But Fitzgerald, overseeing his first championship game in charge, wasn’t unduly concerned as Cork had come through an energy-sapping Lidl Division 1 League final clash with Mayo last week.
Cork carried some niggles into this Fermoy fixture and lined out without concussed captain Ciara O’Sullivan. Dual star Rena Buckley was also forced off at half-time with a hamstring problem but the All-Ireland champions still managed to get off to a winning start.
Fitzgerald reflected: “I thought we were a bit flat. In fairness to Waterford, they were well organised and got 12 and 13 bodies behind the ball. After last week, it was always going to be maybe a little bit difficult to rise our girls again but I thought we ground it out in the second-half. There was only going to be one winner.
“We kicked a lot of wides, which we wouldn’t be happy about, but they flooded the full-back line and it was very difficult to get chances.”
Waterford troubled Cork for spells but spoilt much of their good work with 13 wides – and they went from the 22nd to the 51st minutes without a score.
Cork led 1-6 to 0-5 at half-time and it was a run of four unanswered points approaching the break that handed the hosts that advantage.
When Cork had the ball, Waterford defended in numbers and forced numerous turnovers but much of their good work was undone in the 16th minute when Áine O’Sullivan’s effort looped over Hannah Looney’s head into the Waterford net.
That was Cork’s first score from play and O’Sullivan added a point to put them two points clear, 1-2 to 0-3.
Back came Waterford with points from Delahunty and Michelle Ryan to draw level again but Cork upped the ante approaching the interval and four points in as many minutes handed them some breathing space.
Delahunty, who finished with seven wides, was also Waterford’s leading scorer with three points and she almost found the back of the net after half-time, but Briege Corkery superbly deflected the ball behind for a 45.
As Waterford struggled for scores, Cork were content to keep the scoreboard ticking over and while Annie Walsh’s sin-binning allowed Waterford get to within four points, the hosts hit back with late scores from O’Sullivan.
Á O’Sullivan 1-3, O Finn 0-5 (4f), O Farmer 0-2.
M Delahunty 0-3, M Ryan 0-2, A Wall & S Ryan 0-1 each.
M O’Brien; M Ambrose, B Stack, E Meaney; V Foley, D O’Reilly, R Phelan; A Walsh, B Corkery; R Buckley, Á O’Sullivan, O Farmer; R Ní Bhuachalla, H Looney, O Finn.
A Hutchings for Ambrose (27), N Cotter for Buckley (h.t.), E Farmer for Ní Bhuachalla (47), S Kelly for O Farmer (57), Á Hayes for Phelan (60).
K Hannon; M Dunford, M McGrath, L Wall; A Mullaney, M Wall, H Power; E Murray, G Kenneally; R Tobin, M Ryan, K Murray; M Delahunty, S Ryan, A Wall.
L McGregor for Tobin (36), C Hurley for S Ryan (49), L Devine for M Ryan (52), S Dunphy for McGregor (53).
K Delahunty (Tipperary).