Sunday 22 July 2018

Rebels show resolve to beat broken Déise

Cork 1-23 Waterford 1-20 (Munster SHC Round-robin)

Cork’s Damien Cahalane stretches to win the ball ahead of Waterford’s Tommy Ryan at Semple Stadium yesterday. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Cork’s Damien Cahalane stretches to win the ball ahead of Waterford’s Tommy Ryan at Semple Stadium yesterday. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

The game had been over more than 40 minutes when Michael 'Brick' Walsh finally reached the mouth of the dressing room tunnel, applause splashing towards him from some stragglers by the toes of the Kinnane Stand.

He looked, as he always does, mortified by the commotion. But there was an appetite for pictures here and, soon, he was back out by a dugout, smiling that courteous smile. Accepting thanks. Signing things. Obliging people. And there he'd remain long after his team-mates had departed the premises, standing with family and friends, still in his gear, still a county man.

If this was his last game in Waterford's colours, the one separating him from any other hurler that ever drew breath, it came parched of any semblance of fairytale.

He'd set up a 55th-minute Killinan-end goal for Tommy Ryan that edged his team three points clear but then, slowly, inexorably, Cork began coming for their scalp. Nothing less would secure them a Munster final place and they duly got it too, courtesy of an unanswered four-point blast in what proved a prolonged stretch of injury time.

So Cork's defence of their Munster crown just about retained a pulse (they meet Clare in the final on July 1 now), but any idea that summer finds its own truth seemed skewed in this instance.

Because, we didn't see Waterford in this Championship. We saw their ghost. The glut of injuries that cursed their opening game with Clare in Ennis never quite abated, continuing here with three more players - Noel Connors, Brian O'Halloran and Stephen Bennett - all forced off with various ailments. It was, as Derek McGrath, put it "carnage" from beginning to end of a Championship season that, in their case, didn't extend beyond 21 days.

Mark Coleman and Tom Devine of Waterford battle for possession. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Mark Coleman and Tom Devine of Waterford battle for possession. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Still, they hurled with serious pride here, that being the one thing McGrath demanded on the day Walsh reached that remarkable milestone of 74 Championship appearances.

But as Waterford ran out of legs, Cork did something that they've been doing of late. They dug right down into the floorboards of their resolve to see a game out. They found out things about themselves.

They needed to on a day so many bad habits contaminated their hurling. Indeed, for a team chasing a Munster final place, Cork looked curiously out of sorts in the first-half.

Complacent

Cork's Mark Coleman scores a sideline cut. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Cork's Mark Coleman scores a sideline cut. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Their puck-out returns were uncharacteristically poor but, worse, they looked complacent in possession, a multiple of clearances blocked down; so many needless handpasses going to ground.

Maybe the breadth of Waterford's troubles slipped into the Cork subconscious, because they looked ill-prepared here for a battle at the temperature their opponents set. Waterford had come to hurl to old, familiar rhythms, Austin Gleeson deployed in the role of sweeper with Tommy Ryan revelling in the space available as a solitary presence in the full-forward line.

The sides were level 0-3 each after eleven minutes, but Waterford out-scored their opponents 0-5 to 0-2 through the next seven minutes, Pauric Mahony, Jamie Barron and 'Brick' all giving McGrath's team an edge around the middle third.

Cork's inside line carried an obvious threat but, too often, the players outside chose to shoot from unpromising positions. In total, the Leesiders would accumulate eighteen wides, a statistic that will cost them against more clinical (and healthier) opposition.

Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh has his photograph taken with Beth Ryan, age 5, and her father Derek. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh has his photograph taken with Beth Ryan, age 5, and her father Derek. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Half of those were spilled in that untidy opening half, which ended with Waterford 0-15 to 0-11 up and full value for it.

But John Meyler would make a key adjustment on 45 minutes, sending in Conor O'Sullivan to play as their free defender, a move that seemed to settle the defence generally and bring about far more efficient transitioning from the back.

That said, if there had been legitimate worries about Waterford's appetite for battle, given a batch of their players are booked on flights to San Francisco next Thursday, it was Cork who looked careless, pre-occupied.

McGrath gave Ryan a more roving role in the second-half, positioning big Tom Devine on the edge of the square, and that tactic looked a masterstroke when the flying Tallow man materialised unmarked on 'Brick's' right shoulder to rifle home that 55th minute goal.

Devine had been in on goal just three minutes earlier only for O'Sullivan to pick his pocket with a sublime flick of the hurl. Bill Cooper - who'd engaged 'Brick' in a fiery jostling match just after the resumption - was coming storming into the game now too, while, inside, Horgan and Harnedy always had the beating of their markers.

Cork would get four of the next six scores before Horgan skinned Seamus Keating to set up Harnedy for what would prove a crucial 66th-minute goal. It put Cork a point ahead, their first time to lead since the second minute of play.

But two Pauric Mahony frees edged McGrath's men back in front with the game now into injury-time.

'Brick' had departed to warm applause in the 55th minute and Waterford's spirit seemed to finally puncture when, directly in front of their bench, Shane Kingston was allowed to take what looked at least ten steps before rifling a 72nd minute equaliser.

Three more Cork points followed in quick succession from Horgan (after a Cooper block-down), Christopher Joyce and, finally, the now rampant Harnedy.

Scorers - Cork: S Harnedy 1-3, P Horgan 0-5 (0-2 fs, 0-1 '65'), B Cooper, C Lehane and S Kingston 0-3 each, M Coleman (0-1 line cut), D Kearney 0-2 each, C Joyce, D Fitzgibbon 0-1 each.

Waterford: Pauric Mahony 0-8 (0-4 frees, 0-1 '65'), T Ryan 1-3, J Dillon and B O'Halloran 0-2 each, A Gleeson, J Barron, T Devine, DJ Foran and M Shanahan 0-1 each.

Cork: A Nash 7, S O'Donoghue 6, D Cahalane 7, C Spillane 6, C Joyce 7, E Cadogan 7, M Coleman 8, D Fitzgibbon 6, B Cooper 8, L Meade 5, C Lehane 7, D Kearney 7, S Kingston 7, S Harnedy 8, P Horgan 7. Subs: C O'Sullivan 7 for O'Donoghue (45 mins), M Cahalane 6 for Meade (61 mins), J O'Connor for Fitzgibbon (74 mins).

Waterford: I O'Regan 7, I Kenny 6, C Gleeson 7, N Connors 6, M Walsh 7, A Gleeson 8, Philip Mahony 7, J Barron 6, Pauric Mahony 7, K Moran 6, C Dunford 6, J Dillon 7, B O'Halloran 7, T Devine 6, T Ryan 8. Subs: S Keating 6 for Connors (24 mins), DJ Foran 6 for Dillon (40 mins), S Roche 6 for O'Halloran (45 mins), S Bennett for Walsh (55 mins), M Shanahan for Bennett (60 mins).

Ref - J Keenan (Wicklow).

Irish Independent

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