Moran hits late to hurt Rebel cause
Allianz Hurling League Div 1
Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald may be facing a big personal disciplinary test later this week, but his players certainly gave him plenty of reason for pride and optimism with this feisty display at Dungarvan yesterday.
For the second year in a row a late Decies score settled a typically competitive league clash between these great Munster rivals.
Last year Eoin Kelly snatched a late equaliser, and this time the heroics were provided by returning De La Salle duo John Mullane and Kevin Moran, who combined in a great give-and-go down the right wing before Moran grabbed Waterford's 69th-minute winner.
Cork's Willie Egan had a subsequent long-range chance from a difficult angle to share the points but swung it wide. Victory, even by so close a margin, kept Waterford's league hopes alive and Fitzgerald was clearly delighted.
"A good bit of character shown again and I'm delighted for the lads who got on and came back," he said, pointing out that Moran's two points from play from wing-back once again demonstrated his great versatility.
"We've Kilkenny next, which doesn't make it any easier; they're going to want a big performance the next day and we've still work to do, it's only mid-March."
Poor attendances and games have caused hand-wringing aplenty about hurling this season, but the anticipation ahead of this pairing, who seem incapable of providing a boring game these days, was demonstrated by a decent crowd of 6,000 to Fraher Field, which caused such a log-jam that throw-in had to be delayed by 15 minutes.
And they weren't disappointed. 'First touch' on either side was far from perfect but, in typical Cork/Waterford fashion, they created loads of space and went at it hammer and tongs.
Despite a good Waterford start there was only a point between the teams at half-time and they were level seven times in the second half before Moran's heroics eventually separated them.
Waterford should have been ahead by much more than 0-11 to 0-10 at half-time, considering they'd had the aid of a gale. The wind dropped considerably afterwards, yet Cork still dominated the second-half exchanges but just couldn't apply the right finish. Manager Denis Walsh felt they should have come away with more.
"The way that results went in other games, even a draw would have been good for us and we had chances, even at the end there," he said ruefully.
"Galway beating Kilkenny might change it now for everyone but we've Tipp next and that'll decide the league for us."
Cork dominated midfield throughout the first half thanks to Lorcan McLoughlin and Pa Cronin, and Donal Og Cusack's trademark short puck-outs, but up front only Patrick Horgan really cut loose.
Asked afterwards if he wasn't tempted to make changes to his attack earlier, Walsh stressed: "We got ample possession in our full-forward line, we just didn't execute it."
He clearly trusted this forwards to come good and gave them plenty of time to do so, but it's fair to say his half-forwards and full-forward never really got going.
His first substitution was defensive and a particularly good one as the introduction of Ronan Curran allowed John Gardiner to switch onto and curb Maurice Shanahan's growing second-half influence. Shanahan had the game's best goal chance after 55 minutes when he bore down on the square, only to be foiled by a brilliant Brian Murphy block.
But Fitzgerald took great heart that his team stuck to their task as the game see-sawed to its dramatic conclusion.
Shane Walsh, who started at full-forward, was Waterford's hero with five points from play, including two in a row in the late stages that seemed to give them a second wind.
The return of Noel Connors (from injury) and the De La Salle boys from club duty all helped, though Cork's Stephen McDonnell did a relatively good job on Mullane, despite some of his fabulous touches.
Ken McGrath struggled on his first start of the season, but midfield was hardly his ideal placement, as Fitzgerald conceded, and David O'Sullivan did well on his debut at wing-back.
In truth, this was a day where defenders from both sides dominated, with Cork's Willie Egan and Waterford's Wayne Hutchinson and Michael 'Brick' Walsh all catching the eye.
One thing that certainly contributed to the free-flowing nature of the game was Barry Kelly's refereeing, but at times it seemed a little too laissez-faire as players really had to battle to win their frees.
Cork didn't get their first free until 20 minutes into the match, and while this 'let it run' attitude is often welcomed, it is fair to wonder if the same standard is being applied by all other hurling referees across all divisions.
Man of the Match: S Walsh (Waterford).
Scorers -- Waterford: S Walsh , R Foley (5f) 0-5 each, J Mullane 0-3, K Moran 0-2, P O'Mahony, S Prendergast and M Shanahan 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 0-6 (4f), L O'Farrell 0-3, W Egan, B Murphy, L McLoughlin, P Cronin, C McCarthy, N McCarthy, J O'Connor, J Gardiner ('65') 0-1 each.
Waterford -- A Power 6; D Fives 7, W Hutchinson 8, N Connors 8; D O'Sullivan 7, M Walsh 8, K Moran 8; R Foley 7, K McGrath 5; S Molumphy 5, S Prendergast 6, P O'Mahony 6; J Mullane 7, S Walsh 9, M Shanahan 8. Subs: E Kelly 6 for McGrath (46), T Ryan 6 for Molumphy (64).
Cork -- D Og Cusack 8; C O'Sullivan 6, E Dillon 6, S McDonnell 7; B Murphy 8, J Gardiner 7, W Egan 8; L McLoughlin 7, P Cronin 8; T Kenny 5, C McCarthy 7, N McCarthy 6; P Horgan 7, P O'Sullivan 5, L O'Farrell 7. Subs: R Curran 7 for C O'Sullivan (56), J O'Connor 7 for McLoughlin (59), B O'Connor 6 for P O'Sullivan (63), C Naughton 6 for N McCarthy (64), M Cussen for O'Farrell (69).
REF -- B Kelly (Westmeath).