Waterford 4-20 Cork 1-23
Cork’s wait for an Allianz Hurling League title goes on after Waterford’s goalscoring ability proved decisive at FBD Semple Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Déise landed four goals to Cork’s one – and that, from Robbie O’Flynn, came at the very death – with a half-time cushion of 2-10 to 0-10 proving too much to overcome. A week after a good late surge saw off Kilkenny in the semi-final, Cork didn’t get a chance to conjure anything similar as Waterford never let them come within four points in the second half.
Without a league title since beating the Déise in 1998, Cork now add this to final defeats in 2002, 2010, 2012 and 2015.
Bright spots were rare on a night where things didn’t click. Seán O’Donoghue, returning from injury, kept Dessie Hutchinson quiet for much of the game until the attacker got Waterford’s fourth goal, while Shane Barrett showed up well, albeit with little reward.
The first half that was characterised by a pair of Waterford goals in the space of a minute. Having trailed by three points on two occasions in the early stages, the Rebels had drawn level at 0-7 each after Patrick Horgan’s pointed free was followed by a good win by Ciarán Joyce from the puckout, resulting in Séamus Harnedy setting up Darragh Fitzgibbon for a point.
However, Waterford’s willingness to go for goals was apparent throughout the league and they showed it here to devastating effect. When the excellent Jack Prendergast found Michael Kiely with a good pass, his hand-off allowed Patrick Curran to take the ball on the run as he in the right-hand channel and he fired a shot past Patrick Collins at the near post.
When Tadhg de Búrca claimed the puckout, Waterford were able to build again. Prendergast passed to Neil Montgomery, another who had excelled, and he extricated himself from a ruck before sending the ball to Stephen Bennet on the left of the large rectangle. He made no mistake with a low shot across Collins to make it 2-7 to 0-7.
Cork wavered a bit in the immediate aftermath, with Séamus Harnedy shooting wide before a goal response was almost conjured. When Tim O’Mahony claimed a Waterford puckout, he surged forward and fed Barrett, whose shot was saved by Shaun O’Brien, with Alan Connolly unable to get contact on the rebound.
They did settle enough to score the next three points, with a Patrick Horgan 65 followed by a Robbie O’Flynn point after loose Waterford defensive play and a Horgan free after he had himself been fouled.
That left it 2-7 to 0-10 with a minute of normal time left but Waterford finished the half with three points of their own, Prendergast with one of those when another goal might have come to pass.
Cork had struggled to find a rhythm from the off, over-playing in situations where more incisiveness might have paid off. With Carthach Daly outstanding in midfield, Waterford were able to slowly assemble a scoring tally and they led by 0-5 to 0-2 after 12 minutes. After Horgan and Bennett exchanged frees, a good Ger Millerick win led to a Barrett point before Harnedy pointed after a turnover in midfield. Any momentum Cork had was undone by the two-goal blast, though.
Shane Kingston was introduced at half-time for Connolly and he had two points within six minutes but Bennett’s frees ensured that Waterford kept pace with any Cork comeback. The lead was 2-13 to 0-13 when Waterford felt they should have had a third goal as Montgomery was fouled before having a shot saved by Collins, with Curran putting the loose ball home. Nevertheless, Bennett pointed the free and, after Conor Lehane and Horgan pointed for Cork, the third goal came.
Bennett was the man who got it, profiting from a fine long pass by goalkeeper Shaun O’Brien following a short puckout. Though Cork would outscore Waterford by 0-7 to 0-3 after that, with Barrett and Kingston adding to Horgan frees, the fourth goal killed any remaining hope. Fittingly, given how instrumental he was, Daly was the architect as he drove at the Cork defence before laying off to Dessie Hutchinson. While he had been quiet up to then, he made no mistake for what was the 22nd goal of the campaign. Cork did manage a green flag at the death, O’Flynn set up sub Mark Keane, but it was scant consolation.
The task now for team and management is to put this behind them and reset for the championship – but, with Limerick due at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on April 17, that will be no easy task.
Scorers for Waterford: Stephen Bennett 2-11 (0-9f), P Curran 1-3, J Prendergast 0-3, D Hutchinson 1-0, C Daly, N Montgomery, DJ Foran 0-1 each.
Cork: P Horgan 0-10 (0-8f, 0-1 65), R O’Flynn 1-3, S Kingston 0-3, S Barrett, C Lehane 0-2 each, T O’Mahony, D Fitzgibbon, S Harnedy 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: S O’Brien; C Prunty, C Gleeson, S McNulty; C Lyons, T de Búrca, J Fagan; D Lyons, C Daly; N Montgomery, P Curran, J Prendergast; M Kiely, D Hutchinson, Stephen Bennett.
Subs: K Bennett for Daly (55-56, temporary), Shane Bennett for Kiely (57), K Benntt for Montgomery (65), P Mahony for Daly (66), B Power for Stephen Bennett (69), DJ Foran for Prendergast (70).
CORK: P Collins; S O’Donoghue, D Cahalane, C Joyce; T O’Mahony, M Coleman, R Downey; D Fitzgibbon, G Millerick; R O’Flynn, S Barrett, S Harnedy; C Lehane, A Connolly, P Horgan.
Subs: S Kingston for Connolly (half-time), C Cahalane for Harnedy (43), J O’Connor for Lehane (48), S Quirke for Millerick (57), M Keane for Barrett (65).
Referee: L Gordon (Galway).