The stunning Shaun O'Brien save that knocked Tipperary out of the championship
Waterford 4-28 Tipperary 2-27
In truth, Waterford should have seen to it that Tipperary didn't even get a chance to stay alive in this championship.
But there John McGrath was, one-on-one with the goalie, three points down, seventy minutes on the clock. The Loughmore-Castleiney assassin hasn't been himself in a year but after a bright cameo and the deftest of dummies, if you had a mansion you would have put it on him. McGrath did everything right but ultimately, so too did Waterford's rookie goalie Shaun O'Brien, who having reacted with reflexes a cat would be proud of, sent the ball richoceting over the bar and sent Tipperary on the long road home.
(2.40 in the below clip)
Watch the Full-Time Highlights of Waterford v Tipperary in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Quarter Final here!
Tipperary 2-27 pic.twitter.com/eXAvCxNoMV
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 31, 2021
By that stage, and if Tipperary were honest enough to look at the whole thing coldly and truthfully, they will have known that they should have been ten minutes gone. Hurling well and looking fitter, faster, stronger, at the final water-break Waterford were eight points to the good but from then on, aside from young substitute Michael Kiely, the whole team just stopped hurling. Jamie Barron made some uncharacteristic errors in possession while his teammates looked like men on a mission to make heroes out of Ronan Maher and Cathal Barrett. Suddenly, from a position of great strength and authority, for the second week in a row, Waterford found themselves in a dogfight they should never have known.
This tendency to let teams off the hook - Tipperary didn't even have to produce magic to claw their way back - will be of huge concern for Liam Cahill going forward but thankfully for them, Michael Kiely has both class and composure beyond his years. Thankfully for them, Shaun O'Brien stopped a shot that the vast majority of goalies wouldn't even have seen.
Enough of the bad because there was plenty of good from a Waterford team that you couldn't but admire. Yet again, those brilliant Bennett boys thundered into the game with a passion only their own manager can match. Stephen bounced back from a poor start to sling some trademark scores and at centre back, Shane looks like a man who's been playing there all his life. Best of all was Kieran who played with the energy and tempo of a man who should have been running on a tartan track in Tokyo.
If the Bennetts brought the fire, then it was Dessie Hutchinson, having scored 1-3 from play off Cathal Barrett, who brought the finesse. The Ballygunner man has quickly become one of the game's finest forwards and on song, as he was here, there is barely a defender in the country who can live with him. Though Tipperary managed to corner him on a number of occasions, Calum Lyons was again influential while Aussie Gleeson did some things that, in their jaw-dropping brilliance, would have you questioning your very own eyes.
As usual, the Mount Sion magician mixed the sublime with the so-so but in the mind, the reverse hand-pass will live longer than the wides, the sideline cuts out-shining the misplaced passes, the defence splitting passes beating all. You'd have to say he deserved the man-of-the-match award and having hurt that knee late on, the whole of Waterford will be praying it's not as bad as it first looked.
Before Liam Cahill took over, Waterford hadn't won a championship game in two years.
Here are the teams they've beaten since 👇
Some job 👏 pic.twitter.com/DSv99NKL6m
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) July 31, 2021
But after all that, after a mediocre league and after a shocking first round performance against Clare, here they are, back in the big time, back in an All-Ireland semi-final and there isn't a person who could say they don't deserve to be there.