SportGAA

Waterford finish strongly to beat Cork

Michael Walsh of Waterford scores his side's first goal
Michael Walsh of Waterford scores his side's first goal

WATERFORD 4-19 CORK 0-20

For the first time ever hurling will have an All-Ireland senior hurling final between Galway and Waterford, after favourites and Munster champions Cork fell at the penultimate stage for the second time in four years, writes Dermot Crowe. 

Before a huge crowd of 72,022, Waterford reached their first final since 2008, a team not known for scoring goals ending up with four.

But they have concerns heading into the September 3 decider with the late dismissal of Conor Gleeson who was red-carded along with Cork’s best player Patrick Horgan after a flashpoint with only two minutes of normal time remaining. By then Waterford were safely through. They may also have to plan the final without Austin Gleeson who after being subdued in the first half set up the goal for Jamie Barron which turned the match in the 58th minute.

At the time Cork were two points up and hurling well after losing full back Damien Cahalane seven minutes earlier, the defender picking up a second yellow card and receiving his marching orders. But Colm Spillane got caught in possession and Gleeson delivered a crisp cross-field ball to the waiting Barron who struck a crucial goal. It put Waterford 2-13 to 0-18 ahead and they never trailed from there.

The goal changed everything. Waterford hit 2-2 on the bounce in four minutes and by the time Conor Lehane scored in the 63rd minute Waterford had gone from two points down to six points up.

Conor Gleeson scored an inspirational point immediately after Barron’s goal and then Austin Gleeson broke through for an audacious solo goal, selling a dummy and taking on the responsibility himself although he had an option to his right, with a Waterford player unmarked.

Pauric Mahony, who scored eight points, soon split the posts and Waterford were as good as through.

Their celebrations will be mixed with worry about Austin Gleeson’s prospects of playing against Galway, however, after he appeared to pull Luke Meade’s helmet off when the players tangled near the sideline late in the first half. Given that his team-mate Tadhg De Burca missed this game for a similar offence, the act made no sense. It simply beggared belief.

Waterford used Darragh Fives as their sweeper instead of the suspended De Burca and set out their stall early in the match by reducing the Cork attacking threat to gain a firm foothold in the match.

They were a different side to the one which lost so tamely to Cork in the Munster semi-finals earlier in the year. Shane Kingston caused Kieran Bennett, a late call-up for De Burca, some difficulties early on. But Kingston and Alan Cadogan were the only Cork forwards to register in the opening half, aside from their best performer, Horgan.

Horgan had seven points in his account by half time, three from play, and finished with 0-12, and he could have had a higher return had he not missed two free attempts. By the interval Waterford held a slender 1-7 to 0-9 lead, with Cork struggling to win possession from their own puck out.

At the other end Waterford put Brick Walsh on Mark Coleman and he caused the teenager problems with his size and ball-winning ability. It was his goal after only four minutes that gave Waterford a huge early tonic, set up beautifully by Shane Bennett who worked the ball in along the end-line and then floated a perfect pass over Coleman’s head to the unmarked Walsh. Nash got a stick to the low drive but was unable to keep it out.

The goal put Waterford ahead, 1-1 to 0-2, and they held that lead for 16 minutes, Horgan levelling the match for the second time. Kevin Moran, who was very quiet when the teams met in the Munster semi final, had a huge first half, scoring three points from play and narrowly missing another attempt, a bold shot over the shoulder from the sideline which required Hawkeye’s intervention.

Lehane, tightly marked by Noel Connors, struggled to impose himself in the first half and while he had two second-half scores his influence was limited. Mark Ellis played as the spare man in the Cork half of the field, yet Waterford still managed to find scores and could have had a few more, running up nine first-half wides.

The game was neck and neck until Barron’s first goal, with the teams level on 14 occasions, and Cork still had prospects even after Cahalane’s sending off. But they never worked a single goal chance and Waterford put enough pressure on their forwards to see a rising Rebel second-half wide count. Barron’s goal, quickly followed by Gleeson’s, broke Cork.

The win was sealed with a fourth goal, and a second for the excellent Barron, in injury-time as he broke through unmarked and put the ball calmly past Nash.

This will be a difficult defeat for Cork to take but the five-week break may again have proved a handicap, as it seemed to in 2014 when they were flat against Tipperary. Waterford rejoice but they carry the worry over the two Gleesons, offset at least by the return of De Burca who will have served his suspension by then.  

Scorers: Waterford - Pauric Mahony 0-8 (0-5 fs), J Barron 2-1; K Moran 0-4; A Gleeson 1-1, M Walsh 1-0; D Fives, C Gleeson, B O’Halloran, M Shanahan 0-1. Cork - P Horgan 0-12 (0-7 fs); A Cadogan, C Lehane 0-2; S Kingston, D Fitzgibbon (lineball), S Harnedy, L O’Farrell 0-1.

Waterford: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; D Lyons, A Gleeson, Philip Mahony; J Barron, C Gleeson; K Moran, Pauric Mahony, M Walsh; Shane Bennett, J Dillon, D Fives.

Subs: M Shanahan for Dillon (45 mins); B O’Halloran for Shae Bennett (55); C Dunford for Pauric Mahony (68); P Curran for K Bennett (72).

Cork: A Nash; S McDonnell, D Cahalane C Spillane; C Joyce, M Ellis, M Coleman; B Cooper, D Fitzgibbon; S Harnedy, C Lehane, S KIngston; A Cadogan, P Horgan, L Meade.

Subs: M Cahalane for Meade (half time); L O’Farrell for Cadogan (65); D Kearney for (65).

Referee: J Owens (Wexford)