Deise live too close to edge for comfort
Waterford 0-20 Cork 1-14
Referee James Owens may well have been suffering symptoms of 'tennis elbow' yesterday morning, such was the frequency of cards he had to produce in a fractious last quarter as Waterford held on to retain momentum in Pairc Ui Rinn.
The Wexford official dished out two red and nine yellow cards in all, eight coming in the last 20 minutes alone as tensions boiled over.
Waterford's Maurice Shanahan and Cork substitute Alan Cadogan got straight red cards for off-the-ball incidents, Cadogan's looking particularly harsh on 68 minutes. Six other players - three from each side - were yellow-carded in a messy and unseemly last 10 minutes.
Maybe it wouldn't have come to all that if Owens had spotted a high challenge by Waterford's Austin Gleeson on Aidan Walsh in the 56th minute as the Cork man, who had a suspected broken nose according to selector Pat Ryan, was executing a neat sidestep.
At the very least it was a free but play rolled on and Colin Dunford fired over a second point to extend the lead to seven points, 0-19 to 0-12, and draw the fury of the Cork sideline and crowd.
Afterwards Patrick Horgan figured the incident broke gathering Cork momentum - they had scored the previous two points from Walsh (sideline) and Cadogan to cut the gap from eight - but it looked like the catalyst for a much more frantic approach.
They came close to reeling a dominant Waterford side in. Horgan drove a 20-metre free through the cover for a 72nd-minute goal and Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe needed to keep his nerve to deal with a bouncing Paudie O'Sullivan strike after that.
But even a draw would have distorted the reality that Cork were well off the pace here for so long again.
They improved in some aspects. By our count the advantage gained from 'ruck' balls was 9-9, something they were criticised for a week before in Galway. But the manner in which they were outfielded for so long in so many areas must be really concerning.
The type of game they play, Waterford will always leave the door ajar. Prising it open fully, however, is the difficult part.
For so long they were dominant. Shane Fives, Philip Mahony and Kevin Moran thrived in the tighter exchanges at the back while Gleeson, in a more advanced midfield role where Jamie Barron again excelled, was masterful.
Patrick Curran served notice of his rich potential with three more points, while Shane Bennett worked tirelessly off him inside. But inconsistent free-taking hurt them again, Shanahan missing three, Barron off the mark with one.
Their ragged finish - they only scored two points in the last 23 minutes - took the shine off an otherwise solid performance and result.
"The overplaying at the end, when it was obvious we needed to get the ball to the other half of the field, that was a source of annoyance," admitted manager Derek McGrath who took some of the blame himself for the timing of substitutions made in the context of third level activity during the week.
"In retrospect, we didn't empty our bench quick enough or in a more cohesive manner. We wouldn't be getting much kudos as a management for our second-half performance. We were a bit bitty and we didn't take into account (college involvement). I just thought there was an emotional weariness there."
The approach and preparation for the game was pleasing for McGrath though, mindful of how Cork had responded to a first-round defeat to a depleted Kilkenny 12 months ago.
"We were very wary that we had to hit the ground running. To be able to deal with that psychologically, knowing you're going into someone's back garden after they've been roundly criticised all week - because we know what that's like - that was the most pleasing aspect.
"There's definitely maturity there in terms of their approach, but that comes back to the fact that they're smart young men. They're actually clever. I'm not saying previous Waterford teams weren't but these are exceptional young men in terms of their own ambitions, outside of hurling."
It was a 10th successive League game without defeat but also a third in succession that they went without a goal. Curran had their only chance, drawing a great early save out of Anthony Nash. But otherwise they didn't threaten at close range, with Shane O'Neill operating effectively for Cork as sweeper.
"There's an outside perception, it nearly becomes so ingrained that we're not a goalscoring team that it's very hard to keep that outside our group," said McGrath.
"It's something that we need to get the balance right, but a lot of it depends on the opposition. After the Munster semi-final last year, we felt that Cork would leave Shane O'Neill back tonight as they did, because the general opinion after that match was that they had been too open.
"It's something that we need to work on, but there's no discussion within our group about being more expansive or more attack-minded. It's really about getting bodies where the ball is and then making things happen."
Cork took comfort from the urgency of their finish, a pick-up helped by the introduction of Cadogan and Mark Ellis, the productivity of Brian Lawton around the middle and the probing of Horgan did much better at centre-forward on Noel Connors than he had done in both meetings last year. They trailed by 0-11 to 0-7 at the break and were 0-16 to 0-8 down at one stage.
"We're disappointed to lose, but it was definitely a better performance than last weekend," said selector Pat Ryan.
Scorers - Waterford: M Shanahan 0-6 (5fs, 1 '65'), A Gleeson, (1f), P Curran 0-3 each, C Dunford, J Barron 0-2 each, J Dillon, D Fives, S Bennett, K Moran 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-4fs), C Lehane 0-3, B Lawton 0-2, D Kearney, A Walsh (sl), A Cadogan 0-1 each.
Waterford - S O'Keeffe 8; S Fives 7, B Coughlan 7, N Connors 6; P Mahony 8, D Fives 7, K Moran 7; J Barron 8, A Gleeson 8; M Walsh 6, P Curran 7, J Dillon 6; M Shanahan 6, S Bennett 7, C Dunford 7. Subs: B O'Halloran 6 for Bennett (59), T Devine for Curran (61), M Kearney for Dunford (69)
Cork - A Nash 8; C Spillane 6, S McDonnell, 7 S O'Neill 7; D Cahalane 6, C Joyce 7, W Egan 6; D Kearney 6, L McLoughlin 6; B Cooper 5, P Horgan 7, A Walsh 6; B Lawton 8, C Lehane 7, W Leahy 5. Subs: A Cadogan 7 for Leahy (ht), S Moylan 6 for Kearney (ht), M Ellis 7 for Egan (45), C Murphy 6 for Spillane inj (47), C McCarthy 5 for Walsh (57 blood), P O'Sullivan for McLoughlin (65).
Ref - J Owens (Wexford).