Cork opened early with a good Patrick O’Rourke point and Patrick Cronin added a 65 soon afterwards.
Waterford then got into gear, with Colin Dunford and Shane Bennett impressing at midfield, supplying the Déise forward division with plenty of ball. However, Bennett’s radar was off, with the Ballysaggart man putting three frees wide before finding his range. Luke O’Farrell’s sharpness got two points for Cork but Bennett (frees) and Shane O’Sullivan nudged Waterford ahead, 0-5 to 0-4, at the end of the first quarter. Seamus Harnedy, a blood sub for O’Rourke, had an immediate impact, hitting two points and pushing Cork ahead, thanks also to a Cronin free.
A sumptuous touch from Tommy Ryan put Mikey Kearney through on goal on 21 minutes, but Patrick Collins saved calmly for Cork. Two Bennett frees cut Cork’s advantage to one, 0-7 to 0-6, before Cork hit three — Cronin (free), O’Farrell and Brosnan. Inevitably, Bennett responded with two scores as half-time approached, but there was still time for a Cronin free to push Cork three clear — 0-11 to 0-8 at the break.
Cork almost opened with a goal in the second half, but Damien Cahalane couldn’t finish at the Waterford end. The men in white — who made three substitutions at the break — were sharper on the resumption. The lively Tommy Ryan had two good scores, a point either side of another Bennett free, while Cork didn’t trouble the scoreboard for 11 minutes of the half, until Cronin pointed a close-in free.
Approaching the three-quarter mark another Cronin free put Cork one ahead; when he added two more there was a relatively sizeable gap for the first time, though Waterford sub. Andy Molumphy cut their lead to two. Cork’s goal on 56 minutes, though, settled matters — sub William Leahy made no mistake when placed near the Waterford goal, goaling with a wicked drive.
In a game of close margins it looked enough to see Cork home, given it pushed their lead to five points, and so it proved. Cronin, Leahy and Cooper added points to make the game safe for the home side, with the result decided long before the final whistle — particularly when Cronin also added a late goal.
For those in attendance it was a chance to see how Waterford set up compared to last year, though clearly manager Derek McGrath wasn’t about to reveal any dazzling new templates in deepest January.
Still, he’ll be happy his side were able to create goal chances — three in the first-half compared to none for Cork — by streaming forward in numbers to support the man in possession. Waterford’s seventh point, for instance, came from an attack recycled to Tommy Waring after Cork’s ‘keeper Collins, saved well from the onrushing Mikey Kearney. It was a chance, it need hardly be said, that Maurice Shanahan or Jake Dillon would have been expected to bury in the net.
The good news wasn’t all for those heading east, either. Cork manager Kieran Kingston will be encouraged by Patrick Collins calm handling of one-on-ones, dropping balls and straight shots, generally exuding the air of a young Ger Cunningham. Or even an older Ger Cunningham.
Given the conditions, how much can be read into the result, however? Little enough. Waterford blew off some cobwebs. Cork got to know Mallow even better. For those in the stand, the picturesque raindrops cascading in the floodlights early on may be the strongest memory. It was a chance for Cork to put to bed the ghost of a few defeats last year, but what will the win be worth in the spring? In the summer?
This corner of the newspaper isn’t synonymous with punctuality, but it had gone half seven — the designated throw-in time — when Cork took the field last night in Mallow. In fairness to the hardy souls present, could we improve time-keeping all round?
P. Cronin (0-6 fs, 0-1 65)(1-8); W. Leahy (1-1); L. O’Farrell (0-3); S. Harnedy (0-2); B. Cooper, P. O’Rourke, S. Moylan, D. Brosnan (0-1) each.
S. Bennett (0-6, frees); T. Ryan, T. Waring (0-2) each; S. O’Sullivan M. Kearney, A. Molumphy (0-1) each.
P. Collins, S. Murphy, M. Ellis, C. Buckley, P. O’Mahony, B. Moylan, W. Egan, C. Murphy, D. Cahalane, D. Brosnan, B. Cooper, P. Cronin, P. O’Rourke, L. O’Farrell, S. Moylan.
S. Harnedy for O’Rourke (blood, 17-23); P. O’Sullivan for Buckley (45); W. Leahy for O’Farrell, inj., (53); S. Harnedy for Brosnan, (60).
I. O’Regan, C. Gleeson, S. Roche, K. Bennett, P. Prendergast, S. McNulty, G. O’Brien, C. Dunford, S. Bennett, C. Guiry, S. O’Sullivan, T. Waring, T. Ryan, C. Roche, M. Kearney.
F. McGrath for McNulty (blood, 35-HT); F. McGrath for G. O’Brien, S. Keating for Guiry, A. Molumphy for Dunford, S. Ryan for Prendergast (HT); H. Barnes for S. Bennett (55).
D. O’Driscoll (Limerick)