Cork v Waterford: John Horgan on why Déise might have the edge in league final

Rebels are favourites in some quarters but Waterford were outstanding in destroying Wexford
Cork v Waterford: John Horgan on why Déise might have the edge in league final

Cork's Niall O'Leary breaking past Kilkenny's Cillian Buckley during the Allianz NHL semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IN a perfect world, given the fact that they will face each other in a major championship game in six weeks, Cork and Waterford might have preferred if they hadn’t encountered each other before that.

But the way things have panned out in the league, both are in Semple Stadium tomorrow night vying for the secondary title.

There might be half a suggestion that some shadow boxing might be on the cards given the close enough proximity of the more important clash in May, but that is unlikely to be the case.

If they were meeting three or four weeks earlier in the Munster arena you might get a bit of that, but the middle of May is a good distance away and they will have plenty to keep them occupied before that meeting in Walsh Park.

Tomorrow night’s game is a national final, one of just two, and both could do with something given the length of time since their last one.

So, the expectation is that no quarter will be asked or given; both are in fine fettle, they are building momentum from week to week and both Liam Cahill and Kieran Kingston will want that to continue and they will also want the feelgood factor in both teams to continue.

There is a perception that Waterford are in the best position to knock Limerick off their perch and are now constructing a squad that is best placed to do that.

The manner with which they blew Wexford out of the water in Nowlan Park last Sunday was a huge statement of intent.

They were just awesome at times and Wexford didn’t know what hit them.

Wexford’s Jack O’Connor and Paudie Foley battling Kieran Bennett of Waterford. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Wexford’s Jack O’Connor and Paudie Foley battling Kieran Bennett of Waterford. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

There is always a bit of a question mark about a team that gets routed in a league semi-final. Were they happy enough to have reached that stage of the competition? Were they in the middle of a big training block, building towards the all-important Leinster opener against Galway?

It must be remembered that this was not the first time Wexford took a hammering in a game of some importance this season, having been trounced by Dublin in the Walsh Cup final.

They subsequently had a fine league campaign before last Sunday’s inept display. We’ll really have to wait and see to find out where they are at in the Leinster Championship.

Waterford’s goal-scoring prowess was evident again although some of the Wexford defending was simply awful. But that’s not taking from Waterford, they had a job to do, they did it impressively and they have to be considered slight favourites tomorrow night.

With players of the calibre of Dessie Hutchinson, Patrick Curran, Shane Bennett, and Pauric Mahony about, this will be a big test of the Cork defence. That’s the way you want it, exposing players to that type of quality before the white heat of four massive Munster Championship battles.

There is no doubt that Austin Gleeson’s absence on Saturday will be a factor. He was inspirational last weekend before his late red card and he’s a player that can destroy any opposition when he is in that type of form.

So what you have right now are two teams playing very well who have got most of the things that their management teams would have wanted to get out from the league.

Cork and Waterford have greater depth in their squads this time and Cork, as we saw against Kilkenny, didn’t panic when they found themselves six points in arrears early in the game or when they went 12 minutes without registering a score in the second half.

DEPTH

A number of players who will be near certain championship starters did not hit the heights and were replaced but the greater squad depth was evident when the likes of Tim O’Mahony, Conor Cahalane, and Jack O’Connor arrived on the scene and the experience of Seamie Harnedy was seen to good effect when he won a few frees.

Kingston certainly did not hold back when he stated in the aftermath of the Kilkenny game with regards to substitutions.

“There is no one guaranteed their place and there is no one untouchable, so to speak. We believe in the squad, we believe in the character of the squad.”

And really that is the key, having the players who are ready, willing, and able to come in when the need is great. Limerick, maybe not as much now, had that squad depth as Cork found out in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2018.

We saw last Saturday night that Cork wanted to beat the old enemy from Noreside, that they wanted to be in a league final. In fact, you could say that they wanted it more than Kilkenny in the closing sequences when it was all on the line.

That desire is what is required, players not having an eye to what’s coming down the tracks, just wanting to complete the job. We saw what transpired the last time Cork won the league in 1998, a young team gaining the confidence from it to win the McCarthy Cup a year later and constructing the platform for what came in the early 2000s.

Nothing will come easy tomorrow night because Waterford are probably the best team in the country at the moment, but Cork are more than ready to issue another statement that their time is coming too.

It is still only the league, but expect a championship feel and ferocity to a game that might occupy a place in the best games of the season when it concludes.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo WISA

Read all about the monthly winner’s and more.
Click Here

EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more