Déise edge Rebel fledglings

A MORE mature and experienced Waterford side deservedly retained their Waterford Crystal senior hurling tournament trophy in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday.

But this was also an honourable display by an extremely young and experimental Cork side. The Rebel underlings never threatened to win but they never gave up the fight either, battled right to the end and made Waterford earn the silverware.

Played in terrible conditions, driving wind and rain, the first half was a close-fought affair, at the end of which Waterford led 0-9 to 0-6. They had played into the stiff breeze, however, and already it was obvious the Deise were the stronger side.

The spine of experience offered by a half-back line of Shane O’Sullivan, Micheál ‘Brick’ Walsh and Jamie Nagle, along with captain Stephen Molumphy and Richie Foley in midfield, the powerful Seamus Prendergast at full-forward, was too much for this Cork team to break down.

Where Waterford had a good spread of scorers, speedy youngster Eamon Murphy, with two points, towering full-forward Seamus Prendergast with another brace, Shane Casey, Gavin Crotty and Paudie Mahoney with one each, along with a pair of pointed frees by the accurate Richie Foley.

Young Conor Lehane offered the only real scoring threat for Cork. The teenager finished the half with three points (finished the game with six, all from play, and two of those were goal-bound shots that were deflected over the bar by Waterford keeper Clinton Hennessey).

The second-half began brightly for Cork with three points within two minutes tying it up at nine points each, but that merely served to spur Waterford into real action, and seven points in the next nine minutes put daylight between the sides. Cork could have folded, but with substitute Cian McCarthy now augmenting the Lehane threat up front, they hit back and had it within four with 10 to go.

That was as near as they would come, however, and with Davy Fitzgerald having the luxury of being able to introduce Ken McGrath and Eoin Kelly in the final minutes, there was only going to be one result.

“Nothing beats winning,” said Fitzgerald. “And it was nice for us to be able to pick up a trophy. A lot of those lads hadn’t played before and it was good for them to get that experience. We had a couple of established lads and then a few who were new, but we were missing about 17 lads who would be in with a shout.

“Conditions were bad but there was good commitment – the one thing I’d ask of the boys is that they work hard and tackle hard, and they did that. We didn’t let that Cork side get into their stride — they love to run and pass all the time — and we didn’t let them do that.

“In fairness, Cork had none of their big names out, these were merely lads who are trying to make an impression and get on the panel and they put up a fair display. But we’ve a young team, a very young team, three-quarters of our panel are well under 25, which is very good. It’s not going to happen overnight for these lads – they’ve got to keep working – but at least the likes of this is great experience.”

Gaining experience was also the song being sung by Cork manager Denis Walsh: “I want to see players, I want to give them exposure. A lot of those lads were involved in the U21s, I want to give them a step-up. They’re the future of Cork hurling over the next few years, that’s the key thing. I’m pleased enough — they played well enough, apart from a lapse of ten minutes in both halves. Waterford scored seven points in seven minutes after we had drawn the game after half-time, and that was the difference.”

Scorers for Waterford: R Foley 0-10 (0-9 frees, 0-1 65); S Prendergast 0-3; E Murphy; S Casey 0-2 each; P Mahoney, G Crotty, S O’Sullivan, C Ryan, 0-1 each.

Scorer for Cork: C Lehane 0-6; C McCarthy 0-4 (0-1 free); B Cooper 0-2; C Joyce, R Ryan, G Callinan, E Murphy (free), 0-1 each.

WATERFORD: C Hennessey; C Ryan, J Maher, D Fives; S O’Sullivan, M Walsh, J Nagle; S Molumphy (c), R Foley; G Crotty, B O’Halloran, P Mahoney; S Casey, S Prendergast, E Murphy.

Subs: S Hannon for O’Halloran (inj. 6); K McGrath for Ryan (inj. 60); E Kelly for Crotty (67).

CORK: M Coleman; P O’Leary, C Fogarty, S Murphy; C Joyce, M Ellis, R Ryan; G Callinan, B Lawton; T Murray, B Cooper, C Lehane; J Coughlan, E Murphy, B Hartnett.

Subs: C McCarthy for Lawton (29); A Nash for Coleman (35); S Harnedy for Cooper (49); M Cussen for E Murphy (55); L O’Farrell for Hartnett (55).

Referee: M O’Connor (Limerick).

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