Cork hurlers got the tactics right and secured puck-outs at key stages

Rebels live to fight another day but they must replicate the intensity they showed at Walsh Park when they face the Premier
Cork hurlers got the tactics right and secured puck-outs at key stages

Waterford's Jack Prendergast is pushed into touch by Mark Coleman of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

THE obituaries can be ripped up as the news of Cork hurling’s death has been greatly exaggerated.

Cork travelled down to Walsh Park on Sunday with everyone expecting it to be one of the final chapters in the annus horribilis that 2022 has been for Cork hurling. 

Thankfully, that script got ripped to shreds, as Cork shocked Waterford.

Cork went in at halftime a point up, but during two spells in the first half, it was not looking too good from a Cork perspective.

Cork had two good periods in the first half, with both of them coming at times when Waterford looked to be taking control of the game, especially considering Cork had failed to get a single score between the fifth and 14th minutes. 

The Rebels scored 1-4 without replay to go from four points down early on to 1-6 to 0-6 up, and even though Waterford responded well to this onslaught to score 1-4 in a row themselves, Cork did outscore their hosts by 0-6 to 0-1 in the final few minutes of the half, as they capitalised on the stiff breeze that was at their backs.

Mark Coleman and Patrick Collins had both scored points from over 90 yards out and Conor Lehane had a magic minute in the 32nd minute when he assisted a Seamus Harnedy point before robbing the ensuing Waterford short puckout to slice over a point of his own.

From the very next puck-out, Darragh Fitzgibbon plucked the sliotar from the air, went on a marauding run and knocked over an inspirational score to level.

Cork's Robert Downey fouls Michael Kiely of Waterford. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Cork's Robert Downey fouls Michael Kiely of Waterford. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

The earlier Cork goal was badly needed. Darragh Fitzgibbon begun the move, but the real catalyst was the superb line that Robbie O’Flynn ran from deep, as he hit the line like a top-level rugby full-back to race clear through on Shaun O’Brien’s goal, and although his strike wasn’t wonderful, Alan Connolly was there to flick home the rebound.

LONG

In the first half, Patrick Collins went long with seven puck-outs, but Cork did not manage to win a single one of them. 

With Cork facing into a strong breeze in the second half the worry was that Waterford would simply push up on Collins’ puck-out and force him to go long and that the Cork challenge would wilt in their inability to win any restarts, but that is not how it transpired. 

Instead, Cork battled for every long puck-out, winning six out of 11. Cork ended up scoring 1-4 from these restarts, as Liam Cahill’s side were vulnerable at the back due to having such a high defensive line. 

When Cork got their hands on the ball there was plenty of space in behind for the likes of Harnedy and Connolly to wreak havoc.

This Cork management team has been heavily criticised, but on Sunday they got all the key decisions right, taking off Shane Barrett and Patrick Horgan at the right times, with the introduction of Tim O’Mahony being particularly decisive, as suddenly Cork had a real ball-winning outlet up front.

Players like Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy and Darragh Fitzgibbon have been written off in some quarters in recent times but all three were magnificent in this triumph.

Waterford may have had the wind at their backs in the second half but they did not use it well at all. 

They hit 14 wides over the 70 minutes, with 11 of those coming in the second half. Just like in the Limerick defeat Stephen Bennett’s radar was completely off with his frees and as a result, Waterford’s scores dried up.

The 63rd-minute sending off of Austin Gleeson was hugely significant as well. Not only did it reduce the Déise to 14 men for the final 10 minutes or so, but it robbed Liam Cahill of his main attacking threat on the day, as Gleeson was a constant outlet and a menace to the Cork defence.

Despite the numerical advantage, the fear remained that Waterford could bag a goal to steal a draw that would put Cork out of the championship, but up stepped Harnedy, who firstly won a vital free straight in front of the Waterford goal, that allowed Lehane to tap over a point, and soon after he brilliantly caught a Collins puck-out and slotted over for the insurance score. 

Waterford weren’t coming back.

The big question mark now is as to whether Cork can follow this victory up next weekend against Tipperary in Thurles?

Cork have, deservedly, earned themselves a championship lifeline. They must now prove that the victory over Waterford was not a one-off performance.

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