New pairing whets the hurling appetite

There is nothing like a novel pairing to whet the appetite of all hurling fans in the county.

Galway and Waterford meet for the first time in an All Ireland senior hurling championship final. Two teams both desperate for the crown, urged on by their expectant and passionate supporters, ensures Sunday's final will be a day for the hurling annals.

Both have suffered a drought in the senior championship in recent years. Waterford have not taken the title since 1959; Galway were last crowned All-Ireland hurling champions in 1988 when Conor Hayes lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup for the third time that decade. Six then they have contested the final on six occasions. For hurling supporters in both camps, it is simply too long.

While Galway were tipped by many to advance to the final this year, Waterford were more of a surprise, having come through the qualifier series.

Galway immediately caught the eye this year in the Leinster championship. They comfortably saw off Dublin, and Waterford having negotiated the qualifiers. The Tribesmen destroyed Dublin and Offaly before breezing past Wexford in a highly impressive provincial display in Croke Park. They did what was needed to annex a second Leinster title for the county, adding to the O'Keeffe Cup won in 2012.

To do so Míchéal Donoghue's men produced a strong third quarter and came out after half-time intent on putting the game to bed. They did so with some powerful displays up front from Conor Cooney, who was immense, Joseph Cooney, with 0-5 from play, and Niall Burke, who won a few important puck-outs and hit two good scores.

Tipperary proved a tricker assignment, and it reintroduced the thrilling rivalry of the 1980s. Despite having enjoyed an easy victory over Tipp in April's league final, this time it took a last minute point from Joe Canning to secure their place over the champions in the semi-final. It was the third time in three years the two sides had met with just a single point separating them.

It was a victory that extinguished many doubts over Galway's ability to cope under pressure, and despite going behind early on, they held their nerve, settled in, held their nerve, and deservedly prevailed.

Now Galway seek to end 29 years of dashed hopes. Some say it is "their year", but one statistic still haunts - Galway have never beaten Waterford in the championship. Now is the hour.

PATH TO THE FINAL – GALWAY

Galway 2-28 Dublin 1-17 (Leinster quarter-final )

Galway 0-33 Offaly 1-11 (Leinster semi-final )

Galway 0-29 Wexford 1-17 (Leinster final )

Galway 0-22 Tipperary 1-18 (All-Ireland semi-final )

Galway’s Top Scorers

Joe Canning………..0-37 (0-25 frees, 0-2 ‘65s’, 0-2 s/l )

Conor Cooney……..1-14

Conor Whelan……..0-16

Niall Burke………… 0-09

Joseph Cooney…….0-08 (1f )

Waterford's steady improvement

Waterford may have disappointed in the Munster opener when losing to Cork, but they are now in their fourth All Ireland final - their last victory in 1959. And to do so they had to see off the powerhouses of Kilkenny and Cork, having lost to Cork in the Munster semi-final.

Since then their march to the final has gained momentum.

They may have seen off Offaly too easily, but they showed real mettle to overcome kings Kilkenny after extra time. A real signal to those waiting in the wings. Onto Wexford, and although it was a closer affair, Waterford never looked in trouble, leading by five at the break and led by Lee Chin, before easing into the semi-final.

Waterford then exacted their revenge over Cork after a tight first half, which The Deise edged by 1-7 to 0-9 - Michael Walsh the goal scorer. Despite Cork forced to play with 14 after Damien Cahalane saw a second yellow, the game remained neck and neck until the 58th minute. Then a goal from Jamie Barron followed by one from Austin Gleeson turned the tide, and they finished with a comfortable victory - watch out Galway.

PATH TO THE FINAL – WATERFORD

Cork 0-23 Waterford 1-15 (Munster semi-final )

Waterford 1-35 Offaly 0-14 (Qualifiers – Round 1 )

Waterford 4-23 Kilkenny 2-22 – after extra-time (Qualifiers – Round 2 )

Waterford 1-23 Wexford 1-19 (All-Ireland quarter-final )

Waterford 4-19 Cork 0-20 (All-Ireland semi-final )

Top Scorers

Pauric Mahony……………. 0-39 (0-27 frees, 0-2 ‘65s’ )

Austin Gleeson……………. 1-18 (0-2 frees )

Jamie Barron………………..3-08

Maurice Shanahan……….. 2-09 (0-4 frees )

Kevin Moran………………..1-12

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