Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rebel 'bullies' teach Waterford a lesson

Horgan leads way as aggressive Cork raise game to rout Deise

Stephen McDonnell, Cork, in action against Maurice Shanahan, Waterford
Stephen McDonnell, Cork, in action against Maurice Shanahan, Waterford
Patrick Cronin, Cork, supported by team-mate Lorcan McLoughlin in action against Austin Gleeson, Waterford
Patrick Horgan, Cork, supported by Patrick Cronin, in action against Shane Fives and Michael Walsh, Waterford
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Derek McGrath took a brief glance over to where Cork were conducting their pre-match warm-up in Semple Stadium and sensed trouble straight away. There was a different energy coming off them. How could it have been any other way?

Cork 0-28 Waterford 0-14 - Munster SHC Q/F Replay

By the 19th minute, his worst fears had been realised. Cork had stretched 0-8 to 0-3 clear and everything the Waterford manager had detected in their body language had materialised. Soon, they would be out of sight.

So McGrath and his squad braced themselves for a tough day, a harsh but perhaps necessary lesson in their development.

"We were a little bit bullied after the (initial) 15-minute period, Cork just physically ... I wouldn't say they intimidated us, but we met a highly motivated team today," he said.

This was, indeed, a much different Cork team, sharper, more alert and, especially, more aggressive.

From the moment Séamus Harnedy plucked a clearance from Mark Ellis in the seventh minute, turned and swept over his first point, the difference between Cork in two weeks was palpable.

Every battle was fought ferociously and, quite quickly, the war was won, giving the Rebels their first championship replay win in four attempts, having lost an All-Ireland to Clare and a Munster final and an All-Ireland quarter final to Waterford in the last eight years.

"We were very poor the last day," acknowledged Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy. "A lot of our players were unhappy with their performances. We got a draw and might not have deserved it, but our comeback was positive, we built on that and showed better attitude all over the field."

Switching Harnedy to half-forward, where he thrived so much last season, was a success, with his three points contributing to 10 points overall from this line, with Conor Lehane and Bill Cooper hitting four and three respectively.

Inside them, Patrick Horgan revelled in the absence of Noel Connors, who injured his groin in the warm-up and lasted just four minutes before being withdrawn. The job of curtailing Horgan, so effectively carried out by Connors in the drawn game, fell to Tadhg De Búrca, but with five points from five shots in general play, Horgan was in irrepressible form. The loss of their All Star corner-back was incalculable to Waterford.

Cork's dominance on the Waterford puck-out in the first half told everything about their mindset. They took 13 of Stephen O'Keeffe's 21 restarts, with Christopher Joyce and Lorcan McLoughlin most prominent under the dropping ball.

Waterford were under pressure from their own puck-out throughout, with four from O'Keeffe, otherwise outstanding, either landing or going over the sideline as he sought to vary his despatch.

Everything about Cork's game was just tighter this time around.

"It was very evident from the start. Our tackle, our work rate, that was all much better compared to last week and that was a key area that we wanted to focus on," said defender Shane O'Neill.

It was O'Neill who scrambled to make a decisive challenge on Brian O'Sullivan when the Waterford full-forward got in behind the cover on 13 minutes, seeking to build on their 0-3 to 0-2 lead.

But that was their last time leading as Horgan quickly moved Cork out of sight. By the 19th minute, they were 0-8 to 0-3 clear and, by the time referee Johnny Ryan awarded a penalty just before the break for a foul on Pa Cronin, the gap had grown to 0-13 to 0-5. Inevitably, the penalty injected some drama into a game that was struggling to hold the attention of the 22,093 crowd.

Anthony Nash came up and did his usual routine, but O 'Keeffe bolted quickly from his line and blocked the shot with contact no more than a metre away.

So close was he from his opposite number that he made contact with him on the follow-through and an altercation developed. It was brave of O'Keeffe to go so close to such a thunderbolt and will inevitably prompt debate about the dangers of facing such strikes. Technically, Ryan was obliged to order a retake, because one of the three defenders had advanced off the line.

It raised the temperature all round and McLoughlin was lucky to escape with a yellow card for an incident involving Austin Gleeson.

There was no respite for Waterford in the second half – trailing by 0-14 to 0-5 at the break – as Cork piled on the pressure and doubled their tally.

Lehane looked particularly sharp, while Daniel Kearney recovered the form that made him such a thorn in Kilkenny's side in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final.

For Waterford, Colin Dunford battled gamely until a knee injury ended his day, while Gleeson grew into the game in the second half and picked off three points. But by then, Waterford were on a damage limitation exercise and playing for the future.

That they didn't concede a goal will please them as much as it may frustrate Cork, though Barry-Murphy wasn't disconcerted by it.

Cronin had the two best chances in either half, forcing smart saves out of O'Keeffe on both occasions, the first in the build-up to the penalty.

Late on, Paudie O'Sullivan made his competitive return after his horrific leg break in April last year, and he scored with his first touch, before adding another point to provide a positive footnote for the day.

McGrath lamented the loss of shape by his team, suggesting they got drawn into the prospect of an open game too easily. Initially, they were dropping numbers back but got loose with this approach, he figured, and paid a heavy price.

"When Cork got the lead, it was so free-flowing initially, the first 10 or 12 minutes, some of our fellas lost their shape in terms of 'I want a bit of this, this is free flowing, this is kind of handy,' instead of maybe, not that we are overly negative, but keeping our shape as tight and disciplined as we were," he said.

"It was a case of us following the ball up the field and, therefore, we were opening gaps up at the back."

The lesson learned will be valuable in the long run, McGrath suggested.

"I think our younger players will learn a lot from the interim period between the last game," he said.

"Limerick last week were high on the whole 'being written off' thing – the siege mentality. Teams tend to use it. I won't say Cork did, but they were probably fuelled a little bit by it, just by the talk that Cork were awful bad the last day. You just knew what was coming and, unfortunately, we weren't able to deal with it."

Scorers – Cork: P Horgan 0-10 (5fs), C Lehane 0-4, B Cooper, S Harnedy 0-3 each, D Kearney, P O'Sullivan 0-2 each, C Joyce, A Cadogan, S Moylan, R O'Shea 0-1 each. Waterford: P Mahony 0-5 (3fs, 1 '65'), A Gleeson 0-3, C Dunford 0-2, S Walsh, B O'Sullivan, S O'Sullivan, R Foley 0-1 each.

Cork – A Nash 8; S O'Neill 7, D Cahalane 7, S McDonnell 7; C Joyce 7, M Ellis 7, L McLoughlin 8; D Kearney 7, A Walsh 7; C Lehane 8, B Cooper 7, S Harnedy 8; A Cadogan 6, P Cronin 7, P Horgan 9. Subs: S Moylan 6 for Cadogan (58), B Lawton 6 for Walsh (58), P O'Sullivan 7 for Kearney (60), R O'Shea for Cooper (64),W Egan for McLoughlin (64).

Waterford – S O'Keeffe 9; T Burke 5, L Lawlor 7, N Connors; J Nagle 5, K Moran 6, S Fives 6; S O'Sullvan 6, M Walsh 6; J Dillon 5, A Gleeson 7, P Mahony 6; C Dunford 7, B O'Sullivan 6 S Walsh 6. Subs: P Prendergast 5 for Connors (4), R Foley 6 for Nagle (40), M Shanahan 6 for Dunford (43), S Molumphy 6 for B O'Sullivan (46), S Prendegrast 7 for Dillon.

REF – J Ryan (Tipperary).

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