Shanahan fires Waterford into Munster hurling decider
MAURICE Shanahan came of age as Waterford beat 14-man Cork in Thurles yesterday to book a place in the Munster senior hurling final on July 12.
Shanahan scored 1-9, including a brilliant first half goal, and revelled in free-taking responsibilities with Pauric Mahony sadly ruled out through injury for the championship season.
Another dominant Waterford display provided evidence that last month’s ten-point victory over Cork in the Allianz League final was no fluke.
They followed up with another power-packed display in front of 21,047 spectators in Thurles to set up a provincial decider with Limerick or Tipperary.
Last year’s Munster champions Cork named Seamus Harnedy to start but the forward’s hamstring injury didn’t clear up in time.
Patrick Cronin came in to fill the void and was Cork’s best player on the day, contributing five points from play.
But Waterford had massive displays again all over the pitch and just like he did in the League decider, Tom Devine came off the bench to score a crucial goal for the Deise.
Patrick Horgan’s injury-time penalty had brought Cork to within two points but Devine jabbed home a priceless goal in the second minute of stoppage time to provide Waterford with a passage to the final.
Cork lost Luke O’Farrell to a red card six minutes from time, following an off-the-ball clash with Barry Coughlan and the Leesiders played out the remainder of the game with 14 men.
But that’s no excuse on an afternoon when Cork were outthought and outfought by Waterford once again, with McGrath’s men through to a first Munster final since 2012.
At the end of a first half pockmarked by 17 wides, nine of those to Waterford, the Deise had recovered from four points down to lead by 2-6 to 0-11.
Without talisman Mahony, Waterford missed a couple of early frees, Austin Gleeson and Shanahan off target, but after falling 0-2 to 0-6 behind, they came roaring back.
Waterford finally registered their first point from play in the 25th minute and they followed up with two goals in three minutes.
Austin Gleeson’s ball was fetched by Shanahan over the head of Damien Cahalane and the Lismore hitman cracked a superb rising drive past Nash.
Cork were opened up in alarming fashion again in the 29th minute as Stephen Bennett’s crossfield ball allowed Michael Walsh to provide Jake Dillon with a clear run on goal.
Dillon’s marker Cormac Murphy failed to track his opponent’s run and the De La Salle forward banged his effort past Nash.
Dillon forced a good save from Nash in the 31st minute as Waterford hit Cork in waves but after Shanahan’s resultant 65 opened up a four-point gap, 2-6 to 0-8, Cork hit the remaining three points of the half.
Cronin scored his third before Aidan Walsh and Alan Cadogan raised white flags to keep the Leesiders very much in touch at the short whistle.
But Waterford refused to be blown off course and with brothers Stephen and Shane Bennett scoring vital points in the second half, they ran out deserved winners.
Waterford have now announced themselves as genuine All-Ireland contenders but manager Derek McGrath countered: “I’m not just playing the card, I’m not sure.
“I think everyone’s just waiting for us to get a beating and say, they’re not really contenders.
“What did we score, 3-19? That’s fair scoring and we’re playing with a bit of confidence now.
“I’m just looking forward to being proud, watching the lads going around behind the band on Munster final day.”
McGrath revealed that Waterford watched video messages dedicated to Mahony on the team bus before the game, but that the emotion of the footage may have resulted in a sluggish start.
He said: “The emotional knock on of the video had an effect.
“But it up opened up from there and I thought we were a bit unlucky not to have another goal before half time.”
Deflated Cork boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy must somehow rouse his team for the qualifiers.
And he reflected: “Looking at the teams in the qualifiers already, it’s going to be very difficult. We’ve got to get up and fight another day. “We’ll always keep fighting in Cork.”