It’s been 59 years in the pipeline but around 5 o’clock on Sunday, Waterford could make history and very well be All-Ireland champions.
This match represents an opportunity like no other for the Déise. Again Waterford enter the final as underdogs, coming up against a strong Galway side with plenty of Croke Park experience.
Buoyed by recent successes at underage level, belief in the Déise that the famine is finally about to come to an end is at an all-time high.
Waterford supporters can not be faulted when it comes to their unwavering loyalty to the cause, but it can be argued that there is even more excitement surrounding this current crop of players than there was back in 2008.
Austin Gleeson, Jamie Barron, Tadhg de Búrca – these are the young men that are trusted with guiding the next generation of Waterford forwards, and many expect them to eventually end up with an All-Ireland medal to show for their efforts.
With other counties constantly improving and championship hurling becoming more competitive than it has been in many years, winning this All-Ireland would mean far more than ending years of hurt for the Déise – it would also represent signs of incredible progress under Derek McGrath.
Love him or loathe him, McGrath’s tactics have paid dividends in guiding Waterford to Croke Park on plenty of occasions – and now finally being there in September, Waterford may never find themselves with a better opportunity to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Overcoming Kilkenny in the qualifiers was a massive psychological boost to the Déise – it made the players believe that if they can get over one hurdle then they can more than certainly finish the race out.
Coming into a final against a county other than Kilkenny, Tipperary or Cork is a very rare occasion – and the Déise also have the bonus note that Galway are yet to defeat them in championship hurling.
Galway were the team put to the sword by Waterford’s successful underage teams of 2013 and 2016, and many of that squad know what it takes to overcome the Tribesmen in the business end of the campaign.
Waterford are quietly confident despite their underdog status – and they have reason to be.
Stephen O’Keeffe has been the best goalkeeper in the country this summer, Darragh Fives and De Búrca have been immense at the back.
Jamie Barron has been one of the players of the year, while Kevin Moran has been sensational. On top of all that, they have Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh rolling back the years.
This team are a united bunch with everybody willing to do their part in the name of success – be it from the start or from the bench.
Regardless of tomorrow’s result, this year will represent another year of progress for the Déise under Derek McGrath. Sunday is a chance to write their names into the history books and become heroes in their county.
If they come out on top, few will say they don’t deserve it given their form since losing to Cork in Munster.
There will be great pride in the team regardless of the result – but as John Mullane said earlier in the week – Croke Park on All-Ireland Final day is no place for losers.
No one from Waterford will want to see Daithí Burke lift the cup come Sunday evening.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena
Check out The 16th Man as we speak to Micheal Donoghue ahead of the All-Ireland final where Waterford take on Galway.