Dan main man as Déise rebuff Rebels
Waterford 1-19 Cork 1-16 NHL Div 1 Semi-final AFTER spending the first ?5million on its new makeover, they are officially calling Semple Stadium the 'Field of Legends' these days and Waterford defender Eoin Murphy certainly acted like one in this thrilling Allianz NHL semi-final victory over Cork yesterday.
Dan Shanahan was involved in the bizarre score - ultimately an own goal by another cult figure, Diarmuid O'Sullivan - that sparked the Decies' into life in the 23rd minute to haul back an early six-point deficit.
By game's end 'Big Dan', and Seamus Prendergast, were on hand again to conjure up the two magical angled injury-time points from the left wing that sealed victory and got Waterford back in their first league final since 2004.
But it will be their full-back line, especially the hornet-like figure of Murphy, calmly clearing ball after ball out of defence, that will long stay in the memory.
After watching their side falling to their Munster rivals for the second time in this league, Cork fans can justifiably argue that their full-forward line was decimated.
Joe Deane (with Cian O'Connor) was one of two pre-match withdrawals with a calf injury, and then Cork lost Neil Ronan after just eight minutes, with a suspected broken thumb.
Yet with the O'Connor twins starting for the first time this season, the Rebels still rocketed out of the traps.
Patrick Cronin had scored 0-3 off Aidan Kearney by the 14th minute and 90 seconds earlier Ben O'Connor goaled after Eoin Murphy had done the hard graft.
They were 1-7 to 0-4 clear before Waterford got their lucky break, when Michael 'Brick' Walsh found Shanahan deep in the left corner and his scud-like cross into the goal-mouth was deflected over the goal line off O'Sullivan's hurl.
"I'm definitely claiming that one, I have to get a few goals every year," chuckled Shanahan, and to their credit Cork did not quibble afterwards.
"There's a bit of a debate over whether it went over the line or not," Rebel boss Gerald McCarthy said.
"We couldn't see it from where we were but I think they were going to get the goal anyway," he acceded of Eoin Kelly's follow-up.
It sparked Waterford into life. Donal Óg Cusack had to be lively to a John Mullane shot as they battled back to lead by two points (1-10 to 1-8) at half-time when their wide-count (eight to Cork's three) was also substantially higher.
On the restart the game ebbed and flowed with championship-like fervour in summer conditions and the sides were level four times.
A couple of early second-half off-the-ball tussles between Sean Óg Ó hAilpín, Ronan Curran and Eoin Kelly and Dan Shanahan raised the temperature, and Ó hAilpín and Shanahan escaped yellow cards.
But with 10 minutes left Waterford began to edge clear and, looked like they wanted it more, not surprisingly, considering a league title has escaped them for a whopping 44 years.
"Any trophy is important and to play Kilkenny in a final is a great experience for the younger lads and will tell a lot about this team ahead of the championship," said Ken McGrath, who admitted they were "sluggish enough for the first quarter".
Cork's John Gardiner was surprisingly dropped beforehand, but when called into midfield he responded, scoring three long-placed balls (one '65) and Ó hAilpín also did his all to lift the late siege.
But with ten minutes left Waterford's shoulders opened. Mullane got a great point, Eoin Kelly brought his tally to 0-8 with two scores and Shane Walsh nipped in for his second point to go four clear.
And, after Gardiner's free-taking pegged it back to a point with just two minutes left, up popped Seamus Prendergast with a bit of wizardry along the left touchline, which Shanahan then matched to leave Waterford manager Justin McCarthy delighted with his side's tenacity.
"We played a bit more direct in the second half, got the crucial scores and never gave in," he said.
He was "looking for leadership", and certainly got it in the late stages from the two Prendergasts, Murphy, Ken McGrath, Eoin Kelly and Stephen Molumphey.
But, as he admitted himself of their upcoming final opponents, "Kilkenny looked awesome!"
SCORERS - Waterford: E Kelly 0-8 (5f), D Shanahan 1-1, S Prendergast, S Walsh, J Mullane, J Kennedy 0-2 each, K McGrath 0-2 (2f). Cork: B O'Connor 1-5 (4f, 1 s-line), P Cronin 0-3, J Gardiner 0-3 (2f, 1 '65), N McCarthy 0-2, J O'Connor, K Murphy, C Naughton 0-1 each.
WATERFORD - C Hennessy; A Kearney, D Prendergast, E Murphy; T Browne, K McGrath, J Murray; M Walsh (Capt), J Kennedy; D Shanahan, E Kelly, J Mullane; S Walsh, S Prendergast, S Molumphy.
CORK - D Óg Cusack; B Murphy, D O'Sullivan, S O'Neill; K Hartnett, R Curran, S Óg Ó hAilpín; T Kenny, J O'Connor; P Cronin, N McCarthy, K Murphy (Capt); E Murphy, N Ronan, B O'Connor. Subs: C Naughton for Ronan (inj, 8), J Gardiner for K Murphy (48), J O'Callaghan for E Murphy (62), K Canty for Naughton (68).
REF - B Kelly (Westmeath).
ATT - 21,450.