Waterford produces best championship performance in decades
Though defeat was our unrewarding lot at the end of the day, the one word that permeated through Deise folk as they exited the gates of the Fraher Field last Saturday evening was ‘PRIDE.’ Pride in one’s native county and in their players after this David v Goliath Munster Senior football championship clash served up to us on a plate by a unified and dedicated group of players, management and backroom, who thought up a game plan to combat superior rated opposition and oh how it worked to near perfection.
The home side made a negative defensive regarded brand of football look very positive and to implement this game plan a level of physical fitness and mental toughness that one would associate with a professional sport was created in the months of their hard working build-up to this thoroughly enjoyable encounter from the home support point of view as the larger Cork presence in the unannounced attendance were kept very untypically quiet.
Credit the team manager Tom McGlinchey and his fellow selectors Laurence Hurney and Tony Corcoran for hatching their game plan and in utilising Donie Breathnach and Paul Whyte out in the middle third of the field with surging stamina draining runs at the Cork defence, they finished the seventy minutes plus as two of the best footballers on view.
Everyone in a Waterford jersey played their very best part to cause an upset at the famed Shandon venue and though we didn’t win the game, which at the end of the day is the key point, we did upset Cork, who left the venue unhappy and wondering how did a side that is graded in Division 4 of the National Leagues, bring them to the brink of defeat.
Many are of the opinion that we would have won the game if all the best players in the county committed to the cause but let’s be straight about it, the best players in the county on the 27th of May, 2017 were playing for Waterford, they proved it, and any other suggestion is an undeserving insult to our men in white last weekend.
Cork were saved from that defeat to a large extent by the introduction of veteran Donncha O’Connor in the 46th minute at a stage when Waterford led by 1-5 to 1-4 and his 0-3 (1f) scoring contribution was crucial to his county’s salvation. Also the experience and scoring power of Nemo Rangers’ Paul Kerrigan, 1-3 from play, was essential for a Cork side where only half of their starting forward division raised a flag of any colour.
It was important for Waterford to start well and not concede scores early on. This, they managed to do and it was a pointed free by Man of the Match Donie Breathnach that opened the scoring in the 5th minute. One of Cork’s better players John O’Rourke, though sub- stituted ten minutes before the long whistle, equalised in the 6th minute but Tommy Prendergast, who played a whale of a game throughout despite being down but not out on three occasions after shifting heavy tackles, regained Waterford’s lead two minutes later after good work by Nire’s James McGrath.
Cork’s Aidan Walsh left the field injured in the 11th minute and he was replaced by Alan O’Connor who was influential for a good while but then petered out of the game and was deservingly redcarded in the 65th minute for a nasty head foul on Brian Looby.
A sequence of defensive errors produced Cork’s only goal of the game in the 18th minute via Paul Kerrigan but instead of folding, which would have been the prediction of most at the sun drenched venue, Waterford displayed a steely resolve and they notched the next score in the 22nd minute engineered by the Kilrossanty duo of Paul Whyte and Tommy Prendergast and executed by Rathgormack’s Michael Curry.
Waterford were dominant but wides by Donie Breathnach, Fearghal O Cuirrin and James McGrath were to prove so crucial at the end of the play. Cork’s frustration in not being allowed into the game by Waterford’s tactical display resulted in wing back Kevin Crowley picking up a 25th minute yellow card before John O’Rourke eased their worries momentarily with his second score from play, 1-3 to 0-2.
Clashmore/Kinsalebeg’s Aidan Trihy justified his late inclusion on to the side and especially with a neat point from a Michael Curry pass in the 34th minute. Waterford would have been satisfied going in just a point in arrears at the break but scores in added time by John O’Rourke and Paul Kerrigan gave Peadar Healy’s charges a little more breathing space on a scoreboard reading 1-4 to 0-4 in their favour.
Waterford, no doubt, were happy that their game plan was working well but also cognisant of the fact that at some stage tiredness would set in with the phy-sically exhausting type of game they were playing. Cork tried to exploit this as early as 17 seconds in on the restart when they ran through the Deise defence but Stephen Enright was equal to a fine goal effort by Colm O’Neill after good earlier work by John O’Rourke and Paul Kerrigan.
It wasn’t intentional but when Tommy Prendergast was panned out for a good few minutes immediately after this, it helped the home team and it took the sting out of Cork’s early second half tactic of going guns and blazes towards the town end goal.
On the resumption of play with a brave Tommy Prendergast also resuming, Waterford got the boost their efforts deserved when Cork goalie Ken O’Halloran dropped the size 5 from a Joey Veale delivery and Dungarvan’s Gavin Crotty was lurking to finish from a difficult angle to the country end goal and raise yet another green flag by him this year for his county, 1-4 to 1-4.
Paul Kerrigan was wide with a 41st minute pointed effort but Paul Whyte wasn’t from play two minutes later and McGlinchey’s men had now taken the lead for the second time in the game, 1-5 to 1-4.
Conor Murray was introduced for Fearghal O Corraoin but of later greater significance was Donncha O’Connor replacing Kevin O’Driscoll. O’Connor’s first contribution was a wide off the upright in the 48th minute as Donie Breathnach stretched Waterford’s advantage to 1-6 to 1-4 from a Gavin Crotty pass on 49 minutes.
The fresh legs of Michael O’Halloran replaced the hard working Joey Veale while Cork were back on level terms for the fourth match occasion via 51st minute points from play by Donncha O’Connor and corner back James Loughrey who showed his forward division where the posts were, 1-6 to 1-6.
This Waterford team were not one to accept defeat though and following an inspiring run by the fouled Tadhg O hUallachain, his club mate Donie Breathnach gave the Deise a 53rd minute lead. Colm O’Neill was wide with yet another pointed free attempt before Donncha O’Connor accepted the responsibility and levelled proceedings once again in the 56th minute.
Donie Breathnach was inspirational, he won a 58th minute free after one of his mazy runs and then converted it before Paul Kerrigan levelled yet again in the 61st minute, 1-8 each.
Waterford legs were now feeling the pinch and Cork took full advantage to move into an 0-2 lead with scores either side of Alan O’Connor’s sending off via Donncha O’Connor and centre forward Mark Collins’ only score of the match, 1-10 to 1-8, 68 minutes played.
Nobody would have quibbled if Waterford faded at this point but the greatest tribute that can be made to them last Saturday is that at this stage they fought back and restored parity.
The deceased members of the 1957 winning team against Kerry in Walsh Park must have been on the edge of their heavenly seats to see if history could be repeated at the Fraher Field as a hobbling Donie Breathnach provided for a Paul White 69th minute excellently kicked point from play and after seven minutes of added time were announced, Breathanch levelled the match for the seventh and final occasion after Michael Curry was fouled heading for goal, 1-10 to 1-10.
Lorcan O Corraoin was on board at this stage for the injured Brian Looby and Dylan Guiry replaced Aidan Trihy but it was Cork who grabbed the final initiative at this crucial time with scores coming through Colm O’Neill, his only pointed free of the night and what proved to be the winning point from Paul Kerrigan in the 75th minute before Cork’s James Loughrey was blackcarded. Cork had used their full complement of subs by this stage so Cork were now down to thirteen players.
Waterford fought to the death and Donie Breathnach’s fifth and final pointed free in the 77th minute brought one of Waterford’s best footballing displays ever to an end, a losing one it may ultimately have been but also one of its most proudest displays.
Cork’s Top Three: Paul Kerrigan, Donncha O’Connor, James Loughrey.
Waterford’s Top Three: Donie Breathnach, Paul Whyte, Tommy Prendergast.
Observer’s Man of the Match: Donie Breathnach.
Number of Scorers: Cork 6. Waterford 6.
Scores From Play: Cork 1-10. Waterford 1-6.
Frees For: Cork 13. Waterford 23.
Wides: Cork 11. Waterford 9.
Score of the Match: Waterford’s 34th minute point engineered by Michael Curry and executed by Aidan Trihy.
Scorers – Cork: P. Kerrigan (1-3); D. O’Connor (0-1 free), J. O’Rourke (0-3 each); J. Loughrey, C. O’Neill (0-1 free), M. Collins (0-1 each).
Waterford: D. Breathnach (0-6, 0-5 frees); G. Crotty (1-0); P. Whyte (0-2); T. Prendergast, M. Curry and A. Trihy (0-1 each).
Cork: K. O’Halloran; K. Crowley, M. Shields, J. O’Sullivan; T. Clancy, J. Loughrey, S Cronin; A Walsh, R Deane; K O’Driscoll, M Collins, J O’Rourke; C O’Neill, P Kelleher, P. Kerrigan.
Subs: A. O’Connor for Walsh (10 mins, inj); D. O’Connor for K. O’Driscoll (45); I. Maguire for Deane (49); S. Powter for Cronin (52); G. Murphy for Kelleher (64); B O’Driscoll for O’Rourke (67).
Waterford: S. Enright; B. Looby, R. O’Ceallaigh, T. O’Gorman; J. McGrath, S. Prendergast, T. Ó hUallacháin; T. Prendergast, M. Curry; D. Breathnach, J. Veale, G. Crotty; A. Trihy, F. Ó Cuirrín, P. Whyte. Subs: C. Murray for Ó Cuirrín (44); M. O’Halloran for Veale (47); L. Ó Corraoin for Looby (66, inj); D. Guiry for Trihy (69)
Referee: R. Hickey (Clare).