Third quarter surge sends Cork on way

Cork 2-18 Wexford 2-12
Cork blitzed Wexford in the third quarter of an entertaining game to emerge from Nowlan Park with an eighth All-Ireland intermediate hurling title.

The Rebels got off to the worst possible start when Jim Berry’s shot from distance flew all the way to the net, as former Wexford senior star, Red Barry challenged Cork goalkeeper Richie Cunningham.

Cunningham illustrated the composure of Liam Hayes’ side as he was very solid aerially from that juncture and made a cracking full-length save from Barry in the second half. Unsurprisingly, Hayes pointed to the manner in which his team went through the gears in the second-half as being crucial.

“Wexford got a quicker start than we thought with a goal early on, but, in fairness to the lads, they showed a bit of character, they stuck to the task and they got the result in the end” said the Cork manager.

“After half time, they came out and in the third quarter they really kicked on. They were aggressive in the tackles, they got the scores when they were required the most. They’re a good side and I’m delighted the way it went.

“It was a long campaign with five matches. It was one of the longest campaigns in this grade for a long time and it shows how good a team they are.

“They’ll go back to their clubs now with an air of confidence and, hopefully, they’ll do well with their clubs and go on to have more county success.”

Alan Dennehy and Tadhg Healy were dominant through the spine of the Cork defence and that was critical given they were marking ex-senior players Barry and Berry.

Up front, the likes of Michael O’Sullivan, Colm Casey and Anthony Spillane were causing mayhem with their speed, leading to the concession of frees that Peter O’Brien gleefully converted.

The Kildorrery man, who scored 13 points in the semi-final win over Galway, slotted five from placed balls in the first-half and finished with a tally of eight in total as he added three from play in the second-half.

The sides were soon level after that lightning opening and though Barry Jordan, Tommy Dwyer and Emmet Kent quickly put three between them once more, Spillane and Casey ensured that the gap was down to the minimum at the break 1-7 to 0-9.

Giving the strength of the wind, that was never going to be sufficient as long Cork continued to dominate around the middle third in terms of possession. They would have resumed with considerably more optimism had Barry made the most of a glorious goal chance just before the interval. However, the St Anne’s man flashed a low drive just wide of the left hand upright. Cork made the most of the let-off and had four points on the board in no time to go clear. O’Brien fired his first from play and quickly made it two, while the excellent Casey and O’Sullivan also raised white flags.

O’Sullivan struck for a goal off the sod in the 38th minute, after his initial attempt was blocked, to put six between the sides and though Wexford responded with an excellent score by Peter Murphy and another by Dwyer, David Drake blasted Cork’s second goal after good work by Spillane to put the issue beyond doubt. The game was over and Cork gave the impression they were aware of this, as they became a little self-indulgent and shot some poor wides. Drake also somehow missed the target from point-blank range.

Wexford substitute, Nicky Kirwan batted a goal seven minutes time after Dwyer’s shot from a free was blocked but Cork confirmed their superiority with points from Casey, Drake and their own impressive sub, Barry Lawton to calm the nerves.

Game-changer

The tide was already turning against Wexford at this stage but when Michael O’Sullivan rifled to the net off the sod in the 38th minute, you couldn’t see a way back for them.

Talk of the town

John Cronin’s majestic first-half point, when he won possession from the Wexford puckout in his own half, and embarked on a 40m solo run before driving over.

Did that just happen?

David Drake scored an excellent goal but he’s likely to be on the receiving end of some serious slagging over his miss from five metres later on.

Best on show

There were numerous contenders for Cork in Tadhg Healy, Peter O’Brien, Colm Casey and Cronin but the latter just edges it for his all-round, energetic contribution.

Sideline superior

Larry Doyle used his bench early and Nicky Kirwan had a good impact but there was no stopping Cork’s attacking speedsters. Rebel sub, Barry Lawton caught the eye.

The man in black

Alan Kelly was not fussy and didn’t get anything major wrong.

Scorers for Cork: P O’Brien (0-8, five frees), C Casey (0-4), M O’Sullivan, D Drake (1-1 each), B Lawton (0-2), J Cronin, A Spillane (0-1 each).

Scorers for Wexford: N Kirwan (1-2), T Dwyer (2fs), E Kent (3fs) (0-3 each), R Barry (1-0), P Murphy (0-2), B Jordan, J Berry (0-1 each).

CORK: R Cunningham; J Callaghan, A Dennehy, B O’Sullivan, C Barry, T Healy, M Walsh, N Kelly, J Cronin, C Spillane, P O’Brien, M O’Sullivan, C Casey, D Drake, A Spillane.

Subs: B Lawton for Walsh (41), M Sugrue for A Spillane (60), R Crowley for Drake.

WEXFORD: N Breen, B Mulligan, J Breen, B Kehoe, P Naughter, M Jacob, M Maloney, B Jacob, T O’Dwyer, B Jordan, J Berry, P Murphy, E Kent, R Barry, J Reck.

Subs: G Dolan for Murphy temp (21-22), A Rochford for Naughter (38), Dolan for B Jacob (38), T O’Leary for Kent (43), N Kirwan for Reck (43).

Referee: A Kelly (Galway).

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