Relegation games can be strange affairs with so much pressure attached. Few are classics and this was no exception with many basic errors.
Cork manager John Meyler was delighted with the win. Cork came in under pressure, particularly after their defeat by Tipp last week. It would have been a huge backward step to drop to 1B after their championship performances in 2017.
Waterford manager Derek McGrath also expressed satisfaction with the overall effort of his players, maintaining there were many positives to be taken. He made the point that being in Division IB might not be a disadvantage to next year’s manager, perhaps an indication that he won’t be involved himself.
McGrath felt that Waterford’s decision-making was their chief failing. But Cork were notably fired up from the start while the Déise took a while to find their feet.
Kevin Moran is the main driving force of this team. His absence, along with Austin and Conor Gleeson, handed Cork a huge advantage. This Cork lineup was very close to their likely championship side and it would have been a huge psychological blow to go down to a weakened Waterford.
Cork built a lead of five points before Waterford opened their account. This was built on a platform of midfield dominance. Darragh Fitzgibbon and Bill Cooper contributed five points between them in the first half, finishing with seven, a huge return. Dean Brosnan chipped in with three.
The Déise had to wait until the final minutes of the first half for their first score from play but Derek McGrath must have been happy enough to go in at the break only three points down having played against the elements.
Cork allowed Waterford back into the game with the concession of avoidable frees, handing Waterford 1-2 when they were finding it difficult to hit the target from play. Colm Spillane got caught on the wrong side of Patrick Curran as a long high ball was delivered towards the Cork square. Spillane made no attempt to play the ball,dragging down his opponent who hadn’t even got possession at the time.
Curran buried the penalty. Anthony Nash advanced towards the strike when a sideways step to his right might have been the better option. But Nash made some smart stops from Colin Dunford and Stephen Bennett and his distribution was sharp and effective. At the other end, however, Cork failed to trouble an opposition goalkeeper for the second week in a row.
The sending-off of Maurice Shanahan didn’t help Waterford. But it wasn’t the key moment. That came when Shane Fives took a poor option running the ball out of defence. He passed to the static Philip Mahony when a pass to Pauric, who had come back at pace for the pass, would have been the better option. Cork intercepted and Patrick Horgan, who didn’t get a great supply, hit a sublime point from the wing to move Cork into a four-point lead. It was the point of the game and a fitting score to drive Cork onto victory.