SO VERY much was expected of this Munster minor hurling championship semi-final at Walsh Park last night, but after a close and hard fought opening half, Cork decisively grabbed the initiative throughout the field and cruised to the provincial decider at a canter.
Not a great game by any stretch of the imagination on a night when a Waterford side of whom so much was expected collapsed almost ignominiously after a bright enough start. In the end they were all but crushed by a Cork opposition whose play improved out of all recognition in a second half which they almost totally dominated and ultimately won literally pulling up.
What it was that brought about the quite dramatic transformation of the Leesider’s modest first half display is difficult to exactly pinpoint.
However the switch that sent midfielder Paul Honohan to full forward in a direct swop with Simon O’Brien midway through the opening half would have a decisive bearing, as did the stranglehold their half back trio of Aidan Walsh, Padraig O’Shea, and William Egan had on the proceedings virtually all through.
Waterford, in stark contrast, laboured in far too many sectors. They scarcely got a look-in at midfield, while the introduction of Jamie Coughlan into the Cork attack worked a treat with the Newtownshandrum teenager bagging the brace of second half goals that finally killed off the home side’s fast fading challenge.
There was no indication that Cork would win as readily as they did when Waterford — wind assisted — enjoyed a marked territorial advantage in the opening half. Their shooting, however, both from play and frees was wayward, and several gilt-edged chances went a-begging before a goal by Maurice Shanahan, brother of All Star Dan, put them in front for the first time after eighteen minutes.
It could, should, and would have been more but for the wastefulness of their forwards, although Simon O’Brien can’t have been happy about his inaccurate freetaking either at the other end.
Waterford had eased into an unflattering four point lead as half-time approached and one wondered if it would be enough given the strength of the wind blowing into the city goal. But they were delivered a massive hammer blow in the final seconds of the half when Honohan, now effectively operating at full forward, raced onto a lengthy outfield delivery and in one fell swoop crashed the ball to the Déise net.
That Waterford lead of 1-4 to 1-3 at the break looked precarious in the extreme, and so it proved on the turnover when Cork emerged with all guns blazing and turned in a display that was unrecognisable from what they had produced in the opening moiety.
They were level within ninety seconds of the restart through a peach of a Honohan point, and when the flying Mark Collins edged them in front in the 37th minute they had taken an initiative that they would never again surrender.
The introduction of Jamie Coughlan from the substitutes bench would also impact big time on the proceedings, and his goal in the 48th minute stretched the Cork advantage to half a dozen points, and effectively there was now no way back for a Waterford side visibly struggling in virtually every sector.
In the ascendancy all over the field, the rampant Cork attackers wasted no time in turning the screw as they reaped a handsome dividend off the liberal supply of ball their defenders and midfielders were providing for them.
With the traffic now virtually all one way there was almost an inevitability about Cork’s third and fourth goals scored by the impressive Ciaran Sheehan and Coughlan respectively, sealing a victory every bit as comprehensive as that eventual sixteen point margin suggests.
For Waterford, who so highly fancied their chances in this one, it was a night best forgotten with wing back Owen Whelan just about their only player to measure up.
Scorers for Cork: J Coughlan (2-0); C Sheehan (1-3); P Honohan (1-1); S. O’Brien (0-4); M Collins (0-3); P O’Shea (0-2).
Scorers for Waterford: M Shanahan (1-1); B O’Halloran (0-2); C Curran (0-2); B O’Sullivan (0-1).
CORK: D McCarthy; C Smith, D Rodgers, E Moynihan; A Walsh, P O’Shea, W Egan; S Farrell, P Honohan; M Collins, C Sheehan, D Roche; J O’Dwyer, S O’Brien, M Carroll;
Subs: S Long for Carroll; J Coughlan for O’Dwyer.
WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; S Kearney, B Coughlan, N Connors; O Whelan, P Mahony, S Daniels; A O’Neill, O Connors; C Curran, G Faulkner, B O’Halloran; A Brophy, M Shanahan, B O’Sullivan.
Subs: P Mahony for Faulkner; T O’hUallachain for O’Neil; M O’Neill for Connors.
Referee: J O’Mahoney, Limerick.
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