Wexford shatter Rebels' risible resolve as Dunne hails charges
Wexford 0-23 Cork 1-17
Born again after an abject 18 months, Wexford brought their A-game to Thurles on Saturday evening but there was more to this shock than Lazarus waking up as a Yellowbelly.
"We needed a break," said Liam Dunne. "I needed a break."
He got one here, courtesy of Cork's increasingly familiar demonstration of aimless submission. You might even say effortless, but for the positive connotations usually associated with that word.
Cork hurling is in a sorry place; that malaise pre-dates Kieran Kingston but whatever honeymoon period existed has long elapsed after a year-one NHL/SHC record of played nine, won two, lost seven.
Wexford took full advantage with a first championship win over the Leesiders since 1956. Rackard would have loved this, less so Ring: the eventual three-point margin belied the outsiders' far greater industry and forward penetration.
If the otherwise workaholic David Dunne had crowned two cleverly engineered second-half goal chances with the accuracy they deserved, Cork would have been wiped on the scoreboard and couldn't have complained.
As it was, Wexford were propelled into the quarter-finals through the consistent excellence of Lee Chin at centre-forward, an inspired last 10 minutes from Liam Óg McGovern and the accuracy of Conor McDonald.
To make it sweeter still, they ultimately won in adversity. A Cork comeback of sorts had cut their deficit from five to two when a 61st-minute fumble by Wexford sweeper Paudie Foley was pounced on by Conor Lehane; he fed lively sub Daniel Kearney and his angled shot deceived Mark Fanning for an improbable lead goal.
Crucially, from the next puckout, Chin equalised from the left touchline. This, Dunne surmised, had a "settling effect" and they followed it up with five of the last seven scores: McGovern came into his own with big assists for McDonald and Chin before landing two similar, victory-sealing points.
Chin finished with 0-4 from play; McDonald tallied three along with 10 peerless frees, punishing Rebel indiscipline for a 13-point haul.
Cork actually led by 0-6 to 0-5 after a tit-for-tat first 15 minutes. But then the 1/6 favourites leaked seven on the trot during a 21-minute barren spell blighted by collective lassitude and a wide-fest that had reached double-figures after 26 minutes before settling at 15.
A three-point injury-time salvo pared the margin to 0-12 to 0-9 but couldn't paper over the cracks.
"We wasted ball," lamented selector Pat Ryan. "They cleaned us out on breaks (and) on the ground. That's all about desire and work-rate. As players, they'll have to take responsibility but we have to take it as management as well - we didn't put the right desire into them."
Cork had shown more of the right stuff against Dublin a week earlier, but backing up that intensity has eluded them all season.
"I suppose it goes back to our club hurling, and we're just not at the races at the moment as regards the intensity that that's played at," Ryan suggested.
"Unfortunately it's the problem with the last six-seven years that we put in one good performance, the next time we won't put in a good performance. We work hard one day, we won't work hard the next day. Look, that's not blaming the players - we as a management team have to take a big part of the blame."
As for Dunne, his own precarious reign is now back in credit.
"We were the easy picking of the draw on form, if we're being honest," Dunne reflected. "We put in a really good performance (against Offaly) last week and we weren't going to get any credit for that (but) we backed it up with another good performance. Sometimes you need a break and we haven't had too many this year with injuries and different guys not wanting to commit to it. The boys stood up and I'm delighted for them."
SCORERS - Wexford: C McDonald 0-13 (10f), L Chin 0-4, L McGovern 0-2, M Fanning (f), E Moore (f), J O'Connor, P Morris 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 0-7 (5f, 1 '65'), C Lehane, L O'Farrell 0-3 each, D Kearney 1-0, B Cooper, W Egan, A Cadogan, S Harnedy 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: M Fanning 6; D O'Keeffe 7, M O'Hanlon 7, J Breen 7; E Moore 8, P Foley 6, E Martin 6; J O'Connor 6, E Conroy 6; L Óg McGovern 8, L Chin 9, P Doran 6; P Morris 6, C McDonald 9, D Dunne 7. Subs: H Kehoe 6 for Doran (inj 34), A Kenny 6 for Martin (inj 44), S Donohoe for O'Connor (63), C Dunbar for Moore (66), A Nolan for Morris (72).
CORK: A Nash 7; S McDonnell 5, D Cahalane 6, C O'Sullivan 7; A Walsh 5, C Joyce 5, M Ellis 5; B Cooper 6, W Egan 6; L O'Farrell 8, S Harnedy 5, J Cronin 5; A Cadogan 6, P Horgan 6, C Lehane 7. Subs: D Kearney 7 for Cronin (31), B Lawton 6 for Cooper (55), S Kingston 6 for Harnedy (61), C Murphy for Joyce (63), M Coleman for McDonnell (68).
REF: B Kelly (Westmeath).