Waterford manager, Paraic Fanning, is under no illusions as to the size of the challenge facing his side in the Allianz Hurling League final next Sunday but he is relishing the game nonetheless.
The Deise will face off against All Ireland champions, Limerick, for the first time ever in a League decider following their 1-18 to 0-19 win over Galway in Nowlan Park on Sunday.
Waterford held the 2017 champions scoreless for 25 minutes during the second-half, responding well to the sending off of Mikey Kearney for a second yellow card offence.
Fanning is delighted with the manner in which his team managed to bounce back.
“It wasn’t easy, it was heavy going. I didn’t realise it went on that long. I knew we were doing well and we were in the game. The lads put in a massive shift and we had to. We had to make one or two tweaks there to our shape to get over the line but the lads implemented some brilliant stuff and they gave everything out there to get us through it.
“Even Tadhg [de Burca] there, only just back and you seen him cramping up at the end there, them emptied everything they had.”
Galway raced into an early 0-5 to 0-1 lead after just three minutes and maintained a strong lead for a large period of the first-half. The gap could have been further widened had it not been for a courageous save from Stephen O’Keeffe to deny Brian Concannon.
Fanning was full of praise for his goalkeeper following the game.
“I know that’s his job but he did it brilliantly, he kept us in the game because at that stage of the game, we were struggling and had they got that goal and gone eight or nine points up, we know it would have been a mountain to climb.
“Every player has a job to do on the field and Stephen’s is to be brave and make decisions like that and he did it. Fair deuce to him, it was brave what he did as well.”
It has been a hugely positive Allianz League campaign so far for Waterford with four wins from five games during the group stages with their only loss coming against Dublin in February.
The 49-year-old has been delighted with their form so far and even happier that they didn’t peak too early in the competition and so can be at their best come the final on Sunday afternoon in Croke Park.
“We’ve had a great winter. They’ve a huge capacity to work and there’s more in them. The great thing for us is that we’ve used so many players that now lads are coming back and they’re fresh and that’s brilliant. There’s no thing of peaking too early, things have worked out nicely for us at the moment.
“We’re just delighted we have a game next week playing against the best team in the country, Limerick, they’ve shown that even in the way they’ve responded since the All Ireland last year.
“We know it’s a massive challenge against them but isn’t it brilliant to be there? We’re excited to be there and we’re looking forward to testing ourselves with them.”