It’s never too early in the year to make history.
Waterford’s deserved win over Cork in yesterday’s McGrath Cup semi-final had local GAA experts searching for precedents as they streamed down the hill from chilly Clashmore.
A league win over the Rebels back in 1957 was cited as the last competitive victory for Waterford over Cork in football, and the only pity is that there weren’t more than 337 spectators at the game yesterday.
The home manager wasn’t losing his head, mind you.
“It’s the 18th of January,” said Tom McGlinchey.
“It’s heavy ground, the wind was tough. Cork will say they didn’t start some of their marquee players, but that’s not to take anything away from our lads.
“Our focus is on the 31st of January, the league, and that’s not taking anything away from today. The great thing is that they have an idea now they can compete.”
And a little bit more.
McGlinchey’s calmness was counterbalanced by the visible disappointment of Cork manager Brian Cuthbert: “There aren’t too many positives to take out of today, we played very poorly. It was one of our worst performances in a long time. The first-half was the winning and the losing of the game. I thought we improved in the second-half, we owned the ball for the last 10 minutes, but our play in the first-half was extremely poor.”
Cork had the dubious advantage of a blustery wind in the first-half but they missed four early frees while Shane Ahearne pointed two placed balls for Waterford.
Dan McEoin opened Cork’s account with a free on 17 minutes but Waterford were dominating everywhere, with the O’Gorman brothers prominent in a tight defence and Liam Lawlor a clever playmaker up front.
Two late scores from Padraig Hurney and Michael O’Halloran made it 0-4 to 0-2 at the break, and it was 0-6 to 0-2 five minutes into the second-half.
Cork dominated possession for the rest of the game, and Cuthbert sent on Colm O’Neill, Donncha O’Connor and Paul Kerrigan, among others, to retrieve the situation, but Cork couldn’t close the gap.
Waterford combined well to break upfield for scores and kept their noses in front with scores from O’Halloran and a last free from Aherne on 60 minutes.
Cork managed one more point after that, an O’Neill free, but they also kicked three wides and Waterford ended the game with another sweeping attack.
“We were under the cosh there for the last 10 minutes or so,” said McGlinchey. “It would have been easy for lads to dive in and give away an easy free or two, but they didn’t panic, and even the way they worked out the last ball, up the field, it was just a shame Shane (Ahearne) didn’t get the free from it, given how well he played.
“The fact the lads went to the 73rd minute is pleasing, but there won’t be any bonfires lit. We still have a final to play and we want to win another competitive game. UCC have an incredible team. It’s another test for us and hopefully if we come through that with another performance we’ll be ready for the league.”
Because Waterford secured that McGrath Cup final place, Cuthbert said Cork would have to find a challenge game somewhere next weekend. Being “bossed” by a Division Four team is more of a headache, though.
“We dropped four or five frees into the keeper’s hands,” said Cuthbert. “We could have had a point at the end to get extra-time and normally Donncha (O’Connor) would slot that over, but overall we were sloppy and didn’t take our chances. We’re a long way from where we need to be. I thought they bossed us, they bossed the game for the first 35 minutes and though we had the ball in the second-half we didn’t take our chances.”
A point from play — and that scored on 60 minutes — bears that out.
Though McGlinchey was correct about recognising the date, Cork will be concerned at their failure to match Waterford for work-rate and application at the very least, particularly with onerous league trips looming.
A different challenge for Waterford, though. A sniff of silverware, and a chance to make history all over again next weekend.
Scorers for Waterford: S. Aherne 0-3 (fs); M. O’Halloran, G. Nugent 0-2 each; P. Hurney 0-1.
Scorers for Cork: D. MacEoin, D. O’Connor and C. O’Neill 0-2 each (all frees); M. Collins (0-1).
WATERFORD: S. Enright, D. Crowley, N. Walsh, T. O’Gorman, T Ó hUallachain, M. O’Gorman, R. Ó Ceallaigh, S. Aherne, T. Prendergast, M. Curry, M. O’Halloran, P. Hurney, L. Lawlor, G. Nugent, J. Veale.
Subs: C. Phelan for Curry, 52; L O Corraoin for Veale (56); D. Hallahan for O Ceallaigh (64).
CORK: K. O’Halloran, L. Jennings, T. Clancy, S. O’Donoghue, P. Hodnett, E. Cadogan, J. O’Sullivan, M. Cussen, M. Collins, K. O’Driscoll, B. O’Driscoll, G. Durrant, D. MacEoin, F. Ó Deasunaigh, J. Hayes.
Subs: C. O’Neill for Ó Deasunaigh, D. O’Connor for MacEoin and C. O’Driscoll for Durrant (all HT); P. Kerrigan for Hayes (44); J. O’Rourke for O’Sullivan (61).
Referee: S. Joy (Kerry).