The default description for a game like yesterday’s Cork-Waterford clash is that it wasn’t one for the purists. It might be more accurate to say it was one for the masochists.
This Co-Op Superstores Munster SHL clash in a soggy Fraher Field had all the rusty handling and miscued clearances that you expect from teams playing the summer game deep in the wintertime. Cork won, 1-17 to 1-13, because they probably fielded one or two more championship starters than Waterford, and were more clinical: The home side’s double-digit wide tally added to a gloomy evening in west Waterford.
Cork manager Kieran Kingston was the happier of the two bosses after the game: “Obviously we’re happy with the win but mostly it gives us a chance to look at lads and give them an extended run in the Munster League campaign, especially some of the young guys that were involved with the 20s and 21s for last couple of years.
“The wind made it tough at times but we’re happy with our lads’ performance. At different stages Waterford were coming back at us but the lads reacted well each time they did.”
For his part, new Waterford manager Liam Cahill was philosophical: “You’d have to be positive. I’d be a little bit concerned about the chances we left behind us, but it is what it is. It’s a case of looking for the attitude of players and how they apply themselves — how they work in these kinds of conditions, their resilience.
“We have very little hurling done, and that accounts for some of the chances we left behind us — I’d be a bit more concerned about some of the gilt-edged chances we gave Cork out of basic errors.”
Waterford began well, hitting an early goal through the impressive Patrick Curran. The Déise were wasteful in possession and Cork kept in touch, primarily through Conor Lehane’s free-taking, until 10 minutes before half-time. Then Tommy O’Connell, on as a blood sub for Sean Twomey, read a long ball cleverly and slipped the cover to goal. Two Jack O’Connor points and a Lehane free pushed Cork further ahead, though Curran (free) and Darragh Lyons meant Waterford trailed 1-10 to 1-5 at the half.
The home side resumed with three wides before another Curran free, but the teams swapped scores for most of the half until Waterford came with a late surge — Shane McNulty, Curran and Kevin Moran hit three on the bounce to make it a one-point game in the last ten minutes.
They couldn’t close the gap, however, and Lehane (free), O’Connell and O’Connor restored Cork’s lead and earned the win. Newcomers and positional switches drove a lot of post-game conversations, such as Bill Cooper dropping back to centre-back.
“We’re trying different things,” said Kieran Kingston.
“Sean O’Donoghue came in centre field and Bill played centre-back, we’re just trying fellas out to see how they go — this is the time of the year to do it. Different players have different roles and sometimes guys don’t see the role the players might have, the selfless roles, but I suppose the main thing is what the team does, how they played for each other.
“We gave away a lot of frees today, the count was very much in Waterford’s favour — the first five or six of the second half went against us and at this time of the year you’re going to have more dead-ball situations, the game is slower and there’s a lot of dirty ball to be fought for.
“But it gives us another game. The down side is we have 21 players involved at college level — the league final is down for January 12th, which is the first day of the Fitzgibbon as well. That’s going to be a challenge.”
Cahill rued the fact that he and his side hadn’t given the Waterford support among the near-3,000 spectators a win to take home with them, but he took the application as a positive from the defeat: “It’s something we’ll have to look at, nailing our basics — it might sound juvenile but at this level, or at any level, you have to keep nailing the basics.”
Some of the Waterford supporters probably wanted to see more of newcomers like Iarlaith Daly (who had to go off injured before half-time, as it happens) but in Kieran Power they witnessed a good audition for centre-back. The visiting support paid a lot of attention to the number 6 spot as well, with Bill Cooper operating there for Cork.
Brighter days ahead for all, though. Warmer and drier days, certainly.
Scorers for Waterford: P. Curran (1-6, 6 frees); S. Bennett (0-2, 1 free); D. Lyons, K. Moran, S. McNulty, K. Bennett, C. Lyons (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: C. Lehane (0-6, 4 frees, 1 65); T. O’Connell (1-1); J. O’Connor (0-3); R. O’Flynn, L. Meade, A. Walsh (0-2 each); M. O’Halloran (0-1 each).
WATERFORD: B. Nolan, C. Gleeson, C. Prunty, S. McNulty, I. Daly, K. Power, K. Moran, K. Bennett, J. Dillon, N. Montgomery, D. Lyons, J. Fagan, B. Power, S. Bennett, P. Curran.
Subs: C. Lyons for Daly (inj, 35); M. Kearney and J. Prendergast for Montgomery and Fagan (HT); T. Barron for S. Bennett (52); S. Ryan for Curran (66).
CORK: G. Collins, N. Cahalane, E. Murphy, S. O’Leary-Hayes, C. O’Leary, B. Cooper, D. Cahalane, A. Walsh, R. Walsh, R. O’Flynn, C. Lehane, S. Twomey, L. Meade, M. O’Halloran, J. O’Connor.
Subs: T. O’Connell for Twomey (blood 24-HT); S. O’Regan for O’Halloran (55); S. O’Donoghue for R. Walsh (60); T. O’Connell for Lehane (66); D. Lowney for Cooper (68)
Referee: J. McCormack (Tipperary).