What a day for Páraic Fanning and Waterford as they qualified for the Allianz Hurling League final following a two-point victory over Galway at Nowlan Park.
It is a serious turnaround for the Déise hurlers who found themselves relegated from Division 1A last season. They subsequently failed to qualify from the group stages of the Munster Championship in what was a disappointing season overall.
They take on Limerick who dispatched of a plucky Dublin side by three points in a game that was very tight.
John Kiely’s men have picked up where they left off last season when they ended their 43-year wait for an All-Ireland. They have been dominant throughout this league campaign with their only defeat coming against Cork.
Here are our four conclusions from Waterford’s win over Galway in the Allianz Hurling League semi-final.
Magnificent Diarmaid Byrnes
The wing-back was a real driving force for Limerick today. While their half-back line was relatively quiet by normal standards, Byrnes really stood up.
He cleared up a huge amount of ball but was also a lynchpin in attack scoring from both placed balls as well as open play.
Had a hand in Limerick’s goal to when he put through Cian Lynch with a fantastic pass. A huge player for this Limerick side.
Dublin’s Defensive Set-Up
Mattie Kenny’s side had a clear gameplan to suffocate the Limerick attack this afternoon and it worked for large parts of the game limiting the All-Ireland champions to just 10 first-half points.
Dublin were like flies around the breaking ball committing three or four players to each one and ultimately creating plenty of rucks.
Ultimately they tired out in the end and the All-Ireland champions class shone through.
We questioned during the week whether or not Waterford were too reliant on the Bennett brothers throughout this league campaign.
While Stephen Bennett did indeed grab their all-important goal, the real shining light for them today was that they had nine different scorers across the game.
While Stephen Bennett hit 1-7, there was also three points for Pauric Mahoney with Callum Lyons, Jamie Barron (0-2), Austin Gleeson, Mikey Kearney, Thomas Ryan, Jack Prendergast and Peter Hogan all getting in on the act.
The Tribesmen went almost 25 minutes without a score today in the second half. Despite being a man up, it felt for large parts that Waterford were playing with an extra man.
A lot will be made of Joe Canning’s departure and how that affected Galway, but in truth, they were struggling before the Portumna man was forced off.