Brick Walsh remains the cornerstone as solid Waterford see off Cork

CORK 1-18 WATERFORD 1-24

Mallow in early January will never be mistaken for Broadway, and the chill in the north Cork evening made it a testing venture for the 2,021 spectators in attendance for Cork and Waterford in last night’s Co-Op Superstores Munster SHL clash.

Waterford were more clinical than their opponents and deserved the win. In Stephen Bennett, they had a more metronomic free-taker than Cork’s Declan Dalton, and a sprinkling of stardust in the form of some experienced players helped them over the line.

One long-running show in particular continued last evening, with Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh returning to the Waterford senior ranks for another season, and wearing a jersey he first donned in 2003. The Stradbally man was named at wing-back, where Tony Browne starred for the Déise for more than 20 years: Perhaps the top itself should be tested for performance-enhancing powers.

Playing with the wind, Waterford had an early scoring burst by Stephen Bennett to thank for their dominance. His 0-3 in three minutes was reeled in quickly by Cork, with Robbie O’Flynn and William Kearney contributing. Waterford settled and five on the bounce pushed them 0-8 to 0-4 ahead on 14 minutes, Kevin Moran’s long-range effort the pick of those scores.

Cork had a goal on 21 minutes, Aidan Walsh finishing a Declan Dalton sideline to the net, making it 1-5 to 0-10. Dalton and Bennett swapped frees before a Dalton brace levelled the game at 1-8 to 0-11.

Local man Cormac Murphy nudged Cork ahead with two minutes to the break but Bennett (free) levelled. Dalton drove over two late frees to leave it 1-11 to 0-12 at the half.

Waterford resumed with a goal. Cork were in control at the back but over-elaborated fatally as they worked the ball upfield. Brick Walsh, of all people, availed of the defensive mix-up to fire home, and three good points — Tommy Ryan (two) and Barron — pushed the visitors 1-15 to 1-12 ahead.

Waterford were in charge and Cork needed a Cormac Murphy point just to stay in touch. Bennett (free) and Kearney responded, leaving it 1-17 to 1-14 on 51 minutes.

Murphy and Bennett (free) swapped scores, maintaining Waterford’s advantage before Bennett hit a monster to stretch the visitors’ lead to four turning into the last ten minutes.

Cork rallied with some late scores, including a long-range effort from Tim O’Mahony, but they needed a goal to win it and Waterford defended their lead comfortably enough — fittingly, Bennett had the last word to make it safe.

Pre-season competitions like this could be seen by a cynic as an exercise in Darwinism, and the absence of recognisable names argues strongly in this vein.

All over the country games such as these are a matter of newcomers trying to catch the eye rather than the established men reiterating their credentials. The American astronauts of the ’60s disparaged their annual medicals as offering reasons for exclusion —what was the benefit of being told you were as good as you were last year, they felt. Long-serving players could be forgiven for viewing these competitions in much the same way.

For Cork, whose participation in the league ended last evening, it was a case of lessons learned — about goalkeeper Patrick Collins, wing-back Robert Downey, midfielder Conor Cahalane — for the upcoming tests of the national league, whatever about the Munster championship, which looms far beyond the horizon.

For Waterford, there might have been fewer new faces, but as a great hurling man once said, you stick with what you have until you have better.

Who could prove that axiom with more aplomb than the Waterford No7 last night?

Brick Walsh’s contribution last night ran on two tracks. First, the Waterford man played himself into the pitch of the game — the famous flick was seen more than once — and second, he struck for arguably the crucial score of the match, his side’s second-half goal.

The habits learned in Mallow in January can be sharpened for Thurles in July, obviously.

Scorers for Cork: D. Dalton (0-9, 7 frees); A. Walsh (1-0); C. Murphy (0-3); M. O’Halloran (0-2); R. O’Flynn, W. Kearney, T. O’Mahony, C. Joyce (0-1 each.)

Scorers for Waterford: Stephen Bennett (0-13, 10 frees); M. Kearney (0-4); M. Walsh (1-0); T. Ryan, K. Moran, J. Barron (0-2), J. Prendergast (0-1).

CORK: P. Collins, N. O’Leary, D. Griffin, D. Lowney, C. Joyce, T. O’Mahony, R. Downey, C. Cahalane, W. Kearney, C. Murphy, M. O’Halloran, A. Walsh, J. Coughlan, D. Dalton, R. O’Flynn.

Subs: C. Beausang for O’Flynn (inj, 24); C. O’Callaghan for Lowney (inj, 33); E. Murphy for Walsh (HT); S. O’Leary Hayes for Downey (61); P Leopold for Coughlan (62).

WATERFORD: B. Nolan, S. McNulty, S. Fives, N. Connors (c), J. Henley, M. O’Brien, M. Walsh, J. Barron, B. O’Halloran, K. Moran, M. Kearney, DJ Foran, T. Ryan, Stephen Bennett, C. Roche.

Subs: C. Prunty for O’Brien (53); S. Roche for Walsh (55); A. Gleeson for Moran (63); J. Prendergast for C. Roche (66); K. Bennett for McNulty (70).

Referee: J. Murphy (Limerick).

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