Waterford 3-16 Cork 3-16, by Marty Morrissey

Updated: Sunday, 29 Jul 2007 22:42

Waterford and Cork will meet again Dan Shanahan scored the first goal in this gripping tie
Waterford and Cork will meet again Dan Shanahan scored the first goal in this gripping tie

William Shakespeare may never have heard of hurling but if he did then he probably would have created a new word for the English vocabulary that would have adequately described this Guinness Hurling Championship quarter-final between Cork and Waterford this afternoon.

For the rest of us mere mortals, words almost fail us. Epic, thrilling, exciting, magnificent all seem to come up short when describing the happenings on the historic green sward of GAA Headquarters on this day, 29 July 2007.

This was a game that captured the imagination and interest, not just of the 72,426 that were lucky enough to witness it in person but the hundreds of thousands that watched it on the Sunday Game Live today.

It ended all level at 3-16 each amidst drama that will be hard to match now or any other time in the future.

The story began around 4pm today when Stephen Molumphy opened Waterford’s account after 22 seconds. It ended close to 5.30 pm when substitute Eoin McGrath got inside the Cork defence at the Canal End with his side trailing by one point and time ticking away- in fact seconds away from the final whistle.

He ran and ran and suddenly the crowd realised Mc Grath was not going for a simple tap over for an equaliser but going for glory.

His bullet-like shot was brilliantly saved by Cork goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack, the rebound came out to Paul Flynn who pulled first time only to see it saved on the line by Diarmuid O’Sullivan.

Cusack seemed to lie on the ball and was immediately challenged by Flynn. What would the referee Brian Gavin do? Give a free-out? Throw in the ball? Or give a free-in?

He gave the latter and Eoin Kelly had a simple tap over to draw this quarter-final and force a replay, which will probably take place next weekend.

It was exhilarating and heart-stopping stuff.

In between those two moments at the beginning and end of this quarter-final we were treated to a nerve tingling drama.

The sides were level five times in the first half and at one stage Waterford led by five points after Dan Shanahan had scored a cracking goal with just 10 minutes gone.

Cork responded but were slow to find their rhythm but by half-time were level 1-07 to 0-10.

22 seconds into the second half, Stephen Molumphy set up Flynn with a delightful ball and the Ballygunner man smashed a great shot past Cusack. 

Six minutes later, Kieran Murphy was fouled inside the large rectangle with the Decies leading by four.

Neil Ronan hit an unstoppable shot from the resulting penalty past Clinton Hennessey and company to bring Cork to within a point of their opponents. 

With 10 minutes left on the clock, the Leesiders struck for the third goal after Murphy latched on to a rebound from Ronan and scored using incredible guile and skill.

Having survived a hefty challenge en route and knowing he could be hooked, he held the hurley like a tennis racket and smashed the sliotar past a helpless Hennessey.

It was now Cork 2-14 Waterford 2-13.

30 seconds later, Seamus Prendergast levelled the teams for the sixth time with nine minutes left to the long whistle. 

It looked all over on 65 minutes when Ronan netted Cork’s third and final goal when he was in the right position to crack home the rebound after the Waterford goalkeeper had made a good stop.

Surely now Cork were home and dry. Not quite.

The Leesiders' fans were even more convinced that they were heading to Croke Park in a few weeks' time for an All-Ireland semi-final after substitute Kevin Harnett had added on a point. 

Four points up with four minutes to go. It had to be Cork’s day. But not quite.

Cork 'keeper Cusack produced a breathtaking save from Flynn only to see the rebound fall nicely for the inrushing Molumphy to rattle the net.

There was now a minute and 40 seconds left on the clock.

Injury-time allowed was announced to be just one minute. Could Waterford get an equaliser? They did in circumstances nobody could have envisaged.

Was the referee right to give a free to Waterford? My initial reaction was that Brian Gavin got it right. It was a technical foul as the Cork 'keeper seemed to lie on the ball and thus prevent play continuing. 

It certainly was the fairest result and when Cork players and management cool down a bit I think they will realise that they contributed to one of the greatest second halves of hurling likely to be seen in Croke Park now or for evermore and anybody with a love of sport, skill, fair play and especially hurling will thank the referee and the God in Heaven for giving us a chance to see these great hurlers from Cork and Waterford do it all again soon.