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Browne nets Deise replay

THERE he was, 10 days after his 37th birthday, writing fresh hurling history.

There was something fitting about Tony Browne's late, late equalising goal in yesterday's gripping Munster senior hurling final.

The oldest player on the field, Hurler of the Year in 1998, popping up to take the game to a replay some three and a half minutes into stoppage time.

Cork may have quibbled with the award of a 20-metre free following Brian Murphy's challenge on John Mullane but after Eoin Kelly's effort was blocked away, Browne wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

And so, eight years after netting in a Munster final against Tipperary, the evergreen right-half back was at it again.

The replay with Cork has been fixed for Thurles next Saturday evening (7.0) and Browne, once again, will be one of the first names pencilled into Davy Fitzgerald's team-sheet.

Browne gasped: "At that stage I didn't know the score, I thought there was only two points in it. It was do-or-die so I said I'd move up forward and hope for the best really.

"It just ricocheted off a man. It hopped up nicely, lucky enough to tell you the truth."



Devastating

Two goals in a devastating spell between the 53rd and 55th minutes looked like being enough for Cork to claim a first Munster crown since 2006.

Aisake Ó'hAilpín, a peripheral figure until then, burst clear of the Waterford cover for the first goal before Ben O'Connor roared through and finished the second.

Cork, 2-12 to 0-13 clear with a quarter of an hour remaining, had one hand on the trophy but as Fitzgerald reflected: "There is character in this team. We'll give every ounce we have again next weekend but I'll tell you, whatever they throw at us we'll come back fighting."

Eoin Kelly's blistering 58th-minute goal, complete with celebration on his knees in front of Waterford's fans on the Killinan End, kick-started the Déise revival.

They fell three behind again before the finish but up popped Browne with that priceless late strike to save the day.

With typical modesty, Browne reflected: "A goal is a goal but if we don't win the next day it is not going to be worth anything. That is the size of it. We are going to regroup and have a second chance at it -- one that we hope we will take."

The second half brought with it the vast majority of the drama from yesterday's Munster hurling final, played out in front of 35,962 spectators.

At half-time, Waterford led by 0-7 to 0-6 and, in truth, they could have been further ahead.

It didn't take them long after the break to move four clear and Cork were in serious trouble.

But in a seesaw encounter, the Rebels kept chipping away before cutting loose with that two-goal blast.

Then, it was Waterford's turn to play catch up but the clock was against them, until referee Johnny Ryan penalised Brian Murphy for clashing with Mullane's hurl in mid air.

Bemused Cork boss Denis Walsh reflected: "We looked to have the game in the last couple of minutes. It looked like a funny decision to me. It's hard to know what it's for. We'll have to come back and do it again next week."

A sensational stalemate at Semple Stadium was the first time that Cork and Waterford had drawn in a Munster senior hurling final since 1931.

Overall, it may have lacked much of the sparkle of previous encounters, with the 2004 Munster final rated as arguably the best of all time, but the sprinkle of magic dust in the second half ensured that the eventual fireworks were well worth the wait. Cork wing-back John Gardiner summed up the game perfectly as he reflected: "There was a lot of match-ups in the first half, fellas feeling each other out, trying to get to grips with each other's play. In the second half it opened up a bit. Fellas went one on one with each other, fellas started taking their scores and that's more like the Cork and Waterford games we've been used to over the years."

Cork will surely see this one as opportunity lost but Gardiner insisted: "You never think you're over the line against Waterford. They can have the ability to get goals. We got a bit of a lift when we got our two big scores in the second half. You'd think we had a platform then to push on but they're a great side and have matchwinners all over the field. They proved again today that they're never dead and buried."

Initial reports from the Cork camp suggest that Seán Óg Ó'hAilpín and Jerry O'Connor were forced off with hamstring injuries, which will leave the experienced pair rated as doubts for next Saturday's replay.

Bring on the encore ... it will be worth waiting for.ss


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