By Jim O’Sullivan
SUNDAY was extra special for Waterford selector Shamie Hannon.
Hannon endured some of the darkest days of the county’s hurling history with Cork being the chief culprits in serving up the pain.
The anguish of the 1982 Munster final defeat, when the Decies suffered a humiliating 31 points defeat, is one that still haunts him. But yesterday’s Semple Stadium’s heroics have helped heal some of those scars.
"This was the ‘master’ of all the days for this team. Even though we won it in ’02, it couldn’t compare with Sunday’s victory," he said.
"It was the culmination of a lot of good games put together, which we couldn’t ever do before.
"To win a Munster championship by beating Clare, Tipperary and Cork was something else. It was just super.
"A lot of people never saw us beating Cork in a Munster final. We had beaten Tipperary [two years ago] but we hadn’t beaten Cork since 1959. "That was an awful long time back for a lot of the younger players and the younger supporters." he added.
The loss of John Mullane minutes into the second half was potentially catastrophic, and the manner of the team’s response was the most pleasing aspect of the day for Hannon.
"It showed the grit and determination that this team is made of, compared to any team that came before.
"They are made in stern stuff and in fairness when they really had to graft for it, they proved that they were up to the task. Above all days, really this was a test of character and they responded brilliantly.
"I knew all the time this bunch of players would go places if they wanted to. There was no one going to beat them, only themselves!
"The team showed the same type of character against Tipperary, both in the League and in the Munster final. We met Tipp in the last round of the League in Thurles and we were eight points down at half time. We asked them for an effort and they really dug it out.
"Cork, in fairness, put it up to us and took some great scores. On the day we were probably that bit better. But, as we expected, they didn’t go down without a big fight."
Since their 1959 final victory, Waterford had, prior to Sunday, recorded only three other championship victories over Cork: the first round in 1974; a semi-final replay in 1989; and the semi-final of two years ago. Hannon was a member of the 1974 side, which had Paul Flynn’s father, Pat, in goal, and Pat McGrath at half-back. This game also marked the end of Justin McCarthy’s playing career.
Waterford’s 1959 triumph was especially noteworthy for the half-time scoreline in their semi-final with Tipperary at the old Cork Athletic Grounds. They were ahead 8-2 to nil, winning eventually by 9-3 to 3-4.
They beat Cork in the final 3-9 to 2-9, with the following team: E. Power; J. Harney, A. Ryan, J. Barron; M. Lacey, M. Óg Morrissey, J. Condon; S. Power, P. Grimes; L. Guinan, T. Cheasty, F. Walsh (capt.); C. Ware, D. Whelan, J. Kiely.