by Daragh Ó Conchúir, at UPMC Nowlan Park
Waterford recovered from a very poor start to emerge narrow but probably deserved victors of a pulsating Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior camogie semi-final at UPMC Nowlan Park, in the process bridging a gap back to 1945 since their last appearance in a decider.
Beth Carton earned the player-of-the-match honours but she had significant rivals for that honour from the sensational Vikki Faulkner in defence and also in the supreme artistry of Lorraine Bray.
Carton did weigh in with eight points, half of which came from play, but perhaps the most significant overall contribution was that of Mairéad Power, playing far closer to the opposition posts than she is accustomed to and carrying out her marking duties on Tipperary playmaker and joint-captain Karen Kennedy brilliantly.
What’s more, Power’s 25th minute goal was critical in kick-starting the Déise resurgence after falling seven points behind and being a little lucky that that it wasn’t more.
It was only when Kennedy was pushed forward late on that that the gifted Thurles Sarsfields player could impose herself in any way, which is a testament to how well Power carried out her task.
The first half was a magnificent affair played mostly in denting rain. The teams served up a feast however and Waterford probably went in the happiest at the interval, despite trailing by 1-7 to 1-6.
They had scored a goal and three points on the spin after falling seven behind with 20 minutes elapsed and while not able to maintain that scoring rate, they kept Tipp to just two pointed frees for more than a half-hour after Cáit Devane’s 20th minute goal.
Tipp had the better of the opening exchanges with Caoimhe Maher and Grace O’Brien pointing and though Abby Flynn got Waterford off the mark in the fifth minute, they were not looking comfortable at all.
Tipp were breaking the lines too easily and should have had more returns than they did, shooting too early on a few occasions with vast expanses of space in front of them.
At the other side, the blue and gold defended resolutely, getting in a host of blocks and hooks. Eimear McGrath slotted four points from frees and Róisín Howard was having a big impact, leading Denis Kelly’s crew to edge clear.
It was looking very good when Howard pounced on a defensive error, drew the last Waterford player and slipped in Devane, who blitzed a powerful shot high to the far corner of the net.
It was 1-7 to 0-3 but a couple of big plays from Lorraine Bray helped reignite Waterford.
The first was a most sublime and composed jab lift from the turf by Bray into the Power’s hand and the defender by nature rippled the net from close range.
Soon after, Bray came from nowhere to make a block around her own 45 before advancing onto the break and picking up the loose sliotar without breaking stride. She didn’t bring it into her hand either, continuing to glide 50m across the turf with it on her bas, before providing the inch-perfect hand-pass to Carton who made no mistake to split the posts.
Carton finished the half with four points, and Annie Fitzgerald was beginning to cause a lot of trouble, winning frees and also finding the target.
Waterford had two wides at the start of the second half, including a straightforward free from Carton but though Tipp stretched the lead to two twice from frees, they were getting no change from the Déise defence, in which Faulkner maintained her tremendous form this season.
Carton began to spend more time at full-forward and that tactic paid dividends, as the De La Salle sharpshooter threw over a brace of points.
When goalkeeper Brianna O’Regan lofted over a free from her own 65, Waterford were three up.
The Premier continued to battle and points from Kennedy and Devane (free) made it unbearably tense, with Mairéad O’Brien throwing her body in front of a goalbound penalty shot in between those scores, not long after being reintroduced after a five-minute treatment period for a blood wound.
It was heroic, as was the bravery that earned her the injury, and in truth, as important as any goal or point.
It was heartbreaking for Tipperary, who fought valiantly, but it was Waterford’s day.
SCORERS FOR WATERFORD: B Carton 0-8(4fs); M Power 1-0; A Flynn 0-2; A Fitzgerald, B O’Regan(f) 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR TIPPERARY: C Devane 1-2(0-2fs); E McGrath 0-5(fs); R Howard, C Maher, G O’Brien, K Kennedy 0-1 each)
WATERFORD: B O’Regan; V Faulkner, L Forrest, K Lynch, O Hickey, C Carroll, K Corbett Barry, A Flynn, R Walsh, M O’Brien, B Carton, L Bray, M Power, N Rockett, A Fitzgerald. Subs: C Griffin for Walsh (40), A Corcoran for O’Brien temp (51-56), A Landers for Carroll (58), R Kirwan for Griffin (60+2)
TIPPERARY: Á Slattery, E Loughman, M Eviston, K Kennedy, K Blair, J Bourke, A McGrath, T Ryan, C Hennessy, R Howard, Caoimhe Maher, E McGrath, G O’Brien, C Devane, C McIntyre. Subs: C McCarthy for Blair (77), C Quirke for Hennessy (39), N Treacy for E McGrath (60+2)Tweet