Cork 1-14 Waterford 0-20: Make sense of that. Waterford dominate a game and yet need their ‘keeper to make a last-minute save to ensure the points. Cork are listless until a player gets injured, then ignite. A late goal and two straight reds colour an earnest competition with a sharp palette.
“For three-quarters of it I thought we were dominant,” reflected Waterford manager Derek McGrath. “I don’t think we emptied the bench wisely, or early enough, to be honest, given the amount of games our guys had over the last few weeks.
“Cork were going to have their period as well, they’re a good team, and it took a magnificent Stephen O’Keeffe save to prevent a draw.” McGrath’s evaluation was accurate enough. Waterford started well and never relinquished their lead. Maurice Shanahan was accurate from frees, Austin Gleeson and Darragh Fives held the middle, and Colin Dunford and Jamie Barron drove through the middle.
Cork struggled for most of the game securing their own puck-outs, and were forced to play through the lines more often than they would have liked. Patrick Horgan lined out at centre-forward and saw more of the ball but the home side were blunt further forward and were lucky to be only four points in arrears at the break, 0-11 to 0-7.
Waterford drove on with more long-range points in the second half, and were at double figures, 0-16 to 0-8 before the end of the third quarter. Cruising.
The game turned on 56 minutes: Aidan Walsh was coming upfield when he went down after a loose Gleeson challenge - Colin Dunford collected the ball and pointed, making it 0-19 to 0-12. The Cork sideline were incensed play wasn’t stopped for the initial incident - Walsh was substituted with a broken nose - and their players responded with a storming final ten minutes.
Cork hit 1-2 in the closing stages, Horgan slamming home a close-in free, and they might have snatched a dramatic draw had O’Keeffe not made a smart save to deny Paudie O’Sullivan in injury time.
Neither side finished with the full complement - Maurice Shanahan and Alan Cadogan both got straight reds as crankiness crept into the proceedings.
“It was probably a bit of a turning point in the game,” said Cork selector Pat Ryan of the Walsh incident afterwards. “We were coming back into it - they got a score out of it and we could have had a free and a score, but those things happen.
“It was definitely an improvement on last week.
“I think we showed a good bit of heart in the second half. The fact that we haven’t done a whole lot of hurling, you could see that they were a bit sharper than us.
“I thought we created some good scores.
“It’s disappointing not to get the two points but we’ll roll on to Dublin in two weeks.”
In the Waterford corner Derek McGrath was delighted with the two points: “Coming up you might have said, ‘we’ll take a point’, but the way the game unfolded, I thought it probably would have been an injustice if they’d gotten that goal and we’d given away a draw.
“The two points are huge, because I keep saying it’ll come down to the last game against Galway to see whether we’ll be in a relegation game or the quarter-final.
“There might be a bit more freedom for the Tipperary match.
“‘Our worry today was that Cork would be highly motivated because of criticism in-house, or within the county. An Irish Examiner column (on Saturday) this morning had ‘same old failings for Rebels’, so you’d be worried about the backlash - similar to last year when they lost to Kilkenny and then put in a massive performance against Clare.”
Cork’s misfiring restarts need urgent work ahead of the Dublin game, and they also need a player to read the game and sweep across their half-back line. Waterford collected the two points but didn’t create any goal chances worthy of the name - not a hanging offence in the early thaw of spring, but a cause for concern in the high summer.
Plenty to improve, then. February, in other words.
Scorers for Cork:
P. Horgan (1-0 pen, 0-4 frees)(1-6); C. Lehane (0-3); B. Lawton (0-2); D. Kearney, A. Walsh (sideline), A. Cadogan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford:
M. Shanahan (0-5 frees, 0-1 65)(0-6); A. Gleeson (0-1 f), P. Curran (0-3 each); J. Barron, C. Dunford (0-2 each); J. Dillon, S. Bennett, D. Fives, K. Moran (0-1 each).
A. Nash, S. O’Neill, C. Joyce, S. McDonnell ( c), D. Cahalane W. Egan, C. Spillane, D. Kearney, A. Walsh, B. Cooper, P. Horgan, L. McLoughlin, C. Lehane, W. Leahy, B. Lawton.
A. Cadogan for Leahy and S. Moylan for Kearney (HT); M. Ellis for Egan (46); C. Murphy for Spillane (48); C. McCarthy for Walsh, inj (57)); P. O’Sullivan for McLoughlin (64).
S. O’Keeffe, S. Fives, B. Coughlan, N. Connors, K. Moran ( c), D. Fives, P. Mahony, J. Barron, C. Dunford, A. Gleeson, J. Dillon, S. Bennett, M. Walsh, C. Dunford, M. Shanahan, P. Curran.
B. O’Halloran for Bennett (58); T. Devine for Curran (60); M. Kearney for Dunford (69).
J. Owens (Wexford).
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