Cork leave Waterford staring into the abyss

Waterford’s championship fate now out of their own hands

Cork 2-22 Waterford 1-19

Plenty to report from Walsh Park after a high-energy raid by the Cork hurlers ended with their faint hopes of staying in the championship still very much intact. The corollary is that Waterford, long identified as the principal pretenders to Limerick's throne, have fallen into a deep abyss, from which they may well not escape.

Throw in Cork's Patrick Horgan annexing Joe Canning's championship scoring record, "an incredible achievement," according to his manager Kieran Kingston, and some sparky sideline business that included Kingston being shown a yellow card, which he felt was unfair, on the hour and there was plenty to interest the crowd of nearly 11,000 even if the vast majority will have ended the afternoon bitterly disappointed.

As it stands Waterford will not advance to the All-Ireland series if Cork defeat Tipperary - regardless of what they themselves achieve in Ennis next week.


So much has changed since the counties met in the league final six weeks ago when Waterford won so convincingly that it appeared to guarantee success in this championship fixture when it happened. Cork's two defeats from two in the Munster round robin to date didn't challenge that consensus narrative.

The worry for Waterford was that key players had been out of form. That didn't change this time around. Stephen Bennett got what was his first score from play in this year's championship but knew largely frustration otherwise.

Austin Gleeson was a rallying point in the first half but his radar went on the blink afterwards and he ended up in the all-too familiar position of getting sent off, this time for two yellow cards, in the 63rd minute.

To compound their woes, Dessie Hutchinson, who was exceptional against Limerick, didn't score at all and spent long periods wandering out the field looking for ball - not easily come by against a feisty Cork defence in which Damien Cahalane was a late inclusion for Tim O'Mahony.

So many sectors came right for Cork. Centrefield, with Darragh Fitzgibbon and Luke Meade restored, was dynamic whereas Ciarán Joyce at centre back put in an immense shift. Séamus Harnedy made arguably the critical contribution after half-time and Conor Lehane was economical and accurate.

Cork manager Kingston was asked about the reversal of fortune and what he had done to bring it about.

“If I could put my finger on that, I’d bottle it myself,” he replied, “but we trained well coming into this game but then we trained well coming into the Clare game as well and we didn’t transfer it for the first 20-25 minutes. We transferred it today from the off and we needed to.”

Playing with a good breeze, Cork only narrowly hit the front by half-time. They had been more competitive than recently but Waterford looked more comfortable taking their scores.

When the visitors struck the match's first goal in the 22nd minute, Robbie O'Flynn's shot saved and the deflection cracked in by Alan Connolly, they took the lead for the first time and threatened to break open the match but it appeared to galvanise Waterford, who within a couple of minutes had scored 1-1.

Jack Prendergast's point was followed by a Mikey Kiely goal, again followed up into the net after Patrick Curran's shot was blocked by Patrick Collins, who had earlier knocked over a point from around his 20-metre line.

Cork looked up against it at half-time. A point clear but facing the elements in the second half. They needed a good re-start and that’s just what they got. Harnedy led the charge. He had already made an impact in the first half with two smartly taken points but drove at Waterford after the break with vigour.

He ended the day with 0-5 but the influence he exerted in the third quarter made Cork believe and was instrumental in keeping Waterford at arms’ length on the scoreboard.

The growing unease in the crowd echoed in the players and critical wides were struck when the match was still in the balance. They entered the final quarter well in the hunt after Gleeson had landed a long-range free from deep in his own defence for 1-15 to 1-16.

Poised on Cork’s shoulder, they suddenly had to cope with the visitors steaming away again. O’Mahony has had his troubles at wing back this year but according to Kingston, he has always been an option in the forwards.

His arrival in the 40th minute off the bench gave the team a new dimension in the full forwards. There followed a moment of gloriously threaded-together play.

In the 51st minute O'Mahony won a ball, fed it to Harnedy whose transfer to Shane Kingston in front of goal was brilliantly flicked on in the air to the waiting Connolly who scored his second goal.

From that moment on, the margin bobbled around between three and five points with Waterford never threatening to close the gap, which ended at six.

"We didn't hurl together as a team," said a dejected Liam Cahill - before the dire implications of the draw in Ennis had emerged. "We didn't commit to what we said we would commit to when we came out. We had the advantage at times where we kicked on by four points and looked like we were going about our business properly and then just decided to down tools and let Cork back into the game.

“Delaying the ball with runs being made by inside forwards, not setting up for our puckouts quickly. Looking in at a different team really versus the team that I know is there.”

Cork: 1. P Collins (0-1); 3. R Downey, 20. D Cahalane, 4. S O'Donoghue; 2. N O'Leary, 6. C Joyce, 7. M Coleman (capt; 0-2); 8. D Fitzgibbon (0-2), 9. L Meade (0-1); 10. R O'Flynn, 11. S Harnedy (0-5), 15. S Barrett; 13. A Connolly (2-0), 11. P Horgan (0-4, frees), 12. C Lehane (0-5, 0-2 frees). Subs: 24. S Kingston (0-2) for Barrett (29 mins), 5. T O'Mahony for Horgan (40 mins), 23. C Cahalane for O'Flynn (43 mins), 25. J O'Connor for O'Connor (26 mins), 21. T O'Connell for Meade (69 mins), 22. B Roche for Lehane (74 mins).

Waterford: 1. S O'Brien; 2. C Gleeson, 3. C Prunty (capt), 4. S McNulty; 5. J Fagan, 6. T de Búrca, 9. C Lyons; 7. C Daly, 8. J Barron; 10. J Prendergast (0-1), 12. P Curran (0-3, one free), 11. A Gleeson (0-4, one free); 13. D Hutchinson, 14. Stephen Bennett (0-7, six frees), 15. M Kiely (1-0). Subs: 24. P Hogan (0-1) for Daly (half-time), 20. D Lyons for Barron (47 mins), 23. N Montgomery (0-2) for Kiely (47 mins), 19. Shane Bennett (0-1) for Stephen Bennett (65 mins), 25. C Dunford for Curran (70 mins).

Referee: J Owens (Wexford).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times