From a Waterford perspective, however, it was the classic case of flattering to deceive, and once Cork settled and took control in the key sectors they steadily ground down the faltering Déise challenge and eventually ran out comprehensive if not entirely convincing winners.
As a spectacle, it was a major let-down, with Waterford never fulfilling the promise of their expectant fans. They began at a frenetic pace, looked to have the measure of the champions in many areas and quickly raced into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead with full-forward Craig Moloney looking particularly sharp.
The steadying and influential presence of Thomas Murray at midfield, and the cool and measured play of their half-back trio of Sean O’Riordan, Adrian Mannix, and Paudie O’Sullivan, gradually got Cork back into the game. They still trailed 0-4 to 0-2 midway through the half, but then upped the tempo all over the field and long before half time arrived, the alarm bells were ringing loudly in the home camp.
A Patrick Horgan point from a free and a quality one from play by Dan O’Callaghan had Cork level on 17 minutes, and when another Horgan point from a free put his side in front for the first time in the 23rd minute, it was a lead Cork never subsequently relinquished.
Waterford remained scoreless throughout the second quarter, in sharp contrast to Cork, who rifled over half a dozen points on the trot. One of them, a rasper off the ground by Donnagh Stack a minute before half-time, was a real gem.
Waterford rearranged their midfield on the restart but despite the lionhearted endeavours of Paul Murray the initiative Waterford had firmly held in the early exchanges was slipping away.
Cork, in contrast, looked far more assured, even if questions will be asked of their attack which often struggled in the face of stout Waterford defensive resistance.
A Moloney point from a free narrowed the Waterford deficit to a goal within three minutes, but Cork’s response was instant and emphatic and by the 40th minute they were motoring comfortably towards a Munster final showdown with Tipperary. Horgan (free), Lee Desmond and Murray landed three points in as many minutes and when Paudie O’Sullivan’s raking delivery was whipped to the net by Colm O’Neill past advancing goalkeeper Adrian Power the game was over as a meaningful contest.
It wasn’t the prettiest of goals nor was it the best of defending, but it did kill off any lingering hopes the home side might still have entertained of causing an upset. To their credit, they immediately responded with a goal of their own, although the defending wasn’t of the highest order, as Paul Murray’s 70-metre free sailed all the way to the net.
Two minutes later, Moloney’s fourth pointed free narrowed the deficit to a manageable five points but that was as close as they were to get. Cork tacked on five points on the trot from O’Neill, Murray, Brian Cory (2), and an absolute beauty from Dan O’Callaghan, with Waterford’s token response coming in the shape of a final Murray point from a free.
: Cork: C. O’ Neill (1-2); P. Horgan (0-5, frees); D. O’Callaghan (0-2); B. Corry (0-2); D. Stack, R. White, L. Desmond, T. Murray(0-1) each. Waterford: P. Murray (1-3, 0-1 free); C. Moloney (0-4, frees); D. Twomey(0-1).
: C. Cronin; J. O’Callaghan. J. Moran. C. O’Driscoll; S. O’Riordan. A. Mannix. P. O’Sullivan; L. Desmond. T. Murray; D. Stack. B. Corry. R. White; C. O’Neill. D. O’Callaghan. P. Horgan. Subs: S. Cotter for Stack (51 mins); S. Corcoran for Desmond (59 mins).
: A. Power; J. Maher. S. Fives. F. Galvin; S. O’Hare. K. Kearney. S. Walsh; P. Murray. J. Gorman; G. Dunphy. T. Connors. S. Kearney; D. Twomey. C. Moloney. P. O’Murchadha. Sub: D. Phelan for O’Hare (half-time).
: J. O’Mahony (Limerick).