Tag Archives: Pairc Ui Rinn

Waterford 3-19 (28) Cork 1-20 (23) (AET) – Minor – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted by Giveitfong on boards.ie)

Ando’s Soggy Bottom thinks watching games by text message is bad for the nerves. Well, can you imagine what actually being at this game was like! This was one of the most nerve-jangling hurling games I was ever at, with very little (or nothing) between the teams throughout the second half and most of extra time until Waterford finally pulled away in the closing minutes.

There was so much depending on this game, not just for this particular Waterford team, but because of the opportunity it offered to finally lay the bogey of the Déise never having won an under-age game anywhere in Cork. After 20 minutes I was seething with irritation, as yet another Waterford team with immense ability and potential were struck down by the nerves which have destroyed countless Waterford teams against Cork over the years. All the symptoms were present – poor first touch, poor decision-making, poor striking (especially for scores), second to the breaking ball everywhere, standing off their opponents rather than driving into them.

Cork’s opening score set the scene, with Michael Cahalane sailing through the Waterford defence untouched to flash the ball to the net. Stephen Bennett’s super strike after five minutes might have settled the team down, but ended up making matters worse. He knocked a long ball into the Cork goalmouth down in front of him and then sent a bullet to the net with a super strike on the half-volley. The ball was already in the net when the referee blew up for a free. Not only did he not allow the advantage, but I do not even know what the free was for in the first place. Bennett missing the ensuing penalty only put more pressure on a Waterford team already short on self-confidence.

After playing second fiddle all over the field, and going nine points down, Waterford finally began to steady the ship, inspired by Austin Gleeson who decided to take the game by the scruff of the neck, winning possession and driving out of defence repeatedly. Another key development was the introduction of DJ Foran in the half forward line in place of Adam Farrell after 25 minutes. Cormac Curran had been unable to reproduce his ball-winning exploits against Clare, but Foran (whose omission from the starting team had surprised me) had an immediate impact in this department, and in the second half and extra time was immense, repeatedly winning ball and driving at the Cork defence.

However, while Waterford managed to stop the Cork scoring machine, they were finding it impossible to make an impression on the scoreboard at the other end. Both Stephen Bennett and Conor Gleeson missed a series of good chances, with Bennett even flicking the ball wide from the edge of the square having been set up by a good hand pass. A couple of scores before half time reduced the Cork lead to a reachable six points. Waterford were now at least competing for possession and creating scoring opportunities, but one felt that they needed an early goal in the second half to really get them back in the game.

And that is exactly what happened. Just after the restart, Patrick Curran soloed in from the left, and although his shot was blocked, Colm Roche (who had a big game for Waterford) pounced on the breaking ball to shoot to the net. Roche followed up with a point, and then Stephen Bennett finished off another good attacking move by flicking to the net to put Waterford in front.

We hoped that Waterford might push on from here and put Cork to the sword, but the home side were in no mood to throw in the towel, and a mighty contest ensued with both sides going at it hammer and tongs and neither capable of opening up a significant lead. In the closing stages of normal time, Austin Gleeson made some majestic catches and clearances to repel Cork attacks. Just after the public address announced at least one minute of additional time, with the scores level, Cork launched a dangerous attack down the right but it was brilliantly stopped by the Déise defence and the subsequent clearance found its way to an unmarked Conor Gleeson straight in front of the Cork posts, but just as he was about to shoot the lead point for Waterford, the referee blew the full time whistle with just 45 seconds of additional time indicated on the electronic clock on the scoreboard. Would the Tipperary referee Fergal Horgan (with a suspiciously Corkonian surname) have blown up if a Cork forward had been in a similar situation?

Just after the start of extra time the Cork right half back received a second yellow and follow-up red card for a high tackle, and the space which this created for Waterford was to eventually take its toll. Cork actually went into the second period of extra time a point ahead, but when DJ Foran fired the ball home after a bout of interpassing in front of the Cork goal, it seemed that Waterford were set for victory. However, Cork managed to reduce the lead to two points – the most dangerous lead in hurling – and came close to regaining the lead when one of their forwards came in along the end line but, with several colleagues waiting in front of goal, he went for glory only to shoot into the side netting.

Waterford then took over completely, and late scores from Conor Gleeson, Patrick Curran and substitute Paul O’Connor gave them a rather flattering five-point lead when the referee finally called a halt to an enthralling contest.

Apart from Austin Gleeson, who provided marvellous leadership and some spectacular hurling, one should also highlight the magnificent contribution at left half back of Shane Bennett, especially in the second half of normal time and in extra time. His was an extraordinarily mature performance from a player who will be a minor again next year. As already mentioned, DJ Foran’s contribution when introduced was crucial to Waterford’s success, while Colm Roche’s 1-3 from play was also vital to this win.

Ultimately Waterford’s win was due as much to hard work and a refusal to admit defeat as anything else. There is a lot more to this team than we saw in this game. A crucial factor in ultimate success was the quality of their substitutes. Apart from DJ Foran, Mark O’Brien made a tremendous contribution when introduced at midfield at halftime for Mikey Kearney, who shipped a bad injury during the course of the first half. Christy Breathnach put in a typically hard-working shift (and contributed a good point) when introduced for Cormac Curran in the second half, while Paul O’Connor also weighed in with an excellent point after replacing Colm Roche who was struck down by cramp as he knocked over his third point in the second period of extra point.

In my view, this Waterford team has much more to offer. Tom Devine, while doing well, can reach an extra level and, along with Austin Gleeson and Shane Bennett, makes up as good a half back line as one will find in minor hurling. Cormac Curran had an off-day on this occasion but we know what he is capable of. Conor Gleeson repeatedly got into good scoring positions and will hardly be as awry in his shooting again. This was Stephen Bennett’s first full game at this level this year, and his lack of match practice showed. I expect him to improve 100% the next day. Even Patrick Curran, despite his final haul of 0-12 (including three points from play) showed a lack of sharpness on occasions and is also capable of significant improvement. If Curran and Bennett can reach the levels of which they are capable simultaneously, they will constitute an awesome attacking force.

I was at the Laois/Wexford Leinster semi-final last week, and the level at which they were playing was well below the fare in Páirc Uí Rinn last night. Kilkenny had to work hard to beat Dublin in the other Leinster semi-final, and I don’t expect them to be world beaters this year. You never know how good Galway will be, but Waterford must have a great chance of ultimate success this year.

Torn a new one

In his interview about the art of acting with the creepy man who played the prison governor in Arrested Development, Hugh  Laurie joked that if you arrive at a party and can’t spot the asshole among the guests, then it means you’re the asshole. And at half-time in last night’s match against Cork we really looked like Division 1’s asshole, the county that every other county would take great pleasure in grinding into the dirt.

In the end it wasn’t all bad. While the eight-point margin felt about right in the overall context of the match, at least Waterford made a game of it in the second half, the gap being trimmed to five points at one stage and but for some careless shooting it might have been even closer. There was  a splendid point from Gavin O’Brien shortly after coming on which bodes well for his future and Martin O’Neill showed some promise. Tighter ball into the forwards, as opposed to the aimless bombs that went in for much of the game, and there might be something to work with up front. Perhaps John Mullane won’t have to carry the team this summer.

Alas, it’s same ol’ same ol’ at the back. The ease with which Cork took their three goals was dispiriting. The problems in the full-back line are self-evidently unresolved. Playing Michael Walsh at centre-forward might well be worth persisting with if you truly believe the League is a testing ground, but does anyone seriously think the best centre-back in the country will be anywhere other than centre-back come the Championship? Speaking of which, that was an ominously good effort by Clare in the Gaelic Grounds. That Davy Fitz – might not have been such a bad manager after all, eh?

Waterford 0-18 (18) Cork 3-17 (26) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted by Giveitfong on boards.ie)

Despite the poverty of their overall display, were it not for some terrible shooting by Waterford and Seamus Prendergast’s deflected shot going the wrong side of the post, for all Cork’s fancy play this game still could have been very close at the end. Three of Shane Casey’s misses are simply unacceptable at this level and Pauric Mahony was also guilty of some bad misses.

The poor shooting was itself one symptom of Waterford’s very poor first touch and striking on the night, in contrast to Cork’s sharpness in these areas. There are two normal explanations for poor touch and striking. One is that the team hasn’t been doing enough hurling on the training field. The other is that the team just wasn’t psychologically up for the game.

The latter explanation seems the most obvious to me, as also reflected in the team’s lack of physicality and alertness, as they repeatedly gave Cork the freedom of the park to do what they liked with the ball. It is virtually a law of nature that if you allow Cork to play, they will do precisely that. The best way to beat Cork is to get stuck into them, as they tend to have a lot of flashy players with no real stomach for a physical battle. Players like Pa Cronin and Cathal Naughton are notorious for disappearing out of games when the going gets tough, but nobody was getting up close and personal with them tonight. And their newcomers should have been given an appropriate welcome to the world of senior intercounty hurling but this didn’t happen.

Not having the team in the proper frame of mind is itself a poor reflection on the team management. What was even more worrying was further evidence of the lack of any tactical or strategic approach to how the game should be played. Cork were playing to a well thought-out plan and everyone knew what to do with the ball when they got it, no matter where they got it. Of course it was easy enough to put this into effect given their good touch and striking and the amount of freedom they were allowed, especially in the first half.

Waterford, by contrast, seemed to be making it up as they went along. Their poor touch frequently meant that they were under pressure most of the time when in possession. They usually passed the ball just to get out of trouble, whereas Cork were much more creative with their passing. Waterford, by contrast, were generally inclined to just hit the ball upfield and hope for the best.

The clueless nature of the Waterford performance was never more in evidence than when Eoin McGrath replaced Shane Walsh at the start of the second half. This meant that Waterford had no target man near the goal in the third quarter, but despite this, the Waterford outfield players kept driving high balls into the goal area where they were gobbled up time and again by Cork’s bigger and stronger defenders. You would imagine that the mentors might have told the players going out for the second half: “We’re bringing on Eoin McGrath for Shane Walsh at full forward, so play low balls into the corner to stretch the defence, and don’t be lobbing high balls in”. But there is no evidence that such basic advice was given.

Things did improve a bit when the penny finally dropped and the selectors moved Seamus Prendergast into full forward, but after he went off and Waterford ended up with an even smaller full forward line when Tomás Ryan came in, the outfield players continued to hit long balls into the goal area rather than try to open things up by playing down the wings.

Of course, it is hard to take seriously a management that appears to think that Eoin McGrath has anything to offer at this level, and it must break the other players’ hearts to see him either starting or coming on as a sub.

One is always wary of picking on individual players when the whole team is playing poorly, and I would be particularly slow to criticise the full back line, given the amount of quality ball being sent on them, especially in the first half. My concerns about Iggy O’Regan’s lack of physical presence were borne out again as he failed to make himself big for any of the three goals and actually turned is back on Cathal Naughton for the second. If he had saved even one of the goals, it would have made Waterford’s task in the second half much more manageable. In the second half, he also opted to belt a ball he had collected on his goal line out over the sideline, rather than taking on the incoming forwards as Adrian Power would have done.

We had two wing backs playing tonight who both lack pace and are unable to win their own ball in the air, and Cork certainly exploited this. It also meant that Waterford didn’t have the platform to control the game in the middle of the field, although things did improve in the second half when Cork slackened off somewhat.

Like in Dungarvan the previous week, the one bright light was provided by Gavin O’Brien, who appears to have the priceless knack of making scoring look easy. However, what was the point of taking off Martin O’Neill to make way for him and leave Eoin McGrath on the field? At least O’Neill is capable of offering a scoring threat, something you would never say about McGrath, and being twelve years the younger, surely O’Neill has more long-term potential which needs to be nurtured.

I felt rather sorry for Shane Casey tonight, as he did win an amount of possession and could easily have had four or give points. However, at this stage his self-confidence appears to be at an all-time low.

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)