By Jackie Cahill in Fermoy
Cork 1-10 Waterford 0-7
Ephie Fitzgerald marked his first championship fixture in charge of the Cork Ladies senior footballers with a six-point victory over Waterford in Fermoy this afternoon.
The TG4 All-Ireland champions looked flat following their exertions against Mayo in last Saturday’s Lidl Division League final but still had enough about them to see off dogged Waterford in this Munster opener.
This was a meeting between All-Ireland champions in two grades (Cork senior/Waterford intermediate) and both counties were also coming into this fixture on the back of winning League titles last weekend.
Waterford defeated Tipperary to claim Division 3 glory but getting one over on Cork in the championship was always going to be a major challenge.
Waterford troubled Cork for spells but spoiled much of their good approach work with a tally of 13 wides – and the Déise went from the 22nd to the 51st minutes without registering a score.
Cork led by 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.
Even without injured trio Louise Ryan, Caoimhe McGrath and Nicola Fennell, Waterford had been most competitive in the opening half and could have been closer at the break but for seven wides.
When Cork had the ball, Waterford defended in numbers and forced numerous turnovers but their energy levels visibly wilted as half-time approached and Cork began to exploit some gaps.
Orla Finn’s free had opened the scoring for Cork but a flowing Waterford move ended with captain Sinead Ryan kicking the equaliser.
Aileen Wall and Maria Delahunty added points for Waterford but much of their good work was undone in the 16th minute when Áine O’Sullivan’s speculative effort looped over Hannah Looney’s head and 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, on a perfect afternoon for football.
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.
Finn, player of the match against Mayo last weekend, landed two frees before Orlagh Farmer kicked a brace of points.
Delahunty, who finished up 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 produced a piece of outstanding defending to divert 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 to get to within four points, 0-7 to 1-8, the Rebelettes hit back with two late scores from leading scorer O’Sullivan.
Cork racked up 10 wides in the second half and while there were sloppy elements to their display, a six-point victory sets them up nicely for a tussle with Munster champions Kerry next time out.
Scorers for Cork: Á O’Sullivan 1-3, O Finn 0-5 (4f), O Farmer 0-2
Scorers for Waterford: M Delahunty 0-3, M Ryan 0-2, A Wall & S Ryan 0-1 each.
CORK: 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.
Subs: 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).
WATERFORD: 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.
Subs: L McGregor for Tobin (36), C Hurley for S Ryan (49), L Devine for M Ryan (52), S Dunphy for McGregor (53).
Referee: K Delahunty (Tipperary)