CORK came from six points down in the first half to open their oneills.com Munster U20HC campaign with victory over Waterford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Wednesday night.
Trailing by 1-9 to 0-6 after 22 minutes, Ben O’Connor’s side rallied to trail by just one at half-time – senior panellist Colin Walsh with a great goal before adding two key points as they got on top of the visitors in the second half.
The other member of Pat Ryan’s squad in the attack, Ben Cunningham, finished with seven points on a difficult night for hurling while Eoin Downey was deployed at full-back to limit the influence of Patrick Fitzgerald. The Waterford attacker finished with eight points, four from play, but wasn’t allowed to fashion any late goal chances, when a green flag looked more and more essential if they were to salvage anything.
Cork didn’t lead at any stage in the first half but the one-point interval deficit was much better than the scenario in the 22nd minute. Having enjoyed the better of the play in the opening quarter, Waterford led by 0-7 to 0-5 before receiving a huge boost when impressive midfielder Josh Fitzgerald latched on to a break near the Cork goal and fired to the net.
While Ben Cunningham replied for Cork with his fifth point of the night, points from Waterford’s main marksman Patrick Fitzgerald – well picked out by Oisín Walsh – and Charlie Treen moved Gary O’Keeffe’s side 1-9 to 0-6 in front.
To their credit, Cork didn’t panic and Walsh showed leadership with a great catch and point before the home side produced their best move of the game up to then. When goalkeeper Brion Saunderson picked out Midleton clubmate Mikey Finn with a well-arrowed puckout, he fed his midfield partner, captain Micheál Mullins, whose lovely diagonal pass allowed Ross O’Sullivan to get on the scoresheet.
Waterford did move five in front again as Patrick Fitzgerald pointed a free awarded for a throw – the third such call by referee Michael Kennedy – but from the resultant puckout, Walsh snared the break and his mazy run towards goal only ended after he deposited the ball beyond goalkeeper Cian Troy.
Cork might have even hit the front as half-time approached as Tadhg O’Connell’s pass allowed Mullins to make a marauding run, but his low shot was saved by Troy for a 65. Cunningham sent that over and the half-time score was 1-10 to 1-9 for Waterford.
Cork were level within 35 seconds of the restart. Adam O’Sullivan, operating in a deeper role, scored his second point of the game, and they moved in front for the first time on 34 when Darragh O’Sullivan – brother of Adam – provided the assist for Mikey Finn to score.
Waterford sub Francis Roche provided an immediate riposte but, as the rainfall became heavier, the scores dried up – three times the visitors had chances to move back in front but wides resulted on each occasion.
Ten minutes without a score finally came to an end as Walsh pointed for Cork and they had their biggest lead of the game as sub William Buckley combined with Shane Kingston to set up another replacement, Brian Keating.
Patrick Fitzgerald did give Waterford brief respite in the midst of their wides tally mounting, but Walsh and Adam O’Sullivan both brought their personal tallies to 1-3 and 0-3 respectively as Cork led by 1-15 to 1-12 with six minutes on the clock.
There was a half-chance of an equalising goal materialising as Josh Fitzgerald almost seized possession in the large rectangle, but he was penalised for picking off the ground. Nevertheless, they were back to within two as Patrick Fitzgerald scored his eighth point but Cork finished with points from sub Eoin O’Leary and Cunningham as well as ensuring that no late goals were conceded.
B Cunningham 0-7 (0-4 f, 0-1 65), C Walsh 1-3, A O’Sullivan 0-3, M Finn, R O’Sullivan, E O’Leary, B Keating 0-1 each.
P Fitzgerald 0-8 (0-4 f), J Fitzgerald 1-1, C Treen 0-2, M Mullaney, F Roche 0-1 each.
B Saunderson (Midleton); S Daly (Randal Óg), E Downey (Glen Rovers), D O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig); J Dwyer (Ballincollig), S Kingston (Ballinora), M Mullins (Whitechurch); T O’Connell (Ballincollig), M Finn (Midleton); A O’Sullivan (Ballinhassig), B Cunningham, D Healy (Lisgoold); J Leahy (Dungourney), R O’Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh), C Walsh (Kanturk).
B Keating (Ballincollig) for Finn (38), W Buckley (St Finbarr’s) for Healy (41), T Wilk (Cobh) for O’Connell (46), D Cremin (Midleton) for A O’Sullivan (54), E O’Leary (Glen Rovers) for Leahy (59).
C Troy; A O’Neill, C Cantwell, J Power; O Walsh, M Fitzgerald, M Mullaney; J Fitzgerald, W Beresford; J Booth, C Treen, C Keane; T O’Connell, P Fitzgerald, J Twomey.
F Roche for Twomey (half-time), K Cullinane for Beresford (41), R Walsh for Keane (47), E Foley for O’Connell (56), R Dobbyn for Mullaney (59).
M Kennedy (Tipperary).