John Mullane was in scorching form as Waterford booked their place in the Munster SHC final with an eight-point victory against Limerick in this semi-final replay
Munster SHC Semi-final: Limerick 0-17 Waterford 0-25
The De La Salle forward banged over six points from play as Davy Fitzgerald’s Déise outfit set up a meeting with Tipperary or Clare on July 12.
Mullane was bettered on the scoresheet by Eoin Kelly, who clipped over 0-12, but the corner forward was the outstanding player on view.
Mullane bagged three points in each half and was fouled on countless occasions as Limerick’s backs struggled to cope.
Mullane and Kelly contributed 0-18 of the winning tally but there was also a significant scoring contribution from burly half forward Séamus Prendergast, who notched 0-4.
Waterford came with a cracking late finish in front of 15,374 spectators, down 10,000 on the drawn game six days previously, to advance.
With 12 minutes remaining, Waterford led by 0-18 to 0-16 but before six points without reply secured the win.
Prendergast bagged three in this period with Waterford’s tails well and truly up but when the chips were down, Mullane was truly superb.
Waterford will now feel that the healing process following last September’s crushing All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny has moved on significantly and few would back against them in a Munster final, even against holders Tipperary.
This was a hugely important win for Waterford, coming off the back of letting a six-point lead slip in the drawn game between the sides last Sunday.
Mullane scored four points from play in the miserable drawn match at the same venue a week ago and he was in scintillating form again here.
It became clear from an early stage that this would be an infinitely better game than last Sunday’s forgettable stalemate.
And it took just 17 minutes for both sides to register as many scores, 12, as they had amassed between them during the entire first half of the rain-sodden drawn match.
Waterford, who led by 0-10 to 0-8 at half-time, missed a couple of early goal chances as Mullane and Gary Hurney went close.
Limerick hung in to draw level at 0-8 apiece approaching half-time, having fallen three points behind on five occasions in the opening half.
Justin McCarthy’s charges had a sight of goal themselves ten minutes before the break but Paul Browne scuffed a shot wide after making good headway at the Town End.
Limerick opened with the first point of the second half to cut the gap back to just a single score but they were always playing catch up.
The Shannonsiders did manage to trim the gap to the bare minimum twice more in the second half but crucially, they could never draw level and after weathering a number of storms, Waterford finished with a real flourish.
The Waterford players will view this victory as vindication after deciding on mutiny last year to oust their previous boss McCarthy.
Limerick: B Murray; D Reale, S Lucey, M O’Riordan; D Moloney, B Geary, M Foley; D O’Grady (0-1), S Hickey (0-2); P Browne (0-1), J Ryan (0-2), N Moran (0-5, 2f); O Moran, D Breen (0-1), A O’Shaughnessy (0-5f).
Subs: E Foley for O’Grady (47), G Mulcahy for Foley (58), T Condon for O’Riordan (60).
Waterford: C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, N Connors; R Foley, M Walsh, K Moran; T Browne, S O’Sullivan (0-1); J Nagle, S Molumphy (0-1), S Prendergast (0-4); J Mullane (0-6), G Hurney, E Kelly (0-12, 8f, 1 65).
Subs: D Shanahan for Molumphy (inj, h/t), E McGrath for Nagle (46), A Kearney for Foley (54), J Kennedy (0-1) for Moran (inj, 65), J Murray for Browne (70).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).