Cork: D. Og Cusack; S. O’Neill; S. McDonnell; B. Murphy; J. Gardiner (L. McLoughlin); R. Cashman; W. Egan; S. Og O Hailpin (0-1); D. Sweetnam (0-1; T. Kenny); C. Lehane (0-7; B. Corry); P Cronin (0-1); C Naughton (1-1); P Horgan (0-4;0-1f); P O’Sullivan (2-1); B O’Connor (0-1).
Waterford: I. O’Regan; P. Mahony; D. Fives; S. Daniels; J. Nagle (0-1); K. Moran (0-1); D. Prendergast (P. Prendergast); S. Molumphy; P. O’Brien (0-1); S. Prendergast (0-1; D. Twomey); M. Walsh; P. O’Mahony (0-4;0-3f); M. O’Neill (0-5;0-3f; G. O’Brien 0-2); S. Walsh (E. McGrath 0-1); S. Casey (0-1; T. Ryan 0-1).
Cork got off to an impressive winning start tonight against Waterford in front of a large crowd in Pairc ui Rinn. Playing against an under strength and admittedly lacklustre Waterford team, Cork nonetheless showed a slightly more direct style of hurling that reaped three (fairly soft) goals. Cork played with a certain sense of intelligence and style going forward and also looked physically lean and fit. In contrast, Waterford badly lacked a figurehead in attack, showed little to no decent link up play and numerous of their players looked overweight. Without Mullane, the edge and gameplan going forward seemed completely absent.
For Cork, there were a number of excellent individual performances. The full-back line as a whole was impressive, Shane O’Neill in particular looking back to something approaching his old form. The half-back line was solid to the extent that their Waterford counterparts weren’t particularly influential with Ross Cashman in particular playing a considerable amount of ball at center-back, although one would worry about the lack of pace of the line as a whole in a bigger pitch. The midfield did ok, Sean Og worked hard and looked extremely fit but generally had little influence on proceedings while Darren Sweetnam scored a lovely point and was strong defensively his touch was at times off. As an aside however, taking him off Tom Kenny 50 minutes into the game was pretty needless and not exactly forward thinking. Up front, Pa Cronin won some decent ball but was fairly quiet – hopefully the return of the McCarthys will mean Cronin’s return to midfield. Outside him Cathal Naughton scored two lovely points although the questions about his ability to win ball at half-forward remains. The inside forwards were all excellent, Patrick Horgan was extremely sharp, Ben O’Connor linked up nicely throughout while Padraig O’Sullivan pilfered two goals and showed some typically classy touches. Possibly the main speaking point of the night however was the performance of Conor Lehane, who struck 0-7 from play and earned an entirely deserved MOTM accolade.
For Waterford, not much can be said. To be fair, put Mullane, Connors and O’Sullivan into that side and the improvement would be considerable. The Waterford full-back line was a mess throughout but Connors has the speed and marking ability to tighten things up considerably back there, while Shane O’Sullivan would add considerable industry to the middle of the pitch and Mullane a real attacking edge up front. However problems at full-back will still remain and in general it looked like Waterford somewhat lacked squad depth. The forwards were pretty impotent and played as individuals throughout while it was clear that Waterford hadn’t done the same amount of fitness work Cork had done pre-season. Best for Waterford were Molumphy who worked hard in the middle of the pitch, O’Mahony who was good from frees and young forwards Martin O’Neill and Gavin O’Brien who got a few points between them.