Cork: D. Og Cusack; S. McDonnell; E. Dillon; C. O’Sullivan (R. Curran); J. Gardiner (0-1 65); W. Egan (0-1); B. Murphy (0-1); P. Cronin (0-2); L. McLoughlin (0-1; J. O’Connor 0-1) T. Kenny; C. McCarthy (0-1); N. McCarthy (0-1; C. Naughton); P. Horgan (0-5, 0-4f); P. O’Sullivan (B. O’Connor); L. O’Farrell (0-3, M. Cussen).
Waterford: A. Power; D. Fives; W. Hutchinson; N. Connors; D. O’Sullivan; M. Walsh; K. Moran (0-2); R. Foley (0-5f); K. McGrath (E. Kelly); S. Molumphy; S. Walsh (0-5); P. O’Mahony (0-1; T. Ryan); J. Mullane (0-3); S. Prendergast (0-1); M. Shanahan (0-1).
Unfortunately Cork failed to at least grab what would have been a deserved draw in Dungarvan last Sunday, largely thanks to a lot of very inaccurate shooting throughout. Again, the Cork display was defined by inconsistent performances and play-style. Our full-forward line largely failed to click both individually and as a group, although Luke O’Farrell probably had his best game for the Cork Seniors yet clinically pointing three times. However Patrick Horgan largely failed to impact on the game besides getting a couple of handy frees while Padraig O’Sullivan worked hard but failed to register from play and hit some poor long distance wides. Moreover, besides some second-half scrambles around the box Cork failed to create any notable scoring chances and generally we lacked the movement and link-up play near goal to carve open genuine chances.
Similarly, the full-back line had a rough day – Stephen McDonnell was excellent and is quickly showing himself to be an inter-county standard hurler, although Mullane’s class meant he still pilfered a few points. Elsewhere though Dillon had a bit of a nightmare more worse by the management’s ineptitude – Waterford did their usual ploy of a two man full-forward with Shane Walsh on Dillon and Mullane on McDonnell and from beginning to end Walsh’s quick feet and superior balance terrorised Dillon, who tried hard but lacked the speed to keep up with his man. Walsh was easily man of the match and ended up with five points – a game winning performance that could probably have been solved by a simple positional switch, like Brian Murphy to full back on Walsh. Finally, and although he did well on the ball, Conor O’Sullivan had a tough second half marking Maurice Shanahan, who won numerous aerial balls of O’Sullivan.
The performance of the middle eight was more heartening. Gardiner was solid as always at center-back while both Egan and Murphy showed considerable leadership qualities winning a lot of important ball in the dying moments of the game. By and large the Waterford half-forward line struggled to make an impact on the game. The performance of Cronin and McLoughlin in midfield was also excellent – Cronin played brilliantly in patches, his first touch and pick-up impressive while McLoughlin again broke numerous first time tackles and showed some intelligent link-up play. Moreover, both players can, and did, point from distance, a valuable commodity in modern hurling for your midfielder. The half-forward line was mediocre – Kenny was disapointing again, his drive and legs look long gone and the experiment of him as a half-forward thus looks increasingly doomed. The two McCarthys put in solid shifts but impressed a little less then in prior matches. Nonetheless the line is taking shape and one suspects Kenny is holding place for young Lehane post-leaving. Lehane will be needed – another scoring forward would benefit Cork greatly and particularly someone will real pace and aggression to offer an additional goal threat.
Besides the tactical error in not moving Dillon, Cork largely through this one away with a mixture of poor decision making and shooting. The inside forwards along with Niall McCarthy were guilty of poor wides, shots dropping into the hands of the goalie and speculative attempts in the first half, while the same can be said for Egan, Naughton and the O’Connors amongst others in the second. Egan in particular, despite having a fine game, shot from a tight angle at the very end of the game instead of passing the ball ten years to an open Cathal Naughton who was in a much better position to shoot. For Cork, it was another game showing off numerous positive individual performances but an overall patchy and frustrating team performance.
For Waterford things look a little more promising. The full-back line was uniformly excellent, Connors destroying Horgan while Hutchinson and Fives were solid considering their shortage of experience. Similarly their half-back line by and large got the better of the Cork half-forward line, Brick Walsh as solid as ever and Moran even finding time to point twice. Foley was excellent from frees and lively in play but McGrath’s legs are sadly long gone, his only offering a frontal charge on McLoughlin. Shane Walsh was the pick of the forwards by far and looked very dangerous with even the minimum of space, Mullane was well marked but still grabbed a few points and Maurice Shanahan mixed the good with the bad, doing very well in the air but often running into dead-ends and generally failing to get his head up in time to do something productive. Defensively they looked solid and with Shane O’Sullivan back by champioship the midfield should also be set. If Walsh and an other forward can consistently supplement Mullane in the scoring stakes then maybe, just maybe, they can make a substantial stamp on the All-Ireland series.