Kieran Kingston’s Cork delivered another big performance at Semple Stadium this afternoon to book their place in a first Munster senior hurling final since 2014 – as Patrick Horgan collected ten points for the winners.
Four weeks after slaying last year’s provincial and All-Ireland winners Tipperary at Semple Stadium, the Rebels had five points to spare against Waterford to set up a provincial decider with Clare on July 9.
Cork lost corner back Colm Spillane to a second yellow card in the 62nd minute but held out in front of 33,163 spectators to send Waterford heading for the qualifiers.
Conor Lehane was deemed fit enough to start but he limped off late on with a recurrence of the ankle problem that had threatened his participation.
Lehane must now be deemed a major doubt for the Clare tussle – the first Munster senior final between the counties since 1999.
It was a generally forgettable afternoon for Waterford, who had hoped to book a third successive Munster final appearance.
Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson produced a couple of classy cameo moments but didn’t have the impact he or manager Derek McGrath would have wished for – and he was replaced in the second half.
The sides went in level at 0-10 apiece at the end of a rip-roaring first half.
They were level three times inside the opening 13 minutes but Cork held the lead from the 15th minute until Kevin Moran’s equalising point for Waterford just before the interval.
There were some brilliant individual moments to savour, chief among them a wonderful pick-up and Waterford point from an initially grounded Gleeson in the tenth minute.
Cork’s leading scorer Horgan was inches wide with a goal effort minutes later as the game ebbed and flowed.
With both sides adopting a ‘man on man’ approach, it was bubbling up into an absorbing fixture.
By the 19th minute, Cork had managed to get three points clear, 0-08 to 0-05, but there was never a feeling that the Rebels would put real daylight between themselves and the Déise.
Cork’s fifth point was another eye-catching score, Conor Lehane fetching Mark Coleman’s pass brilliantly before racing away and firing over from the Old Stand side of the field.
The respective puck-out strategies were working well – Cork favouring the superb Coleman on the left touchline on more than one occasion, while Waterford were hitting the flanks and trying to keep the ball away from Mark Ellis.
The Cork man was still on a world of ball in the first half but his direct opponent, Pauric Mahony, still managed to get away for three points from play.
Content to hold his position, Ellis was prepared to concede some ground to Mahony and this duel was just one of the many sub-plots from an intriguing game.
Approaching half-time, Waterford received a massive psychological lift by drawing level.
Before Moran’s equaliser, Waterford goalkeeper produced heroics to deny first Alan Cadogan and then Seamus Harnedy, the latter an absolutely blinding save low down to his right.
Goal opportunities came and went early in the second half and as the game wore on, referee Barry Kelly allowed a number of offences to go unpunished.
Stephen Bennett could face retrospective action for tugging Damien Cahalane’s faceguard but Waterford appealed hard for a penalty in the 61st minute when Maurice Shanahan appeared to have been fouled.
Shanahan had netted in the 46th minute to draw Waterford level at 1-12 to 0-15 but the Déise could only muster 1-05 after half-time.
And as Cork finished with ten different scorers, jubilant fans invaded the Semple Stadium sod at full-time to savour a famous win.
Cork – A Nash; S McDonnell, D Cahalane, C Spillane; C Joyce, M Ellis (0-01), M Coleman (0-01, sl); B Cooper (0-01), D Fitzgibbon (0-01 sl); L Meade, C Lehane (0-04), S Harnedy (0-02); A Cadogan (0-01), P Horgan (0-10, 7f, 1 65), S Kingston.
Subs: M Cahalane (0-01) for Kingston (55), D Kearney for Fitzgibbon (60), L O’Farrell (0-01) for Meade (60), B Lawton for Lehane (68), D Brosnan for Cadogan (70+3).
Waterford – S O’Keeffe, S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; C Gleeson, T de Búrca, Philip Mahony; J Barron (0-02), K Moran (0-01); Stephen Bennett (0-02), Pauric Mahony (0-05, 1f), M Walsh; A Gleeson (0-02), M Shanahan (1-01, 0-01f), Shane Bennett (0-01).
Subs: T Ryan for Stephen Bennett (47), B O’Halloran (0-01) for Shane Bennett (54), D Fives for S Fives (58), J Dillon for Gleeson (63), P Curran for Walsh (66).
Referee – B Kelly (Westmeath).