Cork 3-17 Waterford 0-18
It was Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Cork who won the battle of the new managers on the opening night of the Allianz National Hurling league when they put Michael Ryan and Waterford to the sword in Pairc Ui Rinn. League debutante, Conor Lehane waltzed away with the man of the match award, rifling over seven points from play in a performance that filled with poise, panache and class belied his tender years.
The irony of the game from a Waterford point of view was that they started both halves of this game very well but thereafter the Deise side looked rather leaden footed as the younger Cork side left Waterford chasing shadows for much of the night. As already mentioned, Waterford did play extremely well in the opening 5 minutes of this game, firing over three points from play, courtesy of Paul O’Brien, Kevin Moran and Martin O’Neill.
The Deise joy was rather short-lived as Cork moved into second gear, leaving Waterford in their trail and after points from Horgan and Lehane (2) they were level after 11 minutes. The Rebels, with the returning Sean Og O’Hailpin at midfield got on top in most positions on the field and were soon three in front.
Waterford simply had no answer to the Cork onslaught and things got even worse for them in the 20th minute when a smart Cork move down the left hand side, involving Ben O’Connor and Pa Cronin resulted in Paudie O’Sullivan having the relatively easy job of firing past Ian O’Regan.
Waterford’s main scoring threat came in the form of wing-forward, Pauric Mahony who scored three in the first half, and with Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh struggling at centre-forward, the back line came under enormous pressure. The second Cork goal seemed to finish the game as a contest as Lehane set up Naughton who had a clear run in on O’Regan’s goal. The very next score demoralised Waterford completely as a long puck out from Cuasck went all the way into the full-forward line where O’Sullivan was on hand to flick in Cork’s third goal.
The second half finished with a sign of things to come in the second half as two unanswered Waterford points left them ten behind at the break.
The Decies continued their good form in the second half and three unanswered points from Mahony, Casey and O’Neill narrowed the gap to seven. With Kevin Moran improving at centre-back, Waterford continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over and by the time Pauric Mahony scored a free in the 51st minute, the Cork lead was down to five points.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy responded to the mini crisis by introducing Tom Kenny and Lorcan McLoughlin and with Lehane continuing to snipe points, they were able to stave off Waterford’s mini-revival. A 55th minute point from O’Hailpin raised the biggest cheer of the night, with the large home crowd enjoying their night under the lights of the stadium named after their brightest star.
As the game fizzled out to its inevitable conclusion, Barry-Murphy brought off Lehane, perhaps to afford him the standing ovation that the young star so thoroughly deserved.
Cork will now face into the rest of the league with reasonable optimism and while Barry-Murphy will know that there are sterner tests down the track, he will also know that this was a great start and a huge morale booster to get things up and running.
Waterford manager, Michael Ryan can point to the number of notable absentees which included all-stars, Noel Connors and John Mullane and there are also rumours that Eoin Kelly, cast to one side by Ryan earlier in the year, may well be back in tandem by the end of the league. On this display, Waterford are going to need all the help they can get if they are to avoid the dreaded drop.