Job done, and with not one but two monkeys off the Waterford Under-21 hurlers’ backs: a first win at this grade in six years and a first ever victory away in Cork at this level. Not to be sniffed at. Not one little bit.
“A one-point win was going to be enough for us here tonight,” conceded Deise boss Derek Lyons in the wake of his side’s 1-21 to 1-11 victory at Páirc Uí Rinn.
“We’ve only been in six finals at this grade, Cork have played in 29 Munster Finals and won 18 and had all that pedigree behind them at Under-21 level…
“And obviously there was a lot of speculation about our team and all the senior lads involved with us, and with none of the Cork lads being involved in their senior panel. We spoke to the lads about that and played all of that down completely.
“It’s all about the performance on the field rather than what you did last week or the week before and I think we saw great honesty and commitment from the team tonight and at the end of the day we opened up in the second half and drove on when we had the wind at our backs.”
Work rate was again as prominent in this Waterford performance as the team’s evidently high skill levels.
“When you win a game, the first thing I look for is honesty,” said Derek Lyons on a night when that honesty was exemplified by his son Darragh, the trio of Bennetts (Kieran, Stephen and Shane), Shane McNulty, Tom Devine and Patrick Curran.
“We came up here to make an honest effort and to try and regain some respect for us at this grade, and key to all of that was the work rate and when Cork were starting to build some momentum, it was broken down with a block here and someone getting in a hurley there, and that’s something our lads have in abundance and that probably hurt Cork more than our flair.”
Sensing that “Cork had to come at us” in the first quarter hour, Derek Lyons’s men weathered the hosts’ early start and outscored the Rebels by 14 points between the 14th minute and full-time.
Shane Bennett, fresh from a Leaving Cert exam that concluded less than three hours before throw-in, struck 1-4 from play, augmenting his burgeoning reputation.
“I wasn’t finished the exam until five o’clock so I’d to get a spin up; I couldn’t travel with the lads on the bus but we played well enough today and it was great to get the win,” Shane added. “I was finished the exams today too so I was on a high coming up anyway! There’s no complacency at all in the panel – all we’ll be thinking about now is the next day and beating Clare.”
The importance of winning this single match, Waterford’s first at this grade since 2009, was difficult to downplay. Derek Lyons added: “There was a bit of baggage alright…I think the press, and maybe rightly so, had focused on that but our whole mindset coming into this was that the previous years were water under the bridge, that they were gone and that we could only control the controllables, which was what we did tonight. And it was all about coming up here and winning a game, nothing more and nothing less.”
And so the champions await in an Ennis semi-final on July 15th. And what a tussle that should prove to be.