Waterford 1-28 Cork 1-24
IT was just as well for Cork hurling supporters that last Saturday’s Munster semi-final at Semple Stadium was played in front of empty stands and terraces because they would have been a disgruntled lot leaving the old ground.
This was not a good day at the office for Kieran Kingston’s men and as they made the journey home to Leeside they could have had no complaints whatsoever.
Waterford were much the superior unit and their margin of victory, in the end, might well have been more substantial.
They had a better balance throughout the field and were in control of the proceedings from the 13th minute onwards.
There were far too many Cork players who didn’t deliver at the level required and there will have to be a lot of soul-searching done before the murky waters of the qualifiers are entered.
From the selected 15, Cork lost Colm Spillane and Aidan Walsh before the start and while that probably didn’t help matters, it could not be used as an excuse either.
Two of squad’s younger guns, Sean O’Leary-Hayes and Daire Connery came in as replacements and will benefit from the experience.
Four of the starting six Cork forwards were replaced before the final whistle and again the attack as a unit lacked the necessary bite.
This was Waterford boss Liam Cahill’s first championship game in charge and he took up from where he left off with the Tipperary U20s by putting one over on a Cork team.
He had reason to be delighted with the outcome and the contribution from a number of his players, most notably Tadhg de Búrca at the heart of the defence. He was simply majestic throughout, setting a wonderful example for the rest with his aerial ability while the likes of Calum Lyons, Austin Gleeson, Dessie Hutchinson and Jamie Barron shone too.
There was nothing between them in the early sequences with Conor Lehane and Alan Cadogan posting fine Cork points. However, both were replaced in the second half, unable to continue that early promise.
It was 0-5 apiece after 12 minutes but thereafter Waterford drove forward with a lot more positivity.
Points from Kieran Bennett, Barron, Gleeson and free-taker Shane Bennett who filled the absent Pauric Mahony’s shooting boots very well had Waterford four clear after 21 minutes and they stayed in control of the half up to the interval, leading by three points on a scoreline of 0-15 to 0-12.
In that opening half, Shane Kingston fired over some well-executed points for Cork with Patrick Horgan and Mark Coleman doing likewise, three players who put in good shifts overall Horgan finished the game with 1-8 but again there remains an over-dependence on him to notch scores.
When the sides resumed, Lyons and Bill Cooper exchanged points but Waterford subsequently upped the ante considerably, firing home a splendid goal which was followed by a brace of points which put them firmly in control.
Calum Lyons executed the goal very well and Cork were chasing the game thereafter.
Seamus Harnedy rifled over a few excellent Cork points but as long as Waterford kept the scoreboard ticking over and didn’t concede a goal, they were on their way.
Stephen Bennett continued to punish Cork indiscretions as Cork started to empty the bench with the introduction of Jack O’Connor after 40 minutes followed by Deccie Dalton, Luke Meade, Billy Hennessy and Brian Turnbull.
To their credit, they battled away and when Horgan goaled from a free in injury time there was only three points dividing them.
But Waterford tacked on an insurance point from Patrick Curran and deservedly put themselves into a Munster final.
The qualifiers await but there were a lot more questions than answers at the end of this very disappointing day in Thurles.
Simply put, things will have to be much different and a whole lot better the next day.
Scorers for Waterford: S Bennett 0-12 f, C Lyons 1-2, A Gleeson, D Hutchinson, J Barron 0-3 each, J Prendergast, S McNulty, K Moran, K Bennett, P Curran 0-1 each.
Cork: P Horgan 1-8 (1-3 f), S Kingston 0-4, S Harnedy 0-3, C Lehane, B Cooper 0-2 each, M Coleman 0-2 (0-1 sl), A Cadogan, C Joyce, D Dalton 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; S Fives, C Prunty (c), S McNulty; C Lyons, T de Búrca, K Moran; J Barron, K Bennett; J Prendergast, A Gleeson, J Fagan; D Hutchinson, S Bennett, J Dillon.
Subs: B Power for K Bennett (54), N Montgomery for Fagan (61), D Lyons for Dillon (63), P Curran for Gleeson (69), CORK: A Nash; S O'Leary Hayes, D Cahalane, S O'Donoghue; C Joyce, R Downey, T O'Mahony; M Coleman, B Cooper; D Connery, S Harnedy, C Lehane; S Kingston, P Horgan (c), A Cadogan.
Subs: J O'Connor for Connery (40), D Dalton for Lehane (53), L Meade for Cadogan (55), B Hennessy for Joyce (63), B Turnbull for Harnedy (71).
Referee: Seán Stack (Dublin).