Cork roar out of the blocks to blow away Wexford

Summer comes to a premature end for Liam Dunne’s men at a windy Wexford Park

Wexford 0-20 Cork 2-22

“Was it that long?” asks Jimmy Barry-Murphy, with his gentlemanly smile, when informed Cork went 20 minutes of the second half without scoring. Imagine the damage they would have done otherwise.

If that's the only defect about Cork's performance, the rest of speaks for itself: 24 scores, 19 from play, seven different scorers, including a brilliant 1-5 from Conor Lehane, and a 14-point advantage by half-time which effectively ended the contest. "It was certainly as good as we've played in quite a while," said Barry-Murphy of that opening half.

"It was something we needed to do. We were very disappointed with our display against Waterford. We felt we'd a lot of work to do, and we're still some way off where we want to be. But this was definitely a step in the right direction.


“And it was a brilliant first half. Some of our use of the ball, and our score taking, was fantastic. Conor Lehane, Pat Horgan, some of the skill was brilliant, but I also thought the use of the ball in getting to it them was equally good. Also, we didn’t concede goals.

“Of course 20 minutes without a score is a concern. And we know if we want to keep going we’ll have to be better than that. We’re not fools, we know we’ve to work on that.”

Had Cork not had their fallow period, it would have meant annihilation for Wexford, on a par with what Kilkenny did to them. By finishing within eight points they managed to salvage some respect, although manager Liam Dunne admits it may not be enough to save him.

“I’m four years there now, got great commitment from the lads, but where it goes from here I don’t know,” he said. “I’d like to stay, and if they want me to stay until 2016 I’m prepared to do that. Hurling is my life.

“JJ Doyle is doing well with under-21s, with another Leinster final [this Wednesday]. We have to regroup, be more competitive. But we need everyone firing on all cylinders. They took a fair drumming two weeks ago. It is frustrating. But we’re after being beaten by a better team, so no complaints about that.

Young team "But we've a young team. I'd say that's the youngest Wexford team since 1798. And it takes some time to adapt. They got the two goals in the first half, which we really needed. And we never looked like getting one, to be fair. Cork took their chances. Their forwards were on fire."

That about sums it up. Wexford decided to play into the stiff breeze but soon realised that may not have been wisest choice. Cork hit them with 2-10 in just over 20 minutes, while all Wexford could manage was 0-4 – all from placed balls.

And Lehane was certainly on fire, nailing Cork's first goal on five minutes. That came direct from an Anthony Nash puck-out, the length of which half-baffled the Wexford defence, allowing Lehane to simply fetch, turn and strike. He then set up Séamus Harnedy for their second, and while Mark Fanning managed to block the initial shot, Harnedy swept in the rebound as if closing the boot of his car.

So, the crowd of 11,800 – largely Wexford folk – could only watch in wonder as Cork built up a 14-point advantage by half-time. Wexford's tactic of using Diarmuid O'Keeffe as a sweeper made no difference. Conor McDonald and Liam Óg McGovern – who sparked their championship last summer – ended up with a single point between them. David Redmond scored their first from play after 28 minutes, and only for Ian Byrne, who ended with 0-12 (10 frees), it would have been truly paltry stuff.

Miraculous By hitting 0-8 without reply in the second half, they at least raised some hope of a miraculous comeback – yet at no stage did Cork appear in genuine danger.

Lehane reignited himself before the end to add the two final scores, and if he maintains his form into this weekend’s second-round qualifier, Cork will surely be a formidable threat.

“It’s about replicating this as much as we can,” says Lehane. “We never really lost confidence, because we know what we’re made of. It was just the way Waterford positioned themselves against us the last day.

“And we’re not stupid. We know from the games that fans are disappointed, and we don’t want to disappoint them. There is a high standard in Cork. It comes with the territory, and it’s ingrained in us all. It’s a slap in the face, when you know you can do better.”

CORK: A Nash; D Cahalane (0-1), S McDonnell, B Murphy; A Walsh, M Ellis, C Murphy; D Kearney, B Lawton (0-2); A Cadogan, P Cronin (0-1), B Cooper (0-2); S Harnedy (1-1), P Horgan (0-9, six frees), C Lehane (1-6).

Subs: S Moylan for Harnedy (50 mins), D McCarthy for Cadogan (58 mins), R O'Shea for Cronin (60 mins), P O'Sullivan for Kearney (63 mins).

WEXFORD: M Fanning; L Ryan, M O'Hanlon, E Moore; A Shore, L Chin, P Foley; D Redmond (0-3), A Nolan; D O'Keeffe, K Foley (0-1), I Byrne (0-12, 10 frees); P Morris (0-1), C McDonald (0-1), L Og McGovern.

Subs: A Kenny for Moore (17 mins), D Waters for Nolan (30 mins), H Kehoe (0-2) for P Foley (31 mins), R Jacob for McGovern (45 mins), G Sinnott for Foley (65 mins).

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics