Cork too hot in the Thurles sun for listless Waterford
Comprehensive win sets up first Munster final with Clare since 1999
Cork’s Michael Cahalane and Colm Spillane with Waterford’s Tommy Ryan during the Munster senior hurling semi-final at Semple Stadium. Photograph: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
On a championship Sunday out of the instruction manual, Cork hurlers brought their own brand to Semple Stadium on Sunday: sun high in the sky, perfect conditions and a team with a functional chance of going the distance in the year’s GAA hurling championship.
It helped that they weren’t universally fancied to beat the Munster finalists of the past two seasons in this year’s provincial semi-final. Yet by the end of the 70 minutes they had comprehensively shaken off a disappointing Waterford side and consigned them to the qualifiers for the first time since 2014. Cork now move forward to a first Munster final against Clare in 18 years.
Their effervescent blend of youngsters and players who have been around since the heartbreak of the All-Ireland replay defeat in 2013 fizzed and popped all around the venue, generating too much for flat opponents who had not played competitively since the league quarter-final at the start of April.
Manager Derek McGrath said afterwards he had been happy with the break, and felt that the preparation had been satisfactorily calibrated to take account of that. Yet Waterford lacked sharpness both in their use of the ball and the clarity of their decision-making in possession.
Cork were in no way detained by such problems. It is true that they should have been farther ahead on the split times: level at half-time was a distortion of their superiority but owed something to the quality of Stephen O’Keeffe’s goalkeeping and the two amazing saves he pulled off at the end of the first half.
Going into the final quarter Waterford’s goal had pulled them back into contention on the scoreboard, but just as they had done against Tipperary, Cork responded with a barrage of points to drain the advantage from the goal and reassert themselves.
They could even afford to play the last 10 minutes reduced to 14 men after corner back Colm Splillane racked up his second yellow card.
Their defence deserved special praise. After an out-of-sorts Tipp had run up 1-26 against them in the quarter-final there were valid question s about how effectively they could perform in what was expected to be tighter contest in which they would hardly run in another 2-27.
In the event they were excellent, harassing the Waterford forwards from the start and denying them any opportunity to get into the match.
Their opponents’ rustiness and fitful impact was on view from the start. At his best Pauric Mahony is an impeccable shooter, particularly from the placed ball, but this time, he managed only one free – a testament to the quality of the defence but also to Barry Kelly’s permissive calls on what constituted fouls. Unfortunately two of these non-interventions ended in important scores – a point for Cork’s Patrick Horgan in the 42nd minute that signalled a two-point turnaround from a scoreable free at the other end and the Waterford goal six minutes later.
Credit, though, to the tightness and anticipation of captain Stephen McDonnell in the full-back line, as well as the sustained excellence of teenage wing back Mark Coleman, who defied a promiscuous selection of markers to replicate the technical skill and perception of his Tipperary championship debut.
Most consistent forward
Ominously, Mahony opened his afternoon by putting a long-distance free wide and although he was the team’s most consistent forward and ended with four from play, his radar wasn’t fully locked in, as evidence by as many wides.
The scoreboard moved incrementally in the first half, a point here, another there, but it was obvious Waterford weren’t firing on all cylinders.
One tell-tale sign was the individualism of the attack. In the anxiety to get on the scoreboard, more fruitful options were ignored, and at various stages Páraic Mahony and Maurice Shanahan were running free but ignored by in one case Shanahan and in others by Shane Bennett, who did manage to create difficulties for Spillane.
Horgan was very reliable on the frees for Cork, but blew a good goal chance wide in the 14th minute.
Before the break Alan Cadogan’s angled shot drew a fine save from O’Keeffe and seconds later, Séamus Harnedy – hard to handle all afternoon – side-stepped a couple of defenders to get a lock on his target but remarkably the ‘keeper saved from point-blank range.
Conor Lehane had another big afternoon, all the more impressive for the ankle injury that nearly ruled him out until late in the week. He gave an unusually distracted Tadhg de Búrca – allowing for one terrific dispossession that set up a point for Jamie Barron – a hard afternoon, and flighted over four points from play while radically reducing the number of wides from the last day.
Cork opened up a four-point lead in the third quarter before Shanahan kick-rushed the ball through the defence with Cork looking for a previous free and drove the ball to net to equalise at 1-12 to 0-15 but thereafter they were outscored 0-3 to 0-11.
The Munster final will be in Thurles at on July 9th.
CORK: 1. Anthony Nash; 2. Stephen McDonnell, 3. Damian Cahalane, 4. Colm Spillane; 5. Christopher Joyce, 6. Mark Ellis (0-1), 7. Mark Coleman (0-1, line ball); 8. Bill Cooper (0-1), 9. Darragh Fitzgibbon (0-1); 10. Luke Meade, 11. Conor Lehane (0-4), 12. Shane Kingston; 13. Alan Cadogan (0-1), 14. Séamus Harnedy (0-2), 15. Patrick Horgan (0-10, seven frees, one 65). Subs: 25. Michael Cahalane (0-1) for Kingston (55 mins), 21. Daniel Kearney for Fitzgibbon (60 mins), 24. Luke O’Farrell (0-1) for Meade (60 mins), 22. Brian Lawton for Lehane (68 mins), 23. Dean Brosnan for Cadogan (73 mins).
WATERFORD: 1. Stephen O’Keeffe; 4. Noel Connors, 2. Shane Fives, 3. Barry Coughlan; 9. Conor Gleeson, 5. Tadhg de Búrca, 7. Philip Mahony; 8. Jamie Barron (0-2), 10. Kevin Moran (capt; 0-1); 6. Austin Gleeson (0-2), 11. Pauric Mahony (0-5, one free), 14. Michael Walsh; 13. Shane Bennett (0-1), 21. Maurice Shanahan (1-1, point a free), 12. Stephen Bennett (0-2). Subs: 19. Tommy Ryan for Stephen Bennett (47 mins), 20. Brian O’Halloran (0-1) for Shane Bennett (54 mins), 15. Darragh Fives for Shane Fives (58 mins), 23. Jake Dillon for A Gleeson (63 mins), 22. Patrick Curran for Walsh (66 mins).
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).