Kelly on fire as Waterford rein in Rebels
EOIN Kelly launched himself on a glorious scoring spree in the Walsh Park sunshine yesterday, landing 1-17 which steered Waterford to a dramatic draw in a game that at times seemed to be sprinting away from them.
However, they're nothing if not dogged and with Kelly pointing frees from all angles and distances they kept Cork in their sights before finishing with a flourish which ended Cork's 100pc league record.
Cork led by five points after 50 minutes, but Waterford continued to pour as much energy as they could muster into their efforts, and when Tomas Ryan whipped home their second goal in the 61st minute, it re-ignited their survival effort. They took the lead in the 64th minute before Cork countered with two points to take the narrowest advantage into stoppage-time.
Waterford plugged on and won a free out on the left which Kelly steered over the bar with the last puck of the game. It was as appropriate as it was inevitable that Kelly emerged as the match-saver as he had been in excellent form on all fronts in a high-quality game which suggests that both sides are keeping very much on target as the season gathers momentum.
Kelly scored 0-15 from placed balls and 1-2 from open play, the goal coming in the 23rd minute when his long-range delivery dropped into the net as full-forward Shane Walsh applied intense pressure on Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash, who would later go off injured.
Cork will be unhappy with the number of frees they conceded because, while Kelly missed one early on, it quickly became apparent that he was ready to embark on another of those scoring blitzes which have been quite common throughout his career.
It was fitting then that he should land the equaliser in a game where both sides will have been happy to take a point.
"A fair result really. I felt both sides deserved to take something out of it, which happened in the end. Waterford hurled very well in the second half but I thought we put some nice passages of play together too," said Cork manager Denis Walsh.
A draw keeps Cork in line to win a place in the final for the first time since 2002, while Waterford are in the mix too. What's more, they're getting better all the time and with some big names still to return, Davy Fitzgerald has things motoring along nicely.
"What I like about these lads is that they always keep fighting back. That takes great character, but then they have plenty of that," he said.
He acknowledged that they did have an issue to address in terms of conceding goals but promised to get it right.
Cork's giant full-forward, Michael Cussen, hit Waterford for two goals in the first 25 minutes and also helped himself to two points as the visitors raced five points clear by the half-hour mark. Kelly pared two points back before half-time to leave Waterford trailing by 2-9 to 1-9.
They had a fresh wind behind them in the second half and seemed to be well on track for victory when they cut the margin to a point after 49 minutes. Both John Mullane and Dan Shanahan had come off the bench to add substance to the Waterford attack while further back, Kelly, Shane O'Sullivan, Aidan Kearney and Mark O'Brien, who had recovered well from his earlier problems with Cussen, were hurling efficiently.
However, Cork injected their own burst of pace into the proceedings with Pat Horgan galloping through for their third goal in the 53rd minute. Ben O'Connor added a point to leave Cork leading by 3-13 to 1-14.
It looked as if that might be the decisive break but Waterford put their heads down and worked their way tirelessly to a well-deserved draw.
"Games like that are really brings a team on. This is a very competitive National League. There's real intensity to the games which is exactly what you need at this time of year," said Walsh.
For Fitzgerald and Waterford, it was another encouraging day, even if they won't be happy to concede three goals against fairly direct threats.
"We have issues we have to deal with in the team -- how we're conceding goals," Fitzgerald continued. "We'll identify why the errors are happening and sort them out. I would not cast any blame on Mark O'Brien at full-back.
"I wouldn't fault him for the two goals Michael Cussen got. He had to go to a man and the ball was worked in over him.
"I would have to praise him today; he got criticism last week and I don't think he deserved it."
It may be of concern too that Waterford were so reliant for scores on Eoin Kelly's free-taking as it's unlikely that as many chances will come his way in other games. However, the arrival of Mullane and Shanahan increased the attacking potency, with Mullane slotting over two points and Shanahan imposing his particular brand of menace in front of the Cork goal.
"I'm happy with the manner in which we kept fighting back," Fitzgerald added. "Other teams might have thrown in the towel after getting two or three killer blows. How many times were we six points down? Again in the second half we could have folded. But we didn't."
Honours even then and with both sides taking plenty positives out of Walsh Park, they will feel it was one of the more constructive days as the season continues to gather pace.
Scorers -- Waterford: E Kelly 1-17 (0-14 f, 0-1 '65'), T Ryan 1-0, J Mullane 0-2, S Prendergast 0-1. Cork: M Cussen 2-2, B O'Connor 0-8 (0-7f), P Horgan 1-2, C Naughton 0-3, T Kenny, J Gardiner 0-1 each.
Waterford -- C Hennessy; E Murphy, M O'Brien, N Connors; A Kearney, S O'Sullivan, J Nagle; E Kelly, R Foley; S Prendergast, K Moran, S Molumphy; T Ryan, S Walsh, E McGrath. Subs: M Shanahan for McGrath (34), D Shanahan for Walsh (43), J Mullane for Prendergast (47).
Cork -- A Nash; K Hartnett, B Murphy, S Og O hAilpin; S O'Neill, R Curran, M Walsh; J Gardiner, C Naughton; B O'Connor, C McCarthy, N McCarthy; K Murphy, M Cussen, P Horgan. Subs: L O'Farrell for K Murphy (h-t), D Og Cusack for Nash (40), T Kenny for C McCarthy (45), M O'Sullivan for N McCarthy (52).
Ref -- J Ryan (Tipperary).