapping minutes.
The hosts flew out of the blocks, with full-forward Michael Kiely rifling home a superb individual goal after four minutes, peeling off Conor Whelan to slam the ball beyond Aaron Browne.
Gearóid O’Connor opened Tipperary’s account from the following attack but the early momentum was firmly in the white and blue corner.
Moments later. Mount Sion’s Alan Kirwan, played in by the lively Kevin Mahony, was upended in the red zone, with Mahony’s subsequent penalty saved by the diving Aaron Browne. Mahony opened his account with a seventh minute free and added another free two minutes later.
Tipperary, featuring six players who started last year’s All-Ireland final, steadied the ship somewhat with a lengthy point from Kevin McCarthy in the 10th minute only for Alan Kirwan to swiftly respond with the Déise’s third point 90 seconds later. Mahony converted a 55-metre free to leave Waterford 1-04 to 0-02 up at the water break.
But the reigning champions roared back into contention thanks to Andrew Ormond’s 17th minute goal after an excellent cross-goal pass from Sean Ryan. James Power instantly replied with a fine Waterford point and was on the scoresheet again by the 20th minute after latching onto Rory Furlong’s pass.
Aaron Ormond and Sam Fitzgerald traded points inside the 22nd minute before Devon Ryan turned over his second point from play barely a minute later.
Kevin Mahony jinked cleverly to release Rueben Halloran for a fine 27th minute point, with the reliable Ryan completing the first half scoring to keep Tipp well in touch.
As the wind grew even stronger, the drama cranked up a few notches, with Tipperary’s fighting qualities spectacularly evidenced by Max Hackett’s match saving goal in the fifth of six additional minutes.
The excellent Michael Kiely opened the second half scoring four minutes in before Gavin Fives extended Waterford’s advantage. A trio of Devon Ryan frees left a point between the sides by the 41st minute before substitute Johnny Burke found his range at the opposite end.
Tipp targetman Conor Bowe opened his account a minute later before Kiely landed his second point of the night. Mahony’s fourth free left Waterford three ahead on the three-quarter mark before Kevin Maher narrowed Tipp’s arrears in the 50th minute.
Sixty seconds later, Michael Kiely dusted himself after Éanna McBride pulled him down to power home a penalty. Waterford led by 2-13 to 1-11 and were full value for that advantage. Devon Ryan maintained his free taking accuracy in the 53rd minute and saw a shot from point-blank range tipped onto the crossbar and over by Déise keeper Dean Beecher in the second minute of stoppage time.
Ryan converted another free in the 64th minute to leave just a goal between the sides and Tipp hearts soared when substitute Max Hackett fired a shot brilliantly beyond Beecher to send the game into extra-time (2-14 apiece).
The opening period of extra-time was one-way traffic for Tipperary, racking up 3-4 without reply as Waterford were left to the count the cost of injuries to Iarlaith Daly, Sam Fitzgerald and Michael Kiely. Devon Ryan scored two of those goals, with Conor Bowe registering the other as Tipp pulled clear of a tiring Waterford side, clearly weakened by injuries to key players.
But to their credit, Stephen Gough’s side showed great character in the second period of extra time with Conor Power’s goal and an Alan Kirwan point ensuring they left the sodden paddock beaten but unbowed. Tipperary now have a week to regroup before taking on Cork in next Wednesday's final.
Waterford: D Beecher; C Ryan, T Foley, S Fitzgerald (0-01); R Furlong, G Fives (0-01), L O’Brien; P Leevy, C Wadding (0-01); J Power (0-02), I Daly, R Halloran (0-01); K Mahony (0-04f), M Kiely (2-02; 1-0pen), A Kirwan (0-02).
Subs used (after 60 minutes): J Burke (0-02) for R Halloran (38), C Power (1-00) for I Daly (45), O Ó Ceallaigh for A Kirwan (53), E O'Reilly for J Power (55) E Ó Crotaigh for S Fitzgerald (60).
Subs used (extra time): PJ Fanning for G Fives (61), J Power for M Kiely (67), R Halloran for E O’Reilly and A Kirwan for C Power (both 71)
Tipperary: A Browne; J Ryan, C Whelan, E McBride; F Purcell, E Connolly, R McCormack; K Maher (0-01), K McCarthy (0-01); G O’Connor (0-01), C Bowe (1-03), D Ryan (2-10; 0-07f); A Ormond (1-01), K O’Kelly, S Ryan.
Subs used (after 60 minutes): K Ryan for R McCormack (28), S Hayes for S Ryan (42), J Devaney (0-01) for G O’Connor (46), M Hackett (1-00) for F Purcell (52), E O’Reilly for J Power (55).
Subs used (extra time): D Flannery for E McBride (63), S Kirwan for K O’Kelly (71), C O’Dwyer for D Ryan (73),
Referee: John O’Halloran (Limerick)