Waterford 1-15 (18) Cork 0-24 (24)

Ken McGrath, Cork, 1999

Wonderful and all as Thurles is, we don’t seem to have much in the way of success there. Two wins last year were followed by a draw and two defeats. And today, the Cork hex/hoodoo/Indian sign, call it what you will, struck again. The Déise Boys were comprehensively outplayed by a sharp and energetic Cork outfit, whose defence and midfield were absolutely superb. I could complain about the ubiquitous Aodhan Mac Suibhne. But I won’t. Cork were the better team and deserved to win.

The first event on arriving at the ground was probably a bad omen. I managed to get my klaxon confiscated. I simply forgot that they were verboten and a guard descended on me outside the ground. He was unfailingly polite about it, but this kind of Little Hitlerism leaves a sour taste in the mouth, especially when you saw the amount of horns and alcohol that mysteriously found their way into the ground. I don’t know whether to blame the Gardaí or the GAA, but this killjoy attitude reflects badly on both of them.

(Some will make the point that I deserved to lose it for not having the good sense to conceal the damn thing on the way in. And they’d be right. D’oh.)

We were not to know it at the time, but our chances nosedived right from the throw-in. Fergal Hartley broke his finger at the first clash, and spent the following thirty-five minutes giving an Oscar winning performance of a player who was useless. He couldn’t catch the ball or pass it to one of his own men, and depite what the cynics might say that is NOT normal. I don’t know if this was the root cause but it was clear from the frustration on the terraces that Waterford were not at the races. In fact, this was the equivalent of going to the Curragh when the race was at Longchamps.

Putting aside naff metaphors, were we really that bad? The first half wasn’t great for either side. Both teams were profligate, but Cork were worse, hitting some woefully dodgy wides. Their defence was completely on top though, and with Tony Browne and the aforementioned Fergal Hartley operating at minimum efficiency, Cork were lording the midfield, firing every Waterford clearance right back into the danger area. This was hardly the only problem area though. In the second half Ken McGrath was moved to midfield and he soon got into his stride so where else did we fall down?

It really is hard to tell. This may read like very woolly analysis, but that’s because I can’t put my finger on what went wrong. With the exception of Ken McGrath and Peter Queally with support from Dan Shanahan, Tom Feeney, Stephen Frampton and Brian Flannery no-one excelled. Yet despite this, we were still only five points adrift with ten minutes to go when we got a free close in. Paul Flynn has never left us down before in this situation and he didn’t let us down here, firing the ball to the net. Big Dan lobbed over another score and the gap was down to the minimum. Then double disaster. Stephen Frampton ‘lost’ the ball in the midfield and Mark Landers popped the loose ball over the bar. Then Tom Feeney ‘fouled’ the ball close in and Joe Deane gave the Rebels a three point cushion.

To be fair to Cork they ran us down at this point outscoring us four to one. The sense of disappointment was palpable at the end, but Cork were typically gracious in victory, sparing us the worst excesses of triumphalism and their euphoric celebrations at the end was quite gratifying…a few counties could learn from them. Where to for the Déise now? Only time will tell, but I think there’s a trophy or two in this lot yet.

HT: Waterford 0-7 Cork 0-10

Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Brian Flannery (capt.), Peter Queally, Stephen Frampton (0-1, free), Brian Greene (Anthony Kirwan), Tony Browne, Fergal Hartley (Pat Walsh), Dan Shanahan (0-3), Billy O’Sullivan (Michael Molumphy), Ken McGrath (0-4, 0-1 free), Míceal White (0-1), Paul Flynn (1-4, 1-3 frees), Dave Bennett (0-2)

Cork: Donal óg Cusack, Fergal Ryan, Diarmiud O’Sullivan, John Browne, Wayne Sherlock, Brian Corcoran, Sean óg O hAilpín, Mark Landers (capt.), Michael O’Connell, Sean McGrath, Fergal McCormack, Timmy McCarthy, Ben O’Connor, Neil Ronan, Joe Deane

Referee: Aodhan MacSuibhne (Dublin)

Post Scriptum: there was a small amount of recrimination after this game but not much. Most people took it on the chin, surprising considering our favourites tag. Enda McEvoy in the ‘Munster’ described it as our worst performance since ’95. We’ve come a long way that a six-point defeat to Cork is a disaster. It was very pleasing to see the contempt that the ref was held in by the dreaded Meeja. He’ll never officiate in this town again!