THREE rounds into the Munster minor hurling championship and so far, Cork have done everything that has been asked of them.
They are proving to be serious opposition, and with three competitive matches under their belt the Rebels remain unbeaten. They are in a good position to take their place in the Munster final.
There has been very little alteration to the starting 15 since the start of this competition, which is always a good sign. As a result, this squad of players know each other extremely well and are never short of leaders. It also says a lot about the faith John Considine has in his players that he has more or less gone with the same lineout against Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford.
This was always going to be a tricky fixture for Cork. Bottom of the table Waterford were already out of the championship ever before they set a foot in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Even though it was played on the banks of the Lee, Cork couldn’t afford to take anything for granted.
As it turned out, the visitors were no pushover and Cork were well tested. It was level pegging at the interval and it took the full 60 minutes plus stoppage, to grind the Déise down. Cork showed their intent into the teeth of a strong wind in the second- half and impressed in how they saw out this match.
Waterford went ultra-defensive against the elements. As expected at this young level, there were mistakes made by both sides and shots were off target. However, Cork with one change to the selection that drew with Limerick three weeks ago (Isaac Walsh of Lisgoold in for Kanturk’s Colin Walsh), settled well.
Captain for the day, Darragh Flynn, who came into the tie as the second top scorer in the province on 1-18, ensured Cork got off to a bright start posting their opening five points.
Waterford drew level and they fully deserved the plaudits. When Johnny Burke scored a brilliant close-in goal from an overhead pull, they forged ahead and Cork for the first time looked to be in trouble.
They didn’t panic. It served as a wake-up call because by half-time the home side had outscored Waterford five points to two. All square then at the short whistle, 1-7 to 0-10.
Considine has his backroom team would have plenty to mull over at the break.
Strangely, with the wind, Waterford persisted with an extra defender.
It wasn’t long before Cork got the show on the road, moving the ball much better out of defence. Luke Horgan restarted the scoring, but more importantly, it put them back in the ascendancy – a lead they had not held since the 18th minute of the first half.
This was a critical period for Cork, it was vital that they re-assert themselves just like they had done in the first half. It indicated too they had the hunger to turn things around.
It was at this stage Paul O’Riordan came into his own. First to the ball, the Tracton club man playing in the left corner, won all the possession that came his way. He scored three great points.
There was a pattern to Cork’s play now. More focused and more cohesive and this was epitomised by a splendid three-man move that yielded a lovely Flynn point – dominant centre-back Ciarán Joyce delivering smartly to Daniel Hogan who picked out the Ballygiblin skipper.
They were motoring well. Danger man Jack Cahalane made his way in behind the rearguard and clipped a fine point. Midway through the second half and the scoreboard read 0-16 to 1-8, Waterford’s disappointing return was a solitary Cian Rellis point. They were under pressure.
One of the positives for Waterford was the display of Reuben Halloran, and while they weren’t able to make enough headway in the scoring stakes, they would have been worse off only for his accuracy.
Soon after Flynn brought his championship tally to 1-26, Cahalane raided towards goal once again, only to be denied by brave custodian Mark Kilgannon who was a late replacement for Rian Hogan.
A run of Waterford scores put it up to Cork, 0-18 to 1-12. Halloran twice, and there was one from Cathrach Daly – the Lismore player was a key member of the Christian Brothers College team that lost the Harty Cup final to Midleton CBS.
Even though regulation time was up, the five additional minutes signalled by the fourth official ensured this game wasn’t going to be decided until the very end.
Cork’s third and final substitution was Jake Carr. He was a mere minute on the pitch when he set up Ethan Twomey for a crucial point. The St Finbarr’s man stretched the lead to four, and with it came a bit more breathing space.
Halloran raised his seventh white flag and it was back to a three-point margin.
That Cork saw this tussle out is another big result for the red and white.
Two wins and a draw complete their endeavours. Confidence and momentum are on their side as they head for Ennis on Sunday.