Waterford 2-17 Cork 0-20

Updated: Monday, 06 Aug 2007 11:20

Dan Shanahan wheels away after scoring his second goal
Dan Shanahan wheels away after scoring his second goal

By Marty Morrissey

It used be Cork and Tipp. Kilkenny and Wexford for years grabbed the headlines. Clare and Limerick tried valiantly but let's call it straight and blunt. Nothing compares at the beginning of this century to Cork and Waterford clashes.

Maybe it was the rain, or the prediction by the Met Office that a deluge was heading in our direction, but only 54,994 braved the elements this afternoon in Croke Park to witness another thriller in the park.

17,500 less than a week ago, but those who stayed in the pub or just didn't like the price hike imposed by the GAA were the ultimate losers.

Cork and Waterford have produced some of the best games in recent years. Last Sunday’s finish will never be forgotten by those lucky to witness an incredible script reach a climax that nobody could have anticipated.

So could it be repeated in Round 2? Almost, to be honest.

This replay was tense, tight and contained all the ingredients that you would relish in a mouth-watering contest.

Level ten times over 70 minutes must be some sort of a record, as play and dominance swung first to the Leesiders and then back to the Deise.

The game began with Cork rocking and rolling through the middle of the Waterford defence.

Waterford 'keeper Clinton Hennessey had to rescue his team, not once, but twice, with point-blank saves before Cork midfielder Jerry O'Connor ran through to start the scoring process of the day.

Neil Ronan added another a minute later to give Cork a two-point advantage, but that scene changed after John Mullane raised a white flag.

Kieran Murphy and Eoin Kelly exchanged points before Ken McGrath did the needful with a point from a free to level it for the first time at 0-03 points each. Just eight minutes gone.

At the end of 35 minutes the teams would end up level four times. However, unlike a week previous when it was 1-07 to 0-10 at half time, this time Cork led by a point 1-07 to 0-11.

The goal arrived after 20 minutes when Stephen Molumphy took advantage of some hesitant defending to gather possession at the Canal End.

He then handpassed to Dan Shanahan, who turned on to his right to hit a powerful, unstoppable shot past Donal Óg Cusack.

The second half was only a minute old when Waterford equalised - Eoin Kelly obliging with a point.

The sides were level again in the 41st, 46th, 48th, 50th and 54th minute. Nothing could be done apparently to separate the teams.

Waterford captain Michael Walsh was having the proverbial blinder at centrefield, while Stephen Molumphy was proving once again that he was the find of the season.

His work rate is quite phenomenal and combined with an ever-increasing dominance by Tony Browne, Ken McGrath and Aidan Kearney in the Decies half-back line, the shift in control of the match slowly crawled in the direction of the southeast.

Cork centre-forward Timmy McCarthy had done a wonderful job on Ken McGrath, and yes, I know, it should be the other way round since McGrath is the centre-back.

However, Ken's influence is so massive on this team that if you keep him quiet you give your team a really good chance of succeeding. Timmy had a great first half, and I was genuinely surprised he was taken off in the second half.

Perhaps he was injured, but if not then the decision was a bit harsh.

Likewise the decision by the Cork management to take off Jerry O'Connor. While, admittedly, Waterford were doing well in that sector in the second period, I would be reluctant to take off the number nine unless he was totally banjaxed through injury or exhaustion.

The real turning point in this remarkable drama came in the 56th minute when Dan Shanahan, who had been almost invisible since the 20th minute of the first half, appeared at the end of high ball and pulled first time to send the sliotar whizzing past Cork goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack.

'Dan the Man' had done it yet again. On this particular day he had now scored 2-01, but over four Championship matches had amassed a personal tally of 8-08.

Let me re-write that for you...8-08 in four games! Incredible performances through the heat of Munster and All-Ireland Championships.

It was now Waterford 2-14 Cork 0-16.

Ben O'Connor and Paul Flynn exchanged points before substitute Eoin McGrath lit up the arena with one fabulous score.

78 minutes were played in total as Neil Ronan was knocked unconsciousness in an accidental clash (thankfully he's fine and went home on the train with his team mates after the game) but to be honest those two goals by Shanahan were the killer scores and Cork never really recovered, especially from the second green flag.

It was and is Waterford’s day. They deserved it overall and nobody can say it wasn't deserved. Clinton Hennessey, Eoin Murphy, Brian Phelan, Aidan Kearney, Ken Mc Grath and Tony Brown were rock solid in defence.

Michael 'Brick' Walsh and Eoin Kelly put in great work at midfield, while the attacking plaudits goes once again to Dan Shanahan, Paul Flynn, Eoin McGrath - when introduced - and John Mullane.

This was a massive achievement for Waterford, as they finally put the Corkmen to the sword in Croke Park.

It makes up for losing in some small way last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, but now the Decies have to walk carefully. Waiting in the long grass are Limerick.

The media, the public will now think it's a foregone conclusion - it must be a Waterford v Kilkenny All-Ireland final they will say.

That may or may not happen, but Richie Bennis and his Limerick team will be delighted the spotlight is on their opponents for the time being.

Like one of their own, JP McManus, would say: 'It’s a two horse race and that means you have at least a 50-50 chance.'

Make that 60-40 if you happen to believe that you can do it. The Shannonsiders will believe and for that reason alone Waterford would want to be careful. No point knocking out the Cork boys only to leave the Limerick lads take your place in the sun.

On that basis, expect a humdinger of seismic proportions when Richie faces Justin along the sideline next Sunday in Croke Park.

The action on the field won't be half bad either!

Cork: D Og Cusack; S O'Neill, D O'Sullivan, B Murphy; J Gardiner, R Curran, S Og O'hAilpin; T Kenny (0-02), J O'Connor (0-02); B O'Connor (0-09, 6f), T McCarthy (0-01), P Cronin; N Ronan (0-02), Kieran Murphy (Erin’s Own) (0-02), J Deane (capt) (0-2, 2f).

Subs used: C Naughton for Deane (53 mins), N McCarthy for T McCarthy (54), K Hartnett for J O'Connor (56), Kieran Murphy (Erin's Own) for Cronin (62), E Murphy for Kieran Murphy (Sarsfields) (68 mins).

Waterford: C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, A Kearney; T Browne, K McGrath (0-1, 1f), B Phelan; M Walsh (capt) (0-02), E Kelly (0-04, 1f); J Mullane (0-02), D Shanahan (2-01), S Molumphy (0-01); S Walsh, S Prendergast (0-01), P Flynn (0-03, 3f).

Subs used: E McGrath (0-02) for S Walsh (45 mins), D Bennett for Mullane (63).

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).