WHEN Patrick Horgan slammed over one of his trademark wonder-points early in the second half at Semple Stadium on Saturday, Cork were still well in contention.
Collecting a Dáire Connery crossfield delivery, Horgan slipped as he evaded Shane Fives but still split the posts brilliantly to make it 0-17 to 0-14. With the wind to their backs, Cork would have been confident of picking off the points to reel in the Déise across the second half.
The next score turned out to be pivotal. Calum Lyons profited on hesitation between Damien Cahalane and Connery and glided through to guide the sliotar past Anthony Nash.
That Waterford followed up with points from Jack Prendergast and a Stephen Bennett free for a foul on the marauding Austin Gleeson to open up an eight-point gap in the 40th minute, left Cork in a world of trouble. They actually hit five of the next six points, three of them from the previously subdued Seamus Harnedy, but Waterford rode out that storm.
There was never a sense in the fourth quarter that Cork were going to pull off a comeback.
What was so galling was that the underdogs showed far more appetite and controlled aggression to shut down Cork around the middle third. When Kieran Kingston came back in as manager again to replace John Meyler, a vastly improved work-rate would have been high on the agenda.
That wasn't in evidence in Thurles.
Cork have been criticised previously for not getting fast, crossfield possession to their talented forwards but the distribution from defence was erratic in this loss. As a consequence centre-back Tadhg de Búrca was able to sweep left and right or drop off to pluck sliotars out of the air repeatedly.
Sars' Jack O'Connor was the first sub in, having done well in challenge games lately, but the only ball he got was bombed down on top of him from inside the Cork half. Not exactly hurling to his strengths.
Horgan got a late goal from a free but anchored by captain Conor Prunty, the Waterford full-back line protected Stephen O'Keeffe efficiently. A damning stat was that Waterford had 0-12 from frees and Cork just 1-3.
Jamie Barron, Gleeson and Dessie Hutchison were able to run at the Rebel defence and draw fouls, while also nabbing 0-3 from play apiece. Cork were ragged up front in the closing 20 minutes, Conor Lehane had some moments of magic in the first half but was replaced, as were big guns Harnedy and Alan Cadogan.
Shane Kingston managed 0-4 from play and Mark Coleman, Rob Downey and Tim O'Mahony were prominent as Cork battled to the end. Yet the Rebels had no shape as they chased the deficit and the result was inevitable.
The backdoor offers a reprieve. As unlikely as that seems right now. Cork will either face Laois next weekend or get a bye to the second round of the qualifiers.
A change in attitude is a must, but how long are we saying that?