It went to extra-time, and in fairness to Cork they played most of those 20 minutes a man short (wing-back Alan O’Callaghan sent off for a second bookable offence) and yet were still in with a shout of winning the game with just two minutes to play. Had Waterford been denied however, it would have been an injustice. They were the better side, had several of the most consummate hurlers on view. Centre-back Austin Gleeson was simply magnificent, corner-forward Patrick Curran was sublime, and these were aided and abetted by a host of strong performers from front to back, sub Darren Foran especially prominent.
Waterford now go on to meet Limerick in the Munster final on July 14th, and deservedly so.
It all began so promisingly for Cork, a goal within 30 seconds of the start, corner-forward Michael Cahalane slipping inside the Waterford defence and giving Gavin Power no chance from close range. Points from Pa O’Callaghan (3), Richard Cahalane, Michael Cahalane again, captain Cathal McCormack and Anthony Spillane, in reply to just a single point for Waterford (Patrick Curran, 11m), had the home side well ahead in the 18th minute, 1-7 to 0-1. But the powerful Waterford inside duo of Curran and Stephen Bennett were already beginning to threaten. Corner-forward Conor Gleeson had three bad wides, as had the normally lethal Bennett, but Waterford did manage three points before the break, Patrick Curran with two, Colin Roche with the third. Crucial points they were too, and they left Waterford trailing by a manageable six points, 1-7 to 0-4. Better was to follow for the Decies, however, much better.
An electric restart for Waterford, for centre-forward Roche particularly, saw this game turned on its head; 2-1 within three minutes, a goal each from Roche and the powerful Stephen Bennett, Roche also with the point, and now Cork were in trouble, trailing 2-5 to 1-7.
The middle third was where Waterford were winning this battle, Cork struggling under their own puckouts especially. The inside line of Michael Cahalane, Pa O’Callaghan and Anthony Spillane looked threatening but suffered from a poor supply of ball, and poor ball when it was supplied. Entering the end of the third quarter it was Waterford very much on the ascendancy but still only a goal ahead, 2-10 to 1-10, Patrick Curran doing the needful for them time and again. A few shrewd switches however and Cork were back in the game, and with Mark O’Connor, O’Callaghan and Spillane notching the points, managed to tie it up in normal time, 1-15 to 2-12.
Two minutes into added time came a critical moment, the second yellow for the unfortunate O’Callaghan. Cork battled on, actually led at the break (1-18 to 2-14), but the extra man and Waterford’s undoubted ability eventually told and in those final 10 minutes Cork were outscored 1-5 to 0-2, sub Darren Foran with the killer goal.
Credit to Cork for their courage but the underage drought continues; kudos to Waterford, a continuation of a great underage season, Munster and All-Ireland colleges A and B titles already in the bag. They’ll prove a handful for Limerick.
Scorers for Waterford: P Curran (0-12, seven frees, 0-2 65s); C Roche (1-3); Stephen Bennett (1-1); D Foran (1-0); C Gleeson, C Breathnach, P O’Connor (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: P O’Callaghan (0-10, five frees); M Cahalane (1-1); A Spillane (0-4); M O’Connor (0-3, one free); R Cahalane, C McCormack (0-1 each).
WATERFORD: G Power; C Leamy, W Hahessey, K Daly (c); T Devine, A Gleeson, Shane Bennett; M Harney, M Kearney; A Farrell, C Roche, C Curran; P Curran, Stephen Bennett, C Gleeson.
Subs: D Foran for Farrell (26); M O’Brien for Kearney (30); C Breathnach for C Curran (45); S Hogan for Roche (inj. 75); P O’Connor for Harney (76).
CORK: P Collins; D Quinn, K Histon, S O’Brien; C Twomey, K O’Connor, A O’Callaghan; M O’Connor, R Cahalane; C McCormack (c), K O’Neill, P Kelleher; M Cahalane, P O’Callaghan, A Spillane.
Subs: C Kelleher for S O’Brien (inj. 7); B Dunne for Kelleher (44); A Ward for Dunne (71); D Hannon for O’Connor (77).
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).