Waterford 1-19 -
Waterford’s Colm Roche is dejected at the end his side’s Bord Gais Energy Munster Under 21 Hurling Championship Semi-Final in Walsh Park. Photo: INPHO/Ken Sutton.
Munster U-21 semi-final: Waterford v Cork: Big Match Rewind
The beauty and the cruelty of knockout championship was laid bare in this most dramatic contest.
Waterford simply weren’t ruthless enough at both ends during that tense closing sequence to put down a Cork side that were as stubborn as the car owner that ignored the frequent PA requests to move their vehicle outside the ground.
The champions reacted positively to a five-point second half deficit. Shane Bennett earned eight possessions, including a point and two frees, around midfield during the opening half but Waterford got the most out of him at full forward on the restart. Colm Roche reasserted himself and a miraculous score as he fell to his knees left two between them before Bennett’s goal. The Shamrocks man boasted 16 possessions by full time, firing five points from six shots and laying on an assist for Jack Prendergast.
The visitors escaped too easily out of defence against the breeze initially as Patrick Collins hit David Griffin with short puckouts. The forwards then pushed up on the Cork backs and forced Collins to go long. He sent two puckouts on top of Declan Dalton but Waterford got in their faces approaching the finish, cut off the easy options and forced turnovers.
With the scores level, sheer hard graft from the forwards pressurised their opponents into the concession of two frees. After Curran made it 1-17 to 1-15, Waterford launched the next three attacks off Collins restarts. Peter Hogan blocked down Eoghan Healy but snatched at his shot. Andrew Casey then squandered another promising chance after a Conor Prunty interception. Curran collected from Darragh Lyons and landed one from his own 65. It could have been a two-score game by that stage however. Curran also had a shot that fell fractionally short into Collins. Both teams had a similar conversion rate with the elements. Waterford nailed twelve of their nineteen second half attempts while Cork raised ten white flags from seventeen efforts.
The closing play will also haunt the hosts. After the Darragh Fitzgibbon dismissal, Billy Nolan went for distance from the subsequent free but found an unmarked red jersey. Michael O’Halloran, Mark Coleman and David Lowney worked it through the middle to free up Jack O’Connor and you know the rest.
Declan Dalton was listed as sub keeper on last year’s under 21 team but proved his ability outfield during the autumn when he steered Fr O’Neills to the Cork intermediate championship.
He took care of dead balls as minor number one in 2015 and gave a near flawless showcase of shooting last Thursday. The Cork centre forward slotted eight of his nine frees and clipped in two first half sidelines. Although he had Conor Gleeson for company, he still found room to hit two from play. Two huge efforts inside his own 65 against the breeze kept John Meyler’s team very much in the shake-up.
He gave Nolan no chance with a brilliantly struck penalty to the bottom corner. 1-12 from fifteen shots at goal, man of the match and a place in the Munster final. All in a night’s work for Dalton.
This fiery semi final featured a red card, seven yellows and a penalty. It shoved Fergal Horgan onto centre stage. Sean O’Donoghue escaped with a booking for a high tackle on Bennett and Jordan Henley was also relieved to just see yellow after striking down on the hand of Dalton.
Injuries to Darragh Lyons and Dalton along with seven second half substitutions led to five minutes flashing up on the fourth official’s board. Darragh Fitzgibbon could have few complaints for his straight red as he swung out and connected with Billy Nolan’s elbow. Cork sub Jack O’Connor was clearly brought to ground by Lyons inside the large rectangle even though he appeared to catch the sliotar three times.
The delays around the red card (a minute and twenty seconds) and the penalty merited at least one more play after Dalton drilled the sliotar to the net. Horgan blew up immediately however and the champions were out.
Cork will sorely miss Fitzgibbon for the provincial final later this month. On a night where the injured Luke Meade watched on from the stand, Shane Kingston didn’t get a shot away off Conor Prunty and All Star in waiting Mark Coleman had a quiet outing, the Charleville midfielder constantly drove at the Waterford defence into the wind.
The 20 year old had a point and an assist to his credit from the first half but took on a lead part for the rest of the hour. He sped off on three lung bursting runs. After the first of these carries, he exchanged passes with Tim O’Mahony and rifled over a point. His second of the half left them five points to the good.
When Waterford appeared to gain control, Fitzgibbon retaliated straight away. He won a scoreable free in front of the posts immediately after the Bennett goal and was fouled again after Jack Prendergast put three points between the sides. An injury time wide meant that he got on the ball nine times during the second period. The Rebels wouldn’t have won it without him.