Cork and Waterford: A Munster hurling rivalry for the modern age

Cork and Waterford: A Munster hurling rivalry for the modern age

John Mullane, Waterford, tussles with Wayne Sherlock, Cork, in the 2003 Munster final final at Thurles. Picture: David Maher SPORTSFILE

GREAT GAA rivalries are many across the association’s landscape and the intensity is such that some of the greatest games ever seen featured teams who had, and still have, that intense rivalry.

Here in Munster, the clashes of Cork and Tipperary are legendary, the debate surrounding them lasting a lifetime.

In Leinster, it would be something similar with Wexford and Kilkenny, the bragging rights of enormous importance to both.

You have Cork and Kerry in football, Galway and Mayo, Meath and Dublin, and too many to mention up North.

Next Saturday, Cork and Waterford begin their bid for provincial and All-Ireland honours in Thurles and it’s a clash of two counties that have formed a great rivalry between themselves in more recent times.

Since 2002 the two have crossed paths on numerous occasions, sometimes providing thrilling fare in the Munster and All-Ireland championships.

That newfound rivalry is set to continue next Saturday and there is the prospect of a real contest again for supremacy.

But before they go into battle it’s worth recalling some of the games that have defined their rialry.

It began in earnest in 1999 when a young and inexperienced Cork, under Jimmy Barry-Murphy, team travelled to Thurles as underdogs, but came away with a smashing victory on a scoreline of 0-24 to 1-15 with Mickey O’Connell from Midleton having a day for the ages and delivering some fantastic points from open play.

Ben O'Connor battling Brian Flannery of Waterford in 1999. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Ben O'Connor battling Brian Flannery of Waterford in 1999. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Three years later in 2002 they collided again in another Munster semi-final and this time it was Waterford who triumphed by a point, 1-16 to 1-15

They subsequently beat Tipperary in an emotional Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh with our own Justin McCarthy masterminding the victory on the line.

In 2003 Cork and Waterford met up again in the Munster final after a winter of discontent on Leeside had seen the hurling panel go on strike for better conditions.

A high-scoring game saw John Mullane bang in three goals for Waterford, but it wasn’t enough as Cork won 3-16 to 3-12.

Twelve months later the two counties produced what has been described by many as one of hurling’s greatest games of the modern era.

Cork, as reigning champions, had played against a wind in the opening half and built up a 1-14 to 2-8 lead.

They looked comfortable, particularly as John Mullane had been dismissed at the start of the second half.

But a Paul Flynn free that flew straight to the net changed everything in the second half, and with Flynn adding another five points and Ken McGrath leading the 14-man resistance from centre-back, Waterford prevailed.

In 2005 the championship produced two games between Cork and Waterford. A two-point victory for Cork in the Munster semi-final was followed by an All-Ireland quarter-final meeting in Croke Park.

A Brian Corcoran drop goal was the highlight of the game as Cork won 1-18 to 1-13.

After avoiding each other in the provincial series in 2006, the sides subsequently met in the All-Ireland semi-final.

On a day when it looked as if Waterford would finally break their semi-final hoodoo and reach their first All-Ireland decider in 43 years, Cork produced a new forward in the form of Cathal Naughton.

Waterford had gone four points ahead when Naughton was sprung from the bench and captured 1-1 inside two minutes to turn the game in Cork’s favour. Donal Óg Cusack pulled down a late McGrath effort at levelling.

Donal Óg Cusack celebrates at the final whistle in 2006. Picture: INPHO/Donall Farmer
Donal Óg Cusack celebrates at the final whistle in 2006. Picture: INPHO/Donall Farmer

They clashed on three separate occasions during the 2007 championship. Donal Óg, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín were suspended for the Munster semi-final tie which saw Waterford dethrone the reigning provincial champions. After a pulsating eight-goal encounter, the Déise emerged won 5-15 to 3-18 winners.

Both sides faced each other again in the All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park in front of a record attendance of 72,426 for this fixture

The game ended at 3-16 apiece after a controversial late Waterford free from Eoin Kelly.

The third game between the two was a tense enough affair, with Dan Shanahan netting a brace of goals to seal a 2-17 to 0-20 victory for Waterford.

There has been plenty more since but that’s just a small selection of games between the counties en-route to the development of a rivalry that’s intensified quite a lot in the past 20 years or so.

The latest meeting next Saturday might add to that list.

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