The Newtownshandrum youngster was razor sharp in a Cork attack that struggled early on in the game, but eventually wore down the Waterford defence. It was a good start by the defending champions and there were a number of outstanding performers apart from Clifford.
Chris O’Donovan was superb at centre back and his lengthy clearances broke the hearts of a very weak Waterford forward line that failed to make any impression. Eoin McCarthy and Aylwin Kearney who was a late replacement also did well in defence.
Donal O’Sullivan and Maurice Sexton ensured Cork won the midfield exchanges while in attack, Luke O’Farrell and Donagh Stack complemented Ryan Clifford. However coach Don Cronin won’t be too happy with his charges who hit 14 wides to nine by their opponents.
Waterford were a huge disappointment. They went into the game off the back of two splendid victories, by the local DLS college and their seniors, but apart from the opening minutes, they never posed any real threat to the home side, and only Philip Mahony, Shane Kearney and substitute Cormac Curran can take any solace from this chastening defeat.
Luke O’Farrell opened scoring for Cork in the third minute with a point after a great run.
The visitors were level half a minute later but Cork, excellent in defence where Eoin McCarthy and Aylwin Kearney cleared a lot of ball, hit a great patch, scoring three points in a row, two by the impressive Donagh Stack, to open up a 0-5 to 0-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
It took a super save by ‘keeper Stephen Enright to deny Ryan Gifford a goal and the Waterford netminder was called into action seconds later this time to deny Michael Bowles as the home side applied the pressure.
A superb point by Shane Kearney kept Waterford in touch but the pressure on their defence was relentless and it paid off in the 25th minute when Ryan Clifford, easily Cork’s best forward, rattled the net. As the Waterford challenge began to crumble, Cork finished strongly with points by Stack and Ryan and the outcome of this disappointing contest looked inevitable as Cork went on to lead 1-8 to 0-4 at half time.
Waterford resumed the second half with Cormac Dineen in at wing forward where he played a lot of ball, and Craig Moloney out on the 40, and threatened a mini recovery with two points in quick succession but it was a false dawn as Cork cancelled out those scores with a brace themselves before finally closing the door on their opponents with a second goal.
Newtownshandrum team-mates Michael Bowles and the hugely talented Ryan Clifford combined for the latter to drill the sliotar straight and true and there was no way back for the Deices lads.
The remaining minutes of the half were played out at pedestrian pace as Cork scored at will and Ryan Clifford completed his hat-trick before the referee put Waterford out of their agony with the final whistle.
Scorers for Cork: R. Clifford 3-4 (0-1 free); D. Stack 0-4; L. O’Farrell 0-3; D. O’Sullivan 0-2; R. White, M. Sexton 0-1 each.
Waterford: S. Power 0-4 (frees); S. Kearney (Ballyduff Upper) 0-2; K. Duggan, C. Curran, C. Moloney 0-1 each.
D. McCarthy; J. Herlihy, A. Kearney, E. McCarthy; G. O’Connor, C. O’Donovan, S. McDonnell; D. O’Sullivan, M. Sexton; P. Gould, M. Bowles, R. White; L. O’Farrell, D. Stack, R. Clifford.
Subs. C. Sheehan for Gould; M. Moloney for Stack; R. O’Driscoll for O’Farrell; S. O’Brien for O’Sullivan.
S. Enright; S. Leahy, S. Fives, P. Kennedy; C. Clancy, P. Horkan, P. Mahony; N. Connors, K. Geary; S. Power, K. Duggan, S. Kearney; R. Fenton, C. Moloney, G. Crotty.
Subs: C. Curran for Geary; A. O’Neill for Clancy; S. Kearney (Brickey Rgs) for Crotty; J. Foran for Horkan; T. Casey for O’Neill.
J. Healy (Clare).