Sunday, 19th November 2017
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Cork just stays afloat

Cork were the visitors to Fraher Field Dungarvan on Saturday last for what most expected to be a clear cut victory for the Leesiders in the opening round of the Munster Senior Football Championship against a Waterford side short on consistency. The Deise had opened their 2017 Allianz League campaign with a win over London followed by a very impressive victory over Wicklow, in a rain lashed Carriganore, in the second round. Unfortunately what followed was defeat after defeat where the Deise lads could never regain the form of those opening games and finished the league campaign on just four points. That record and the fact that Cork, normally a powerhouse of football. have not been beaten by the Deise for nearly five decades. This convinced pundits and followers alike that it was the proverbial "mountain" to climb. The odds on a Waterford victory could not even tempt the bravest of followers. This would be over by halftime. Oh how wrong we were.

TACTICS

Waterford bainisteoir Tom McGlinchy and his management team made two changes in personnel before the game with Aidan Trihy and Fearghal O'Cuirrin coming into the starting lineup. The opening game of this double header Saturday saw Cork beat Waterford rather convincingly in the Junior Football Championship on a 3-21 to 0-9 scoreline. The opening half was quite tight as the Rebels, through a John Cronin goal on 15 minutes, led 1-6 to 0-5 at the break. However, the second half proved more one way traffic as goals in the last twenty minutes from Eoghan Buckley and Seamus Hickey saw the Leesiders home with plenty to spare.

In the Senior game it was the home side who cracked the scoreboard first with the magnificent Donie Breathnach opening the score with a point after five minutes. John O'Rourke levelled but Tommy Prendergast added a second for the Deise on eight minutes. The Waterford management had changed tactics from previous outings with star forward Paul Whyte deployed as an extra defender and this was giving little room to the Cork attack. The Deise defence was breached on 18 minutes as Colm O'Neill and Mark Collins worked the ball forward for Paul Kerrigan to goal. There may have been a little bit of good fortune as the ball seemed to deflect off defender Brian Looby. That said it should have given the impetus to Cork but it was Waterford through Michael Curry and Aidan Trihy who cut the deficit to a point 1-2 to 0-4 after 22 minutes. The Waterford tactics were proving hugely influential as the pace of the counter attacks was keeping the Cork defence very much "on their toes". Carbery Rangers clubman John O'Rourke had the final say of the half with two well executed points and the teams retired for the break with the favourites ahead 1-4 to 0-4. All was going to plan for Peadar Healy and his selectors although this was becoming much tighter than expected. Indeed it was the Deise who were making most of the first half running but we just wondered could we keep up this pace?. They had also six wides on the board.

SUPERB SECOND HALF

The opening fifteen minutes of the second half saw Waterford in dominant mood. A goal from Gavin Crotty set the tone after just five minutes. Paul Whyte added a point and when the superb Donie Breathnach added another (1-6 to 1-4) there was a certain edginess creeping into the Cork players and management, not to mind the supporters. Donncha O'Connor and James Loughrey levelled the tie with a brace of scores. Waterford were not going to give up on this one. Paul Whyte pointed to see the Deise back in front 1-7 to 1-6. Incidentally the last shock of seismic proportions was in 1957 when Waterford beat the all conquering Kerry 2-5 to 0-10 in, again, Fraher Field Dungarvan. The two goals came from Georgie Whyte and the combined forwards who in those days could "drive" the goalkeeper into the net and this is exactly what happened as Tim Barrettt found himself in the back of the net courtesy of those Waterford forwards. Tom Cunningham the great hurling defender for the Deise got the clinching point.

Cork were level through the industrious Paul Kerrigan on 58 minutes but Donie Breathnach edged the Deise back in front as the clock passed the '60' mark. The game was level for the fifth time when Kerrigan added a point on 62 minutes and a minute later Donncha O'Connor edged the rebels in front for his third score 1-9 to 1-8. The visitors were reduced to fourteen when a high tackle on the flying Brian Looby saw referee Rory Hickey with little option but to dismiss Alan O'Connor with Lorcan O'Cuirrin replacing Looby in the Waterford team. Indeed over the following minutes another player could conceivably have seen a "black card" and Cork had by now introduced their allotted five substitutes. A point from Mark Colllins saw Cork two in front 1-10 to 1-8 but again it was Waterford who bounced back. Tommy Prendergast and Gavin Crotty opened the way for Paul Whyte to cut the deficit to a single point. Both teams were beginning to tire in what was a terrific encounter. Perhaps another day would have been a fair reward.

Following the injury to Brian Looby there were seven extra minutes of additional time. Michael O'Haloran and Michael Curry combined and won a free which Donie Breathnach converted. level again 1-10 apiece. In the 73rd minute a late tackle on corner back James Loughrey saw a free from "where the ball landed" and Colm O'Neill pointed from 35 metres. Cork ahead and when the experienced Kerrigan added another superb score it looked as though the Rebels had weathered the storm. Waterford had other ideas. They burst forward and when Paul Whyte drew a foul it was Donie Breathnach who pointed 1-12 to 1-11. Time ran out for Waterford, a heartbreaking one point defeat but with heads held high. Speaking after the game the management were proud of the performance but were also well aware, and that also applies to many in the Cork camp who accepted, that the home side were the better team on this occasion. That little bit of experience at this level from players like Paul Kerrigan and Colm O'Neill proved vital in this Cork victory. While this was a heartbreaking defeat for Waterford there is no doubt but they will be eagerly looking forward to the qualifiers and in my view, and I've said it on many occasions, if this panel can repeat the performance and maintain this consistency then who knows where it will lead us. To all concerned a huge well done.

CELTIC CHALLENGE

East Waterford continued their recent good form as they overcame Cork City on a 2-13 to 1-8 scoreline at Kill GAA Grounds on Saturday. A brace of Waterford goals from Sean McDonald and Alan Kirwan in the opening half saw the Deise under 17 team lead 2-7 to 1-4 at the break although management knew that there was still a lot of work to be done. The second half was very tight affair with both teams giving little away. The Waterford defence, with superb work from Paraic Hallahan, Matthew Kiely and Harry White particularly to the fore, never let Cork any sight of goal. Up front the scoring exploits of Jack Troy and Sam Flynn along with Seaghan Walsh kept the scoreboard ticking along. This was again another improvement in the East Waterford team performance and considering how they began the campaign this team is hitting a rich vein of form at the right time.

Next up for the East Waterford lads is a game against East Cork in Fraher Field on Wednesday next 31st at 7.30pm. Your support would be most welcome and admission is free. No doubt in their present form the East Waterford team will be hoping to maintain the momentum.

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