National Hurling League
Waterford 1-24 Cork 3-17
Brian Flannery Reports
The Liam Cahill era as Waterford bainisteoir begins with a thrilling victory over Cork by the slimmest of margins in round one of the National Hurling League.There were 4,235 in attendance at Walsh Park to witness the home side win with just a point to spare after a late Cork rally just fell short.
Cork hit goals early and late in this game but in between it was Waterford who dominated for the most part despite having to sweat late on over the two league points on offer. Bennett brothers Stephen and Kieran hit 16 points in all between them in this crucial opening home league outing.
Austin Gleeson was a late withdrawal from the named starting line-up having picked up a leg injury in a Fitzgibbon cup game during the week with Lismore’s Jack Prendergast getting the start.
Waterford, finalists in last season’s league, could scarcely have made a worse start to the game. Chaos reigned in the Déise full-back line with Cork pilfering two goals inside the first three minutes. Shane Kingston was the provider for Conor Lehane to shoot high to the net in the second minute and within a minute a long delivery from Tim O’Mahony was fumbled by a hesitant defence with Patrick Horgan flicking the ball perfectly to Kingston who finished calmly under the despairing challenge of goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe, 2-0 to nil with just three minutes played.
Debutant Jack Fagan cut a sublime line-ball between the sticks for Waterford’s opening point after four minutes.
All-Star Patrick Horgan then converted a routine free to keep the margin at six points. Having recovered from the early shock of conceding two goals Waterford began to dominate play around the field.
Three points on the bounce from Stephen and Kieran Bennett (2) brought the home supporters to their feet and reduced the margin to just a goal.
While Darragh Fitzgibbon added a point for the Rebels it was soon to get much better for the home team. A slick pass from Neil Montgomery sent Calum Lyons galloping towards goal and when the Ballyduff Lower man was halted he found Patrick Curran in support with Curran doing superbly to find the net from an acute angle, 2-2 to 1-4 after 11 minutes.
Stephen Bennet with a further pair of successful frees and a Jack Fagan point from play put Waterford head, 1-7 to 2-2 by the quarter hour.
Kieran Bennett was having a blinder at centre-field with four points in all in the opening half, but it was the overall work-rate and teamwork that Cork struggled with most. Seamus Harnedy had two points from play in the opening 35 minutes but it was the accurate free-taking of Patrick Horgan that kept Kieran Kingston’s men in touch.
The sides were level four times approaching the break with Shane Kingston almost finding the net again in the 27th minute with his ground stroke just wide. The apparent vulnerability of the Waterford rear-guard prompted manager Liam Cahill to send the experienced Shane Fives into the fray with Conor Gleeson making way. A long-range point from wing back Damian Cahalane put Cork a point ahead however late points from Stephen Bennett (2f) and Patrick Curran gave Waterford a deserved 1-13 to 2-8 half-time advantage.
Stephen Bennett nailed to early points from play to give his side some breathing space on the scoreboard, 1-15 to 2-8. Shane McNulty, Callum Lyons, Darragh Fives and Iarlaith Daly were hurling confidently in defence with Kieran Bennett his brother Stephen and Patrick Curran all looking dangerous while attacking. Cork’s more laboured passing game did eventually pay dividends with Mark Coleman (2) and Horgan pointing in succession to level the game 2-14 to 1-17 after 52 minutes.
From there to the end of normal time Waterford outscored the Leesider’s 0-7 to 0-2 with a long-range effort from Iarlaith Daly the pick of the bunch. Waterford looked to be home and hosed as the clock ticked into the red leading 1-24 to 2-16.
However. a slip by substituted Shane Fives gave Shane Kingston the opportunity to finish high to the net for his second major and Cork’s third. In the second of three minutes of injury time Damian Cahalane pointed and suddenly the margin was down to a single point, 1-24 to 3-17. There was one final chance but this time Shane Kingston’s attempt at an equaliser drifted left and wide sending the home supporters home with a smile on their faces.