The replay? I’m really looking forward to that, though I doubt we’ll see the same two starting line-ups the next day.
IS there a more entertaining side in hurling than Cork and Waterford? In fact, forget about hurling and go to any sport you like – do you know of any two teams over the last seven or eight years who have consistently given us the kind of entertainment we got again in Semple Stadium yesterday?
Even the low-scoring first half — although the hurling wasn’t fantastic, the huge crowd was still on the edge of their seats with nothing between the teams in a very intense physical defensive battle.
I said Saturday that I couldn’t understand how Cork were such raging hot favourites for this game, 4/9 – I don’t think we’ll be seeing that again for next weekend!
Looking at the game, gripping as it was you would have to say that not everyone played well; there were those who did, and for Cork you had Donal Óg Cusack, Shane O’Neill, Brian Murphy, Ronan Curran (second half especially), John Gardiner alongside him (who took over leadership, the sign of a great player) along with both midfielders, Cathal Naughton and Tom Kenny.
Other than that, who for Cork had a game to remember yesterday? Niall McCarthy won a lot of possession, and he too showed great leadership, but had only one point to show for his efforts – you need more from a wing-forward. Aisake Ó hAilpín took his goal well, as did Ben O’Connor, but neither shone overall. You had to admire Ben’s courage, his character, never better shown than with that score.
Things weren’t running for him, frees and sidelines missed, yet still he went for the jugular — the mark of greatness.
Then you go to Waterford; Eoin Murphy and Noel Connors (especially) in the full-back line, Brick Walsh at centre-back, Shane O’Sullivan in the middle of the field, and two forwards, John Mullane and Eoin Kelly, all were immense. God help Waterford the day those latter two guys don’t play.
There was talk that Kelly was on crutches during the week; well, Knock, Lourdes or wherever he went, it was a good job for Waterford yesterday that Eoin managed to rid himself of those crutches!
This brings me to a pertinent point – why did Waterford shift John Mullane from full-forward? He had scored four points from play, was giving Eoin Cadogan all sorts of problems, and I think it was only a matter of time before he got a goal.
To be fair to the Waterford management team of Davy Fitzgerald, Padraig Fanning and Pat Bennett, they had no option but to act at the other end of the pitch when they took off full-back Liam Lawlor in the 50th minute; Lawlor was on a yellow card at that stage, could even have been on a second yellow after again fouling Aisake.
He was on thin ice, another foul and he was gone. But, Declan Prendergast went from wing-back to full-back, Aisake scored the first Cork goal, and the man Declan left behind, Ben O’Connor, got their second. It was the right decision by the Waterford management, but a costly decision.
At the other side of the field, another significant change, this time for Cork and again, enforced — Seán Óg Ó hAilpín’s injury, in the 45th minute. I wasn’t impressed with Ray Ryan, and felt Cork could have dropped Tom Kenny back to the wing, where he has starred for them before, and brought on Lorcan McLoughlin to midfield.
One outstanding move from the Cork sideline, however, was the introduction of Michael Cussen, after the injury to Jerry O’Connor. Suddenly Cork had a major threat in the air, and I thought this had a major impact on the game. Cussen scored and set up scores, made a general nuisance of himself, and troubled Brick Walsh more in his 25-minute stint than most others have ever done in 70. I also thought the introduction of Paudie O’Sullivan lifted Cork; he didn’t score, but he was certainly a threat. Good to see Pa Cronin back for Cork also, after injury.
What was most impressive for me yesterday, however, was the spirit of Waterford; when Cork scored their second goal – two body-blows in two minutes – Waterford could have died and thrown in the towel. But they didn’t. Instead they kept fighting, and Eoin Kelly’s goal on its own was as much of a lift to Waterford as Cork’s two just before it. In fairness to Eoin, he struck that final 20m free well also, which meant the ball rebounded far enough out the field for Tony Browne to pounce – and what a finish. It was a fitting result and fitting that such a guy should have the final say. The replay? I’m really looking forward to that, though I doubt we’ll see the same two starting line-ups the next day.
A word on the minor final: great win for Clare, though you had to feel sorry for a Waterford team that was forced into playing two huge games in just four days – they did look tired towards the end yesterday.
Huge credit must go to Clare, however, and to two men in particular, Donal Maloney and Gerry O’Connor, the joint-managers. They had their team perfectly prepared, primed to a tee and well deserved the win. Now they’re in an All-Ireland semi-final, which has to be a plus for Clare hurling. Waterford, however, are still there – remember that.
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