Declan Dalton was the Cork hero in sun-splashed Walsh Park last evening, hitting the injury-time penalty that snatched a dramatic win for the 14-man visitors in this Munster U21 hurling semi-final.
The spirit visible recently in Cork sides came to the fore as Dalton slammed home the match-winner five minutes into injury time for a sensational victory in front of 4,127 spectators.
Before the game began Waterford had a scare, with keeper Billy Nolan injuring a leg in the warm-up — the Roanmore man was able to take his place in the starting 15, however.
Cork began with the wind but Waterford opened the scoring with a Cormac Curran point.
The sides swapped scores early on, with Cork heavily reliant on Declan Dalton from placed balls — including a sweetly-struck sideline — and a Michael O’Halloran effort to push them two ahead on ten minutes, 0-5 to 0-3.
Waterford senior Shane Bennett cut the lead to one, having dropped deep from full-forward, though Cork were two ahead on the quarter-hour thanks to Paul Leopold.
Bennett began to have an influence on the game, gathering ball in his own half, as Cork failed to use the breeze properly, dropping several deliveries past their full-forward line and out over the Waterford end line.
With Bennett well supported by Jordan Henley and Cormac Curran, the sides were level by the 25th minute, thanks to a Patrick Curran free — seven points apiece.
There was still time for a Dalton sideline and a Darragh Fitzgibbon long-range effort to nudge Cork two ahead, but a fine point by the impressive Colm Roche kept Waterford within touching distance.
Dalton’s late, late free made it 0-10 to 0-8 at the break, with Waterford supported by the breeze in the second half.
Two Patrick Curran frees had Waterford level within a minute of the restart, Dalton edging Cork ahead with a pointed free. Fitzgibbon and Cormac Curran then swapped points as the pace picked up and exchanges sharpened.
Cork then struck for goal on 36 minutes, good work by Michael O’Halloran freed Robbie O’Flynn, who finished well past Nolan. Fitzgibbon added a fine point and it was 1-13 to 0-11 on 40 minutes.
Cork were impressing, but Waterford struck back through Roche and Patrick Curran to stay in touch. Dalton hit back with a long-range free but another Curran free made it a one-goal game, 1-14 to 0-14.
Roche blasted over yet another point to bring Waterford within two with the game ticking into the final 10 minutes. Bennett was the man who then made the big play, collecting a neat pass from sub Andrew Casey and batting home a clever goal.
That put the home side a point up — 1-15 to 1-14 — with eight minutes left.
Fitzgibbon carried upfield to win the levelling free for Dalton, but the momentum was now with Waterford. Another two Curran frees edged them ahead, with Cork struggling to get out of their own half. A long-range Curran effort from play made it a three-point game with two minutes left, and the Déise looking good for the win.
Dalton hit one more free for Cork, but Jack Pendergast restored Waterford’s advantage as the (five minutes) added time began.
Dalton pointed another free and Cork came looking for the goal that would snatch it, but Waterford’s full back line held out. Darragh Fitzgibbon got a late straight red card, which seemed to signal the end of Cork’s resistance, but the men in red rallied one more time, sub Jack O’Connor winning the late, late penalty which Dalton, inevitably, buried.
Scorers for Waterford:
P. Curran (0-6 frees, 0-1 65)(0-10); C. Roche (0-5); S. Bennett (1-1); C. Curran (0-2); J. Prendergast (0-1).
Scorers for Cork:
D. Dalton (1-0 pen, 0-2 sidelines, 0-7 frees)(1-12); R. O’Flynn (1-0); D. Fitzgibbon (0-3); M. O’Halloran, P. Leopold (0-1 each).
B. Nolan, D. Prendergast, C. Gleeson, D. Lyons, J. Henley, C. Prunty, C. Lyons, A. Molumby, C. Roche, J. Prendergast, C. Curran, S. Ryan (c),
P. Curran, S. Bennett, P. Hogan.
E. O’Halloran for Molumby, D. Lynch for C. Lyons(both 42); A. Casey for C. Curran (50); JP Lucey for Ryan (58)
P. Collins, S. O’Donoghue, E. Murphy, D. Griffin, B. Hennessy, D. Browne (c), M. Coleman, P. Leopold, D. Fitzgibbon, C. O’Leary, D. Dalton, A. Myers, R. O’Flynn, S. Kingston, M. O’Halloran.
T. O’Mahony for Myers (30); E. Healy for O’Donoghue (32); J. O’Connor for Kingston (50); D. Lowney for O’Leary (54)
F. Horgan (Tipperary).
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