While the home side paraded at least seven of the players expected to be included in their championship starting 15, the Leesiders fielded none of those who started the league decider against Galway 24 hours earlier.
Yet Cork held their own, and more, throughout and were decidedly unlucky not to have come away with at least a share of the spoils. The victory apart, there weren’t too many positives to be taken from the game by Déise manager Davy Fitzgerald other than another stellar performance in defence by Tony Browne.
Cork had the first of their four goals on 13 minutes when Luke Farrell rattled the net, and while Waterford eased five points clear thanks to a well-taken Stephen Molumphy goal, Cian McCarthy crashed a 20-metre free to the net in the 24th minute and the Leesiders were the minimum adrift, 1-9 to 2-5, at the interval.
Cork made a raft of half-time changes, five in all, and were level inside 30 seconds of the restart when Adrian Mannix pointed, and Tony Murphy’s fine score had them in front inside another minute.
Teenager Thomas Ryan had the first of two goals from penalties when he breached Cork’s three-man wall in the 41st minute, and Waterford edged four points clear with 12 minutes left.
But this inexperienced Cork outfit was clearly up for a battle, and goals by Leigh Desmond from a 60th minute penalty and an absolute cracker from Tony Murphy two minutes later had them three points in front.
To Waterford’s credit they responded. Ryan lashed home his second penalty goal after Seamas Prendergast was taken down in the 65th minute, and Stephen Molumphy tacked on the lead point with a mighty effort two minutes from the end.
Cork however equalised from Desmond’s free on the call of time, but with what would be the second last puck of the game Ryan landed Waterford’s winner from a free to deny the Rebels the draw.
Scorers for Waterford; T Ryan, 2-3 (2-0 pens, 0-2f); M Shanahan (0-6, 5f); S Molumphy (1-1); T Browne(0-2, sl, ‘65’); S Prendergast, T Connors, S Casey, K Moran (0-1) each.
Scorers for Cork; Tony Murphy, 1-2; C McCarthy, 1-2 (1-1f); L Desmond, 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f); L O’Farrell, 1-0; B Johnson, 0-2 (2f); T Óg Murphy, P O’Sullivan, M O’Sullivan, A Mannix, 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: A Power; N Connors, D Prendergast, J Maher; T Browne, M Walsh, K McGrath; S Fives, E McGrath; S Prendergast, M Shanahan, T Connors; S Casey, S Molumphy, T Ryan. Subs: M O’Brien for N Connors (inj); K Moran for Shanahan; J Murray for Browne.
CORK: M Coleman; C O’Sullivan, D Cunningham, S Murphy; K Hartnett, A Ryan, R Ryan; G Calnan, L Desmond; C McCarthy, M O’Sullivan, T Óg Murphy; P O’Sullivan, F O’Leary, O’Farrell. Subs: T Murray for O’Farrell; T Murphy for P O’Sullivan; E Keane for Cunningham; S White for R Ryan; A Mannix for McCarthy; M McCarthy for M O’Sullivan; B Jonson for Callinan; D Crowley for T Óg Murphy; D McCarthy for Coleman.
Referee: S Roche (Tipperary).