Cork 0-21 - Waterford 1-13: So, Cork remain in Division 1A and Waterford are relegated to the second tier. A springtime of false dawns and second comings came to some sort of crescendo in the snow flurries and foot-stampings and hand-rubbings in Páirc Uí Rinn yesterday, where the home side’s tús maith was bookended by a críoch maith.
Cork had five points on the board before Waterford opened their account, and they also hit four of the last five points of the game. It was more important to Cork to win the game, and they won it, though they were aided by the dismissal of Maurice Shanahan with a quarter of an hour left.
This is where it gets interesting, because after the game Waterford manager Derek McGrath was far from downcast.
“No, and even during the week I was asked if it was a disaster, and I want to make the point that I’m not being flippant or dismissive. We’re Waterford, we’ve only won three national leagues so it serves us to be in 1A. It’s disappointing.
“But in the overall picture, in terms of my personal record, having two relegations on the CV doesn’t bother me. It would bother me if the lads were irked by it, but psychologically there are no scars in our dressing room, just a sense of pride we’re going in the right direction.
“I keep going back to objectivity, because since the league went to 1A and 1B the most wins Waterford have had were two, in 2012, and we managed to win three in the last two years. A bit of objectivity is probably needed.”
In the Cork corner John Meyler obliged us with the right noises about the league’s significance.
“I’m just pleased with the performance. We played six games in the league, we won two and lost four, and that was the critical game to win, to get us into the Munster championship with a bit of impetus and maintain our 1A status.
“That was the goal. We tried to be competitive over the league, tried to bring in young players, Tim O’Mahony, Sean O’Donoghue, Robbie O’Flynn, we brought in Eoin Cadogan who has been excellent for us over the league.
“I would like to be in the semi-final of the league but we are not, but I am thankful for maintaining the 1A status.”
The clue, of course, is in Meyler’s offhand reference to the looming championship. That was also on McGrath’s mind yesterday. Asked about the team’s alignment, he said: “We were more conventional in our approach, with Tadhg (de Búrca) not following 50 or 60 yards behind and six forwards, so we were having a look at that today with a view to the 17th of June.”
Simply put, counties don’t have half an eye on the puzzles that a new championship will pose: they are staring, unblinking, at those problems already and sketching out scenarios like generals war-gaming at NATO headquarters.
More evidence? Waterford had to start without Austin Gleeson (ankle), Kevin Moran (illness) and Conor Gleeson (snow). How did McGrath convey those late changes to his team?
“We said to the younger fellas, ‘listen, there’s going to be a time we won’t have Kevin, or Brick Walsh, and this is an important game, so we’ll see how you go’.”
And how did they go? Pretty well, though Cork’s midfield pairing, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Bill Cooper, were ultimately the difference between the sides. They hit seven points between them and Cooper’s calm strength was the dominating influence on the game.
Waterford took away positives: they created goal chances and when Shanahan went off they adapted quicker than Cork to the change in circumstances, cutting the lead to two thanks to Jake Dillon and Stephen Bennett. Once Meyler and his selectors got Mark Coleman to float as the spare man in their defence, however, Cork settled, and Patrick Horgan and sub Daniel Kearney hit good points to keep the Rebels in a winning position.
Meyler acknowledged that the win was “important to maintain the status” in Division 1A, but like the ghost at the feast, there was no escaping that looming summer shadow: “It will set you up for the Munster Championship. There’s a feelgood factor in there and we will move on.”
A few minutes later, his opposite number spent more time discussing the ramifications of Waterford playing all their championship games on the road than on the implications of relegation.
What does that mean for the league?
Well, if nothing else - and there may be a case for dropping that ‘if’ - the National Hurling League is making a lot of us interrogate our sense of the narrative fallacy.
Think back to your Danny Kahnemahn books, and the great man’s insistence on the human mind’s desire for a “simple message of triumph and failure that identifies clear causes and ignores the determinative power of luck and the inevitability of regression”.
Processing the random lurch and swing of a hurling game through that kind of blunt reasoning will certainly cleanse your palate, but the great Kahnemahn didn’t include the competing impulses of league and championship in his theories.
Everything that happened this springtime will be viewed through that prism: what March means will only be known in June, when we’ll look back and see causes in scores and moves that will grow in significance.
Don’t take our word for it, either. You can see that all the managers think the same.
Scorers for Cork:
P. Horgan (0-5, 3 frees); B. Cooper (0-4); D. Fitzgibbon, D. Brosnan (0-3 each); D. Kearney (0-2); C. Lehane, M. Cahalane, C. Spillane, A. Cadogan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford:
P. Mahony (0-4, 2 frees); S. Bennett (0-3), P. Curran (1-0 penalty); T. Ryan (0-2); T. de Búrca, J. Barron, J. Dillon, M. Kearney (0-1 each).
A. Nash, S. O’Donoghue, E. Cadogan, C. Spillane, C. Joyce, T. O’Mahony, M. Coleman, D. Fitzgibbon, B. Cooper, S. Harnedy, D. Brosnan, C. Lehane, A. Cadogan, P. Horgan, M. Cahalane.
L. Meade for Cahalane (46); D. Browne for O’Mahony (blood, 57-58); D. Kearney for Brosnan (63); R. O’Flynn for A. Cadogan (70).
S. O’Keeffe, S. Fives, B. Coughlan, N. Connors, K. Bennett, T. de Burca, P. Mahony, J. Barron, C. Dunford, P. Mahony, S. Bennett, M. Kearney, T. Devine, P. Curran, T. Ryan.
C. Gleeson for K. Bennett (53); M. Shanahan for Kearney (55); B. O’Halloran for Dunford (61); J. Dillon for Curran (61); M. Walsh for Ryan (66).
J. Keenan (Wicklow).
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