Fitzgerald ‘very pleased’ despite Rebels’ defeat

STAND-IN Cork manager Ger Fitzgerald declared himself “very pleased” with the 2009 Cork hurling panel’s display in last night’s challenge match defeat to Waterford in Mallow.

Waterford 2-15 Cork 2-13

On the night after the 2008 Cork hurling panel aired their grievances, Fitzgerald took the managerial reins due to the absence of Gerald McCarthy for “personal and family reasons”, and remained tight-lipped on any response to the 2008 players statement. Fitzgerald oversaw a game where his young charges ran out of gas in the final ten minutes against an experimental Waterford team.

“We’re very pleased,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s our second match in a programme of three. We’re getting the lads very much acclimatised to the standard and the condition of hurling.

“This is a learning curve for every one of those lads. I think they’re coping very well and are improving with every game. We’re absolutely delighted with them. Maybe a lack of fitness and concentration told in the end.”

"For Cork, Barry Johnson once more lead the way in the scoring stakes by with 0-8, with fellow half-forwards Aidan Ryan and Darren Crowley also competing well, while Sarsfields defender Conor O’Sullivan was in impressive form.

Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald only started two players, Ken McGrath and Jack Kennedy, who featured in last September’s All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny, while Declan Prendergast was introduced as a first-half substitute. Fitzgerald will be heartened by the contribution of his full-forward line that caused havoc for the Cork rearguard by notching a combined 2-13. Shane Casey’s point-scoring was prolific in the second-half, Shane Walsh hit a bullet strike to the net late on while Maurice Shanahan, younger brother of Dan, showcased his abilities with a 1-5 haul.

The sides matched each other stride for stride for much of the first-half. Cork lead 0-3 to 0-2 after the opening quarter, thanks to an early brace by Johnson and a super score by Adrian Mannix. Yet by the interval Waterford had pegged them back to a position of parity at 0-7 apiece. Shanahan clipped over some nice scores up front, Walsh and Casey also grabbed points, while Jack Kennedy booted over in injury-time when the prospect of a goal was in the offing.

In the second-half Cork began brightly, with a point from Crowley and two from Johnson, pushing them into an early 0-10 to 0-7 advantage. Waterford rallied with Casey supplying two points before Cork struck a significant blow in the 40th minute, Aidan Ryan gathering a loose ball and batting it to the net. They maintained a three-point lead for the next ten minutes, 1-12 to 0-12, Johnson the main score-taker for Cork and Shanahan fitting a similar role for Waterford.

But in the final ten minutes Waterford conjured up an explosive finish. Firstly Shanahan wriggled free to find the net in the 51st minute and then Walsh fired that stunning finish home after he beat two defenders. Tommy Connors and Shane Casey tacked on a point each and Waterford had a six-point lead entering injury-time. Cork did mount a late rally, Ryan pointing and enjoyed a late fillip when substitute Craig Leahy’s long ball deceived goalkeeper Donal O’Rourke and dropped to the net.

Cork are set to face All-Ireland club semi-finalists Portumna in a challenge match next Sunday afternoon in Mallow as their final preparation before the commencement of the National Hurling League against Dublin the following weekend.

Scorers for Waterford: M Shanahan 1-5 (0-3f), S Walsh 1-3, S Casey 0-5, J Kennedy, T Connors 0-1 each.

Cork: B Johnson 0-8 (0-5f, 0-1 '65), A Ryan 1-2, C Leahy 1-0, D Crowley 0-2, A Mannix 0-1.

WATERFORD: D O'Rourke; J Maher, D O'Brien, N Connors; S Fives, K McGrath, J Murray; P Murray, R Foley; J Kennedy, T Connors, P Hurney; S Casey, S Walsh, M Shanahan. Subs: D Prendergast for O'Brien (yellow) (19).

CORK: C Cronin; C O'Sullivan, C Murphy, E Clancy; E Keane, R Ryan, J Moran; A Mannix, S McDonnell; B Johnson, A Ryan, D Crowley; E Cronin, M Collins, T Óg Murphy.

Subs: C Leahy for Moran (half-time), G O'Connor for Keane (55), P Lynch for Cronin (58).

Referee:J O'Mahony (Limerick).

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