Waterford impress with emphatic win over Cork in League final

GAABy Sean McGoldrick
Maurice Shanahan (left) battles Aidan Ryan at Semple Stadium in the Allianz National League final
Maurice Shanahan (left) battles Aidan Ryan at Semple Stadium in the Allianz National League final

Waterford claimed their third ever Allianz Hurling League title with a very impressive 1-24 to 0-17 win over Munster rivals Cork at Semple Stadium.

The Deise previously won League titles in 1963 and 2007 but this was surely the sweetest of the trio as they became the first team outside the top flight to take the crown since Offaly in  1991.

Waterford defied their 2/1 odds as the crushed the Rebel challenge every bit as emphatically as their ten-point margin suggests.

The teams will meet again in the Munster semi-final in five weeks' time so Jimmy Barry Murphy has plenty of time to recharge his side's batteries after what was a a woeful performance.

On the field it has been a horrible week for the Rebel County as this surrender was every bit as embarrassing and emphatic as last Sunday's implosion by the footballers in the League football decider against Dublin.

Waterford led all the way and while a deflected goal from Waterford substitute Tom Devine six minutes from the end wrapped up the game there was never any period that Cork looked likely to rescue the contest.

The fact that Waterford hit 15 wides compared to ten for their opponents sums up the dominance of  Declan McGrath's side.

They imposed their game plan on a more experienced Cork side. Collectively the Rebels failed to respond and with the honourable exceptions of Conor Lehane, who scored five points from play and defenders Stephen McDonnell and Cormac Murphy in the first half none of the Cork players responded to the challenge.

The tendency of Cork to collapse in big games is now becoming an alarming habit from their perspective - they were wiped out in last year's All-Ireland semi-final by Tipperary.

They were hardly complacent given the nature of their great escape in the semi-final against Dublin and given the fact that they haven't won the National League title since 1998 they could hardly turn up their noses at the prospect of winning the silverware.

All, of course, will be forgiven and forgotten if Cork beat Waterford in the championship but right now the odds favour the Deise.

Kevin Moran was the official Man of the Match though Austin Gleeson - for his first half performance - and Pauric Mahony, who scored 11 points, were worthy contenders. 

But the unsung hero of the Waterford victory was corner back Noel Connors who held Cork's key forward Patrick Horgan scoreless from play.

Waterford were by no means flattered by their four-point interval lead (0-11; 0-7). The Deise's wing back Gleeson was the outstanding personality in an otherwise lack lustre period in which defences dominated.

He converted a sideline from more than sixty metres and also landed a long range point as the Deise took the contest to the favourites. 

Maurice Shanahan operated as the target man on the edge of the Cork square but rookie full back Aidan Ryan did well against him. The presence of sweeper Cormac Murphy alongside him was a source of constant reassurance.

Murphy, indeed, played a huge amount of ball in the first period as Waterford's tactical approach didn't work and they wasted a huge amount of possession.

At the other end the Cork attack, who lost corner forward Alan Cadogan through injury after 13 minutes, failed to make a tangible impact against the packed Waterford defence.

Still, they ought to have a goal after 20 minute when Seamus Harnedy got thorough after a questionable sideline decision at the other end but Waterford keeper Stephen O'Keeffe brilliantly saved his low drive.

The second half followed a similar pattern but gradually Waterford began to pull away . 

They were seven points clear when Lehane crashed the sliotar off the Waterford crossbar and although he pointed from the rebound that squandered chance marked the beginning of the end from a Cork perspective.

The official attendance was 17,559.

Waterford: S O'Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; A Gleeson (0-2, 1 sideline), T De Burca, Philip Mahony; J Barron (0-1), K Moran (0-3); C Dunford,  Pauric Mahony (0-11, 8f, 1 45), M Walsh (0-2);  J Dillon, M Shanahan (0-2) S Bennett (0-1). Subs: B O'Halloran (0-1) for  Dunford 59m;  T Devine (1-1) for Bennett 61m, S O'Sullivan for Dillon 67m, M O'Neill for Gleeson 70m, G O'Brien for Barron 71m

Cork: A Nash; S O'Neill, A Ryan, S McDonnell; L McLoughlin, M Ellis, C Murphy; D Kearney, A Walsh (0-1); B Cooper (0-1), S Harnedy (0-2), R O'Shea (0-1); A Cadogan, C Lehane (0-5), P Horgan (0-7, 7f). Subs: P O'Sullivan for Cadogan 13m; B Lawton for Walsh 49m; L O'Farrell for O'Shea 49m; D Cahalane for Ryan 57m, J Coughlan for Harnedy 71m

Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary)