'When you're there, you have a chance'
MATCH REACTION: There’s nothing quite like a Jimmy Barry-Murphy smile. And who knows, we might even see it grace Croke Park on the second Sunday in September. Because Cork are just 70 minutes from a first All-Ireland final appearance since 2006. They’ll quietly fancy their chances against Galway in the semi-final on August 12th, but for now beating Waterford will do just fine.
Beating them in the championship for the first time since 2006 – now that’s even better. With 10 minutes left, it didn’t look good for the Rebels, who trailed by 1-12 to 0-18. But clever use of the bench proved decisive and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín’s tumultuous late point was one to savour. In the first half, John Mullane had given Ó hAilpín the runaround but JBM had faith in his wing back, moved Tom Kenny onto Mullane before half-time and then watched Ó hAilpín enjoy a tremendous last quarter.
“Three points down in the 60th minute didn’t look great for us,” said JBM. “And I didn’t think we played particularly well at times. We started pretty well but went out of the game for long periods. Couldn’t get on the ball enough and get it into our inside forwards, who looked very dangerous.
“Waterford, in fairness to them, really upped the ante in the second half and played magnificent hurling to get ahead of us. So very pleased to win but not overly excited about the performance.” Just as he’d like it ahead of a mammoth test with Galway. Winning, but not playing well. Plenty to work on.
He added: “In the last 10 minutes we showed great legs and the substitutions that came on did very well. I’ve been saying it all along – we’re trying to build a panel and they all did very well when they came on.
“Stephen McDonnell really answered us. Maybe we gave him a bit of a hard time after the league final but he was magnificent today. Sean Óg was outstanding in last quarter when we needed him and lifted the team I thought.”
Cork scored seven of the last eight points to win and JBM beamed: “In the last 10 minutes we got on top again and got some fantastic scores when we needed them. The subs were the key.”
That they were, with Cathal Naughton popping over two points and Jamie Sweetnam driving forward from midfield. But JBM insisted: “Obviously, that display wouldn’t be good enough against Galway. There is no doubt about that but when you’re there, you have a chance. We’re in an All-Ireland semi-final and that’s where we wanted to be.”
Meanwhile, Waterford boss Michael Ryan vowed that he’d be back next year to finish what he’s started. One reporter wondered what kind of a deal he had with the Waterford board. Ryan, quick as a flash, responded: “Two years – don’t worry, I’ll be around!”
He added: “We’re a bit disappointed – there were two decisive stages in the game. Just before half-time we’d come back to go a point up and conceded two points in a minute, and so they went in ahead. Then we were three points up in the second half, had a couple of good chances, didn’t take them.
“At the end of the day, they were that little bit better than us to be honest about it. They took their chances and seemed to get scores more easily than we did. Congratulations to them – they’re a fine side.”
Losing Shane Walsh to injury was a blow in the second half for Waterford and late on, they had claims for a free when John Mullane appeared to be hauled down off the ball. But Ryan, who has overseen a solid season following a difficult start, is not one for whinging. “That’s part and parcel of life. Some you get, some you don’t. We’re not going to be making an issue of that.”