THEY showed it against Wexford and all their league games, and it came as no great surprise that the same was true on Saturday night of this talented Waterford side.
Aggression, manic aggression and massive intensity are a must of any team that Liam Cahill sends out to do battle and to say they were fired up would be an understatement
Cork knew they were going to have to, at the very least, match that to have any chance of winning and then try to keep it tight early on and stay in the game.
But early on nerves were definitely playing their part as the Rebels made mistakes and gave the ball away too easily at times. Passes that would normally land inch-perfect were going astray and a lot of that was down to the pressure Waterford were putting on,
It was the same against Kilkenny a week earlier, but Cork worked their way into that encounter and to be fair they did the same here. By the time we got to the 16th minute the sides were level at 0-7 apiece and it looked as if Cork had weathered the early storm and were coming good.
But another mistake led to a goal for Waterford and before Cork knew what happened they had a second. Now it was a case of limiting the damage and get to half-time, regrouping and going at it for the second half.
These players are no fools and would know themselves that they needed to cut out the errors to give themselves any chance of winning this one.
But again another one early in the second half led to Waterford getting the opening score as they stayed well in front. Confidence was high in their camp at this stage and it was getting harder and harder for the Rebels to get a decent foothold in the tie.
Shane Kingston was sprung from the bench at half-time, one of four subs to come on in the second half in the forward line but he was the only one of them to add to the scoreboard, hitting three points.
Cork’s strength on the bench has been a key factor on their journey to the final but it didn’t work on the night as Waterford were in control, despite Cork’s best efforts.
Without being outstanding Tadhg De Burca was in control in their defence as he gave his usual masterclass from the number six spot.
Waterford had studied Cork’s game plan and knew, as pointed out on several occasions in the previous weeks by Donal Óg Cusack, that they standoff for puck-outs. They let the full-back line gain possession and then attack them.
Waterford used this to their advantage, gaining possession and then playing it back to Shaun O’Brien who launched attack after attack with two of their goals coming directly from moves like this.
Full credit must be given to Waterford on the goal front as they have now hit 22 in their seven league games, a superb return and one that their share of the 18,930 crowd would have relished.
Naturally, Cork will be disappointed at losing and now have just two weeks to turn that around before they face into their championship opener against Limerick. Like all games, they will learn a lot from this one and it will prepare them well for the challenge the All-Ireland champions will bring.
The manic aggression and intensity that Waterford brought will be well matched by Limerick on April 17.
While right now Cork won’t see too many positives from this one there are always good points you can take from a game.
Young players like Ciarán Joyce, Robert Downey and Alan Connolly have a few more miles under their belts and will have gained a lot from this league campaign.
Have no doubt they will regroup and take those learnings and work on them before the Limerick clash. Against Kilkenny, our running game worked and it tore holes in their defence at times.
We didn’t see enough of that in the final and a lot of credit has to go to the Waterford defence for stopping Cork from getting going.
The minute a Cork player attempted to take off they were in to tackle and time after time they overturned the ball and cleared the danger.
To put it simply they were the better side on the night and Cork’s long wait for a national title goes on.
But Cork are far from a bad side and they will take a critical look at their overall performance and work on where they fell short on the night to ensure they won’t happen in the championship.
Overall this has been a good league campaign for Cork and they needed to take it seriously, along with Waterford and a few others, and they can look back at the run to the final with plenty of satisfaction
There is work to be done ahead of the championship, but that was always going to be the case and have no doubt they will be ready come Easter Sunday for another massive challenge.