By John Fogarty
Waterford 1-24 Cork 0-17
A dominant Waterford claimed their first Division 1 title in eight years, becoming the first team from Division 1B to claim the national honour.
To borrow golf parlance, this was a wire-to-wire victory as they never relinquished a lead they built in the early minutes. They may have been as wayward as Cork with some of their shot-taking, but they were infinitely the better outfit this afternoon.
In front of a slightly disappointing 17,559 Semple Stadium crowd, Waterford sealed the victory with substitute Tom Devine's deflected goal in the 64th minute.
However, they had all but done enough to finish out this league campaign unbeaten prior to that with a marvellous display of team-work and graft. Almost 10 minutes before the goal, they were seven points the better team.
Although Maurice Shanahan cut a lone furrow in the full-forward line for much of the game, Donegal comparisons won't be made so quickly thrown at Derek McGrath's men on the basis of this display.
Here they created almost 40 scoring opportunities. As for Cork, their conventional configuration looked dated here and they will have plenty to study not just about Waterford but themselves for the counties' Munster semi-final in five weeks' time.
Waterford's intensity was evident from the outset and they exploited three early Cork mistakes to take an encouraging lead after four minutes. Cork were slack and while they recovered with two frees it wasn't until the 19th minute that Conor Lehane sent over their first score from play.
But before that Waterford strung together another three points without reply via a dazzling Austin Gleeson sideline, a Pauric Mahony point and a Kevin Moran effort from distance.
Cork restored some composure but Seamus Harnedy saw his 20th minute shot brilliantly saved by Stephen O'Keeffe and substitute Paudie O'Sullivan, on for hamstring victim Alan Cadogan, fumbled the rebound.
There was some justice for Waterford as a sideline ball had been erroneously awarded to Cork in the lead-up.
Lehane, though, followed by a Rob O'Shea score but they were cancelled out by a Jamie Barron long-ranger after a terrific Shane Fives catch followed by a wonder score from Austin Gleeson close to where he converted his sideline.
A Horgan free cut the gap to three but Waterford finished out the half four ahead, 0-11 to 0-7, to give the score-line a better reflection of their dominance.
Scorers for Waterford: Pauric Mahony (0-11, 8 frees, 1 65); T Devine (1-1); K Moran (0-3); A Gleeson (1 sideline), M Shanahan, M Walsh (0-2 each); J Barron, S Bennett, B O'Halloran (0-1 each)
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan (0-7, frees); C Lehane (0-5); S Harnedy (0-2); B Cooper, R O'Shea, A Walsh (0-1 each).
Subs for Waterford: B O'Halloran for C Dunford (58); T Devine for S Bennett (61); S O'Sullivan for J Dillon (67); M O'Neill for A Gleeson (70); G O'Brien for J Barron (70+1).
Subs for Cork: P O'Sullivan for A Cadogan (inj 11); B Lawton for A Walsh, L O'Farrell for R O'Shea (both 49); D Cahalane for A Ryan (57); J Coughlan for S Harnedy (70+1).
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; A Gleeson, T de Burca, Philip Mahony; J Barron, K Moran; C Dunford, Pauric Mahony, M Walsh; J Dillon, M Shanahan, S Bennett.
CORK: A Nash; S O'Neill, A Ryan, S McDonnell; L McLoughlin, M Ellis, C Murphy; D Kearney, A Walsh, B Cooper, S Harnedy, R O'Shea; A Cadogan, C Lehane, P Horgan.
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary)