Five things we learned from Cork's defeat of Waterford in Thurles

Five things we learned from yesterday's Munster Hurling Championship semi final at Semple Stadium.

Cork are genuine All-Ireland contenders

After beating Tipperary last month, Kieran Kingston’s men were entitled to be placed in the category of teams with a decent chance of reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals — which is a broad category, admittedly. After yesterday, however, they’re realistic MacCarthy Cup aspirants. The Tipperary result was no fluke, but it might have been a one-off. The authority Cork demonstrated here proved that it wasn’t.

What will particularly please Kingston is the manner in which the win was achieved. They were reduced to 14 men for the closing stages; no bother to them. They might have had three goals in the first half but got none; so what? Shane Kingston and Luke Meade, who hit 1-5 and 1-2 respectively against Tipp, didn’t manage a score between them; it made not an iota of difference. Cork found a new way to win. Champions in waiting always do.

That Galway won comfortably in Portlaoise earlier in the afternoon told us nothing new and changed very little in the overall scheme of things. It’s up for grabs now.

Good goalkeepers are a pearl beyond price

The transfer last week of the highly promising Jordan Pickford from Sunderland to Everton for £30m was widely adduced as proof that goalkeepers are undervalued in the transfer market. It is a long established fact of soccer life that the biggest fees are paid for strikers, whereas goalies — who over the course of a season can be even more influential — are traded for comparatively little.

Yesterday, both Stephen O’Keeffe and Anthony Nash demonstrated the difference a top-class netminder can make. Even if Seamus Harnedy might have chosen to put a bounce on his shot shortly before half-time O’Keeffe’s save was stupendous. Not long before that, he’d done well to foil Alan Cadogan at the near post.

Nash’s first-half puckouts, meanwhile, were an object lesson in good forward movement (credit to Conor Lehane) and laser-guided delivery (kudos to the Kanturk man). Hitting a colleague 60 metres away on the touchline with a quick puckout is no easy task. Nash made it look a matter of routine.

History repeats itself, again

A Munster semi-final. A young Cork team featuring a clutch of under-21s. Déise opponents, who’d narrowly been beaten by Kilkenny in last season’s All-Ireland semi-final. The year is not 2017, but 1999. Even the scoreline is eerily similar: Cork 0-24 Waterford 1-15. Really.

In that era before the widening of the back door, the season ended there and then for Gerald McCarthy’s charges. Their conquerors went on to a Munster final against Clare, who were hot favourites. The only difference this time around is that Cork will start as favourites next month. Do we need to add that they won that showpiece versus the Banner 18 years ago? And went on to bigger things at Croke Park in September? No, we don’t.

Waterford stuck in neutral

There is no way of sugaring the pill. This was desperately disappointing stuff. Against opponents who’d had a previous outing, were they hampered by their inactivity since the league quarter-final against Galway on the first Sunday in April? For the first half they patently were. Yet, by the interval, they should have adjusted to the pitch and pace of proceedings and been able to kick on from there. Their failure to do so was perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the afternoon from a Suirside perspective.

The saving grace is that, unlike their predecessors of 1999, Waterford have a shot at redemption and they have it very quickly: Next Saturday week, their season will either die or receive new life in the first round of the qualifiers. Far from hoping to draw Offaly or Dublin, they should be praying for a date with a vulnerable Kilkenny. That would be the perfect way of resetting their championship campaign and starting afresh.

Austin Gleeson must discover a happy medium

Not an original comment. It was made more than once last summer as the Mount Sion youngster mixed the high with the low, rarely producing a 7 out of 10 display. Here he again oscillated wildly, producing a swoony sleight of wrist for a point in the first half, but also driving three wides and frequently essaying the Hollywood ball from distance instead of dropping the sliotar short to a colleague: an old failing.

The individual performance of the championship to date came from Lee Chin against Kilkenny, largely because Chin varied his game and didn’t try to do everything by himself. Someone should show Gleeson the video.

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