Six things we learned from Waterford's facile league final win over Munster rivals Cork
Waterford claimed a third league title in their history and their first since 2007 with a commanding 1-24 to 0-17 win over Cork in Thurles today. Here's six things we learned from the encounter.
1. Cork's missing link
While Cork have made undeniable progress under Jimmy Barry Murphy there is a recurring theme of failure in big matches.
They lost the 2013 Division 1A relegation final and All-Ireland final to Clare, and the 2013 Munster final to Limerick. Winning the 2014 Munster final made them favourites for the All-Ireland semi-final against Tipp, but their form collapsed, leaving question marks about the team’s resolve and nerve.
They will be a different team when the counties meet in five weeks time but those reservations still hang over them.
2. Tactics prosper
Waterford justifiably object to ‘blanket defence’ charges but their set-up is founded on a crowded and spirited back line with brilliant ball players and runners who carry ball into attack like Colin Dunford and Jamie Barron.
They also showed a clear advantage over Cork in fitness. Cork are the polar opposite, well behind in the tactical revolution. They will need to find some counter-strategy when the sides meet later in the summer. Today they had no answers.
3. Cork’s full back riddle
The selection of Aidan Ryan caused a stir and is believed to have been influenced by his display in a challenge match against Kilkenny. After injury ruled out Christopher Joyce, Cork have been trying to find a reliable no. 3. Choosing a novice for a league final hinted at desperation, with Damien Cahalane losing his place. Waterford withdrew their full forward leaving Cork with an extra defender but Ryan didn’t look out of place and the decision to replace him with Cahalane late on was puzzling.
4. Austin Gleeson’s luminous star quality
One of the best young hurlers in the game now, Gleeson (20) stamped his class on the match with some telling interventions, the highlight undoubtedly a first half point scored after he fielded and went on a 60m run along the touchline, riding one challenge and then shooting off the stick for a master score.
Also scored from a sideline. Bright future ahead for the All-Ireland minor winner of 2013.
5. Hawkeye - your time has come
A point attempt by Bill Cooper at a stage in the second half when Cork trailed by six and needed a score was shown by the TG4 cameras to have been passed inside the upright.
The umpires, however, seemed uncertain and ruled it wide. Hawkeye was being tested and trialled at Semple Stadium throughout the league final and the sooner it comes into practice the better. Players deserve better.
6. Waterford are back
Destroyed by Cork in a Munster Championship replay last year and having to spend the spring in the league's second tier, the Deise were well down the list of championship contenders for 2015. But they now look a match for any side, having won the league for the first time since 2007, beating Galway, Tipp and Cork in the run-in. They have a bright future ahead.