'Excellent' Lehane launches Barry-Murphy's Rebel reign
Cork 3-17 Waterford 0-18
When Jimmy Barry-Murphy was appointed Cork manager last August, the starting point of such a positive move was that his status and his charisma would bring everyone together -- players and supporters.
That was immediately evident on both fronts on Saturday evening when Cork produced a good performance in front of the biggest attendance (7,356) seen in Pairc Ui Rinn since Cork and Kerry played the opening game of the 2003 football League under lights.
Although the crowd was due in part to a well-attended colleges curtain-raiser, there was still a feelgood vibe about Cork hurling not seen in years.
"We're looking for support," said Barry-Murphy. "We asked the public during the week to come out and support us, but the public only respond if you put in performances."
Taking the scoreline at face value, Cork's three first-half goals were the difference between the sides, but that misrepresents the full story of this match. Those goals set the tone and although Waterford came back in the third quarter, there was never a sense that they could threaten a result.
Waterford were poor in the first half and while they increased their work rate and scored 11 points after the break, there was too often an aimless feel to their hurling -- the amount of ball they wasted was criminal. Although they desperately needed a goal to get a foothold in the game, they only created one late half-chance.
"There were 10 fellas who would have been in contention for places that were missing, and we lost another two during the game," said Waterford manager Michael Ryan. "But that's not an excuse. Cork played very well."
The game was devoid of any real physicality and Cork were able to get all but one point of their tally from play. They will be disappointed with how they took their foot off the gas and with the amount of easy scores they conceded in the second half, but there was a nice mix to their hurling.
They were happy to combine their short game with the long ball, and Paudie O'Sullivan proved to be a really effective target man.
Cork's first two goals were also reminiscent of the kind of scores they mined at their peak in the middle of the last decade.
The night, though, belonged to Conor Lehane, a player whom Cork have been hanging their hopes on for the future. He scored seven points from play, the majority of which were brilliant scores.
His third point in the 17th minute showcased his class. When Pa Cronin drove a ball into the full-forward, Lehane was on his knees and had Stephen Daniels almost on his back but he stunned the ball on his stick, got up and swung it over the bar.
"He was excellent," said Barry-Murphy. "It wouldn't take a genius to pick him for the team. He's a major talent in Cork."
One of the big concerns for Waterford was how some of the holes which Tipperary exposed in last year's Munster final re-opened in their defence. An injury to Noel Connors left them with a young and inexperienced full-back line and they were taken apart in the first half.
Even though Waterford won the puckout statistic 13-8 in the first half, their forwards were repeatedly bunching, while a lot of their shooting was erratic from distance, and a high proportion of shots were dropping short. They went 17 minutes without a score while Cork, who were creating huge space in their forward line, buried them with three goals in 10 minutes, two from Paudie O'Sullivan and one from Cathal Naughton.
"The goals really settled the game," said Barry-Murphy. Waterford outscored Cork by 0-7 to 0-2 in the 15-minute period after the break but they were always chasing the match.
Man of the Match: Conor Lehane (Cork)
Scorers -- Cork: C Lehane 0-7, P O'Sullivan 2-1, C Naughton 1-1, P Horgan 0-4 (1f), S Og O hAilpin, D Sweetnam, B O'Connor, P Cronin 0-1 each. Waterford: P O'Mahony 0-5 (3f), M White 0-4 (3f), G O'Brien 0-2, J Nagle (f), K Moran, E McGrath, P O'Brien, S Prendergast, S Casey, T Ryan 0-1 each.
Cork -- D Og Cusack 7; B Murphy 7, S McDonnell 7, S O'Neill 7; J Gardiner 7, R Cashman 9, W Egan 8; S Og O hAilpin 7, D Sweetnam 7; C Lehane 10, P Cronin 8, C Naughton 8; P Horgan 8, P O'Sullivan 8, B O'Connor 7. Subs: T Kenny 6 for Sweetnam (49), L McLoughlin 6 for Gardiner (55), L O'Farrell 6 for Naughton (64), B Corry 6 for Lehane (68).
Waterford -- I O'Regan 7; P Mahony 6, D Fives 6, S Daniels 6; J Nagle 6, K Moran 7, D Prendergast 6; S Molumphy 6, P O'Brien 6; S Prendergast 6, M Walsh 6, Paraic Mahony 8; M O'Neill 7, S Walsh 6, S Casey 6. Subs: E McGrath 6 for S Walsh (h-t), P Prendergast 6 for D Prendergast (56), G O'Brien 8 for O'Neill (56), T Ryan 7 for Casey (62), D Twomey 6 for S Prendergast (67).
Ref -- B Kelly (Westmeath).