Waterford 1-12 (15) Cork 3-9 (18)

What a pulsating game. It’ll probably take about three weeks to write about it all. It’ll certainly take me that long to calm down. More ups and downs than the most vomit-inducing rollercoaster, it had a finish to drive even the most placid Waterfordman insane. And I’m not the most placid of persons.

A lot of eyes were on this game to see how Saturday afternoon fixtures go. It is inevitable, if the calendar is redrawn to ensure more matches, that some games will be played on Saturday. And as experiments go it went very well. A good crowd turned out, many of them making the awkward trip from Waterford to this neat ground in Cork city.

The game took a while to get going. Cork seemed to be sharper but this was not reflected on the scoreboard for a while with all their early scores coming from Joe Deane frees while Waterford got a few nice points from play. Sean óg O hAilpín was lording it in the half back line, no doubt enjoying the experience of not being racially abused. The first Cork goal was a peach. Sweeping play across the field found its way towards Joe Deane in the corner. Tom Feeney allowed himself get ahead of the Corkman who turned Feeney and dispatched an unstoppable shot to the net. Not long afterwards Cork had a second goal with Alan Browne charging through the defence and firing home. It looked grim at this stage. Seven points down at the break and the Rebels looking up for it. Another virtuoso third quarter perfomance was needed.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the capacity of this team to surprise me is limitless. They started the second half with a couple of quick points to reduce the deficit to manageable proportions then set about quietly reeling Cork in. Cork didn’t konw which way to turn. Their latent arrogance, typified by a hilarious moment early in the second half when Timmy McCarthy thought he could volley a pass to the net which instead dribbled embarassingly wide, was draining away. Fergal Hartley was now on O hAilpín who couldn’t even touch the ball now. The half back line of Queally, Frampton and Greene were on fire and the forwards, particularly White, Daly and Shanahan looked hungry and alert. Only heroic Cork defending meant that there was still three points in it as the game went into injury time.

Anthony Kirwan was fouled about twenty-five metre out. We had to go for goal. This was our last chance. Ken McGrath teed it up and faced the entire Cork defence on the line. He struck his shot high and clean but Donal óg Cusack got a stick to the ball. The ball fell to Stephen Framton, that renowned goal poacher. His first time shot somehow squirmed through the massed Cork hordes. Goal!

Tradition. It is perhaps the greatest impediment to this teams success. Before, we failed because we were crap. Now, two minutes into injury time, we had shown that we could compete with the very best. But tradition reared it’s ugly head. It might be a contentious point – and to be fair, the Waterford managemeent didn’t make an issue of it afterwards – but I firmly believe that Aodhán Mác Súibhne allowed tradition to colour his judgement. Waterford coming from seven points down against Cork to draw level? Preposterous! Time would have to be granted to correct this anomaly. The ref played on. Cork earned a sideline cut. O hAilpín hit a superb ball into the square. It was cleared only as far as Fergal McCormack whose bobbling shot, er, bobbled into the net.

What heartbreak. The ref had had a wretched game, awarding utterly silly frees and three times preventing quick puck-outs to the bewilderment of the crowd. Over the sixty minutes his incompetence evened itself out. but his decision to play three-and-a-half minutes of non-existent injury time cost us dear. After the game the embarrassed mumblings of the Cork fans said it all. They know their hurling down in that part of the world and they knew this was theft. If we meet in the championship in ’99 it will be fascinating to see what repercusions this game will have.

Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Brian Flannery (capt.), Peter Queally, Stephen Frampton (1-0), Brian Greene, Tom Fives (Dan Shanahan), Fergal Hartley, Dave Bennett (0-7), Anthony Kirwan, Ken McGrath (0-1), Míceal White (0-2), Sean Daly (0-2; Michael Molumphy), Stephen Cunningham (Billy O’Sullivan)

Cork: Donal óg Cusack, Fergal Ryan, John Browne, Wayne Sherlock, D. Murphy, Brian Corcoran, Sean óg O hAilpín, Diarmiud O’Sullivan, Derek Barrett (Pat Ryan), Timmy McCarthy (Fergal McCormack, 1-1), Michael Daly, Kieran Morrison (0-1), Sean McGrath (0-2), Alan Browne (1-0), Joe Deane (1-5)

HT: Waterford 0-5 Cork 2-6

Referee: Aodhán Mac Súibhne (Dublin)