/ GAA

Waterford 5-15 Cork 3-18

Updated: Sunday, 17 Jun 2007 20:12

Dan Shanahan scored two goals for Waterford today
Dan Shanahan scored two goals for Waterford today

Waterford dethroned Munster hurling champions Cork in a pulsating eight-goal encounter at Semple Stadium today, as Justin McCarthy's men emerged as worthy three-point winners.

The Deise were at their clinical best - hitting only four wides throughout - as they powered through to an 8 July decider against either Limerick or Tipperary.

The sides swapped six goals in an opening half that ended 4-08 to 2-09 in Waterford's favour. Dan Shanahan grabbed a brace with John Mullane and Paul Flynn also netting.

Sarsfields clubman Kieran Murphy notched Cork's first two goals, Pa Cronin also raised a green flag and while Ben O’Connor levelled the tie, 20 minutes from time, an Eoin Kelly goal helped Waterford hold on.

Any DVD makers covering these teams' seasons or the championship on a whole will surely have to extend their prospective productions by a good hour after this game - indeed there was enough quality on show here in the cauldron of Thurles to warrant a DVD of its own.

It was classic fare and following on from yesterday's incredible replay between Limerick and Tipperary, it was another superb advertisement for the gripping nature of Munster hurling.

Waterford and Cork held the 37,000 present spellbound for the entire 70 minutes, with headline acts in both red and white, none more so than goal-getter supreme Shanahan.

The 30-year-old Lismore giant was a key player throughout. And yet his thunder could have been stolen in injury-time by Cork's diminutive corner-forward Joe Deane who reeled away in agony after his last-gasp shot struck the crossbar as the champions pressed for an equalising goal.

The match began as it ended - at a frenetic pace. Mullane pointed after barely 13 seconds, while Cork talisman Ben O'Connor brilliantly arced a sideline cut through the uprights from 53 yards out a minute later.

O'Connor's twin brother Jerry tied up the sides at 0-02 apiece before Mullane edged the 2004 champions ahead.

Cork, who had their three suspended stars - Sean Óg Ó h’Ailpín, Diarmuid O'Sullivan and Donal Óg Cusack - watching from the sidelines, then had a purple patch.

The Rebels roared into a 1-02 to 0-03 lead as Murphy cracked home the game's opening goal in the 13th-minute. A brace of points followed as Gerald McCarthy's men looked to press home their sudden advantage.

But the Deise began to play with a renewed swagger when Shanahan (19 minutes) and Mullane (25) succeeded in finding Anthony Nash's net - both shots left the Kanturk 'keeper with no chance.

Waterford were now 2-04 to 1-05 ahead and a stunning 100-yard point from Ken McGrath threatened to lift the roof off both stands.

The goal spree continued at the other end, five minutes before the interval. 'Fraggy' Murphy rippled the Waterford net once again as the Rebels got back on terms at 2-07 apiece.

However, Waterford again raised their game to register two late goals and take a five-point buffer into the second half.

First, returning full-forward Paul Flynn brilliantly powered a 21-metre free low to the Cork net, past Nash and a pile of defenders. Shanahan then displayed his fine goal-scoring touch in injury-time as he picked out the far right corner of the net with a rocket of a shot.

As if to signal his side's intentions for the second half, Deane created space for a final point from the acutest of angles out on the left to take some of the gloss off Shanahan's second goal.

Cork made a forceful start to the second half with Ben O'Connor and Deane amongst the points and the tie looked to be turning in their favour when wing forward Cronin, who swept onto a loose ball, raised his green flag with a pin-point ground shot in the 47th-minute.

Further points from Deane and O'Connor saw Cork gain parity and they hit the front again in the 54th-minute when top scorer Deane found the target once again.

Having looked to be waivering, Waterford stole in for arguably the most important goal of an exhaustive afternoon. Kelly, who began the game with a wayward free, showed excellent poise on a solo run before he flicked a shot past Nash to great roars of approval.

Cork had an immediate chance to reply as they gained a 20-metre penalty but Clinton Hennessy managed to block Ben O'Connor's strike and Waterford cleared the danger.

The Deise's lead was never a certain one in the closing stages. Another O'Connor free had Cork trailing by only 5-13 to 3-17, but fittingly up stepped Mullane and Tony Browne, two of the Deise's All-Stars from recent years, to fire over two vital late points which put the seal on Waterford's third straight win over Cork - they beat Gerald McCarthy's charges twice in the league.

Cork had won the last three championship matches between the sides, including last year's All-Ireland semi-final, so with one over on their old rivals and the league title safely in the trophy cabinet, can Waterford now go on to claim the Munster crown and also end their All-Ireland famine? On this evidence, they stand every chance.

Cork: A Nash; B Murphy, C O'Connor, S O'Neill; J Gardiner, R Curran, K Hartnett; J O'Connor (0-02), T Kenny (0-02); K Murphy (Erin's Own) (capt), N McCarthy (0-02), P Cronin (1-00); B O'Connor (0-05, 1f, 1 '65'), K Murphy (Sarsfields) (2-00), J Deane (0-06, 2f)

Subs used: S Murphy for B Murphy, P Kelly for C O'Connor, N Ronan for Kenny, T McCarthy for N McCarthy, C Naughton (0-1) for T McCarthy.

Waterford: C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, J Murray; T Browne (0-02), K McGrath (0-02, 2f), A Kearney; M Walsh (capt), S Molumphy; D Shanahan (2-01), S Prendergast, E Kelly (1-05, 0-4f); J Kennedy, P Flynn (1-1, 1-0f), J Mullane (1-04).

Subs used: B Phelan for Murray, E McGrath for Molumphy, D Coffee for Murphy, S Walsh for Flynn.

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).