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Allianz Hurling League Division 1A – Cork 3-17 Waterford 0-18

Lehane leads Rebel charge

Cork 3-17 Waterford 0-18

By Michael Moynihan for the Irish Examiner newspaper

The bumper Cork crowd in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night might have come to see a local hero return to the big show, but they saw a new star announce himself in the home side’s Allianz Hurling League Divison 1A win over Waterford. Conor Lehane of Midleton scored seven points from play in Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s first game back as Cork manager, and the youngster was the main topic of conversation for match goers afterwards strolling in the Boreenmanna Road. “He was excellent,” said Barry-Murphy. “It wouldn’t take a genius to pick him for the team. He’s a major talent in Cork and people have seen that for the last couple of years. He was excellent.”

Cork were slow to start, conceding three points in the first six minutes, but then Lehane rattled over three points of his own to tie it up and the home side drove on from there. They had three goals before the break – from Paudie O’Sullivan (two) and Cathal Naughton – and led by 12 at one stage. Waterford rallied in the second-half and cut the deficit to six on the back of Martin O’Neill and Pádraic Mahony’s accuracy, but the superb Lehane had three of Cork’s last four points as the men in red finished with a flourish.

A little context: Waterford boss Michael Ryan could point to a hefty injury list, medium term absentees like John Mullane and Tony Browne, and four experienced men – Noel Connors, Aidan Kearney, Shane O’Sullivan and Maurice Shanahan — pulling out on the day of the game. Consequently the Déise boss had to start Pádraic Mahony for his fourth game in a week. “There were ten fellas who would have been in contention for places that were missing and we lost another two during the game,” said Ryan. “But that’s not an excuse. Cork played very well, they have very pacey forwards and they will take a lot of beating in the summer. “But overall we scored 18 points and we had a lot of young fellas that never played before so there is plenty to work with.”

Ryan neatly sidestepped the possibility of recalls for John Mullane and Eoin Kelly — “We won’t panic and hopefully by the time the league is over we’ll know a lot more about the strength of our panel” — and said a goal was what his team had lacked. “We just needed a goal in the second-half but we didn’t create any goal chances. “We needed a goal to bring us back into it but I knew we would fight to the very end.”

His opposite number was praising his defence for that lack of green flags. “Donal Óg was brilliant in goal, in particular his control of one ball in the first half,” said Barry-Murphy. “Our full back line was excellent, and Ross Cashman, in his first game at this level, was a revelation. To be ultra-critical it was an average enough second-half, we let Waterford back within five or six points at one stage. We were a bit slack in that department and have to work on that. We didn’t get any ball into our full-forward line either, which isn’t good enough.”

The Cork icon wasn’t entertaining any suggestion of hype, either: “It’ll be very easy to keep a lid on the hype because we know where we’re coming from, we’re not fools. Waterford were short a good number of players, four defections before a game would kill you, so we know we have a lot of work to do.” Barry-Murphy will be realistic about the Waterford challenge but will still be pleased with a display yielding 3-16 from play. Darren Sweetnam, another teenager, held his own at midfield and chipped in a sweet point, while Seán Óg Ó hAilpín put in a solid shift alongside him. The big home crowd was also a fair barometer of the positivity within the county about the team.

In the other dressing-room, Michael Ryan and his men have a task on their hands preserving their Division One status. Defeat in the opening game means a team is facing the wind, as it were, from then on, and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh could find his sojourn at centre-forward short-lived as he’s moved back to stiffen up the defence. Still, as both men were saying in different ways, it’s still only February. There’s a long year there yet.

Scorers for Cork: C Lehane 0-7, P O’Sullivan 2-1, P Horgan 0-4 (0-1 f), C Naughton 1-1, B O’Connor, D Sweetnam, P Cronin, S Óg Ó hAilpín 0-1 each.

Scorers for Waterford: M. O’Neill 0-5 (0-3 fs), P Mahony 0-4 (0-3 fs), G O’Brien 0-2, P O’Brien, K Moran, J Nagle, K Casey, S Prendergast, E McGrath, T Ryan 0-01 each.

Subs for Cork: T Kenny for Sweetnam (49 mins), L McLoughlin for Gardiner (55), L O’Farrell for Naughton (64), B Corry for Lehane (68).

Subs for Waterford: E McGrath for S Walsh (half-time), P Prendergast for D Prendergast, G O’Brien for O’Neill (both 57 mins), T Ryan for Casey (63), D Twomey for S Prendergast (68).

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)


JBM’s Rebels off to flying start

Report from the web site

Allianz Hurling League Division 1A: Cork 3-17 Waterford 0-18

Cork made the perfect start to life under new manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night, where three first half goals helped the Rebels to an eight-point win over Waterford. Man of the match Conor Lehane exemplified everything that was good about Cork’s performance, scoring seven points from play in a spell binding display. Cork trailed early on but they then hit 1-6 without reply in 13 first half minutes to turn the game on its head, with Lehane scoring three of those points and full-forward Paudie O’Sullivan pouncing for a fine goal. Two more goals followed just before the half hour mark, Cathal Naughton finishing a brilliant Cork move and then O’Sullivan taking advantage of some slack Déise defending to give the home side an unassailable 3-8 to 0-5 lead.

Although Waterford opened the second half with three points in a row and Cork were struggling in midfield, Michael Ryan’s charges never closed the gap to anything less than the five points they trailed by after 52 minutes, when Paudie O’Mahony struck two frees in quick succession. Lehane, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Patrick Horgan ended any hopes of a Waterford comeback with three quickfire scores. Lehane, though, stole the show and guaranteed himself the man of the match award when he hit three superb points from play in the final 10 minutes.

Cork looked nervous in the opening minutes in front of the bumper crowd in Páirc Uí Rinn and it was Waterford who made the better start, with Paul O’Brien, Kevin Moran and Martin O’Neill putting the visitors three points clear inside the first five minutes. Cork soon settled, however, with 19-year-old Lehane showing well at wing-forward, and three points inside 10 minutes from the Midleton prodigy helped the Rebels to take control of the game. Barry-Murphy’s fingerprints were all over some of Cork’s eye-catching forward play, with Lehane, Pa Cronin and Ben O’Connor in particular causing the Déise defence huge problems.

O’Connor and Cronin combined well to send Paudie O’Sullivan through for Cork’s first goal on 20 minutes, before Naughton breached the Waterford goal for a second time seven minutes later, again after a sweet move down the left flank. The game was effectively over when O’Sullivan, the Cork full-forward, beat his man to a high ball in front of the small square and finished neatly past Ian O’Regan, the Waterford goalkeeper.

Waterford hit two points just before the break, through Paudie O’Mahony and O’Neill, but they still went in at the break trailing by 10 points, 3-8 to 0-7. Waterford manager Ryan must have given his players an earful at half-time because they were certainly far more lively after the resumption of play, hitting the first three points of the second half.

The Cork forwards weren’t getting anywhere near the freedom they were allowed earlier in the game and debutant Darren Sweetnam was struggling with the pace of the game, forcing Barry-Murphy to make a change in midfield, with the experienced Tom Kenny coming on as a sub. Ó hAilpín, making his first start in a Cork jersey since August 2010, slotted over a fine point to settle any Cork nerves before Lehane enraptured the home crowd with a string of points in the closing quarter to seal a hugely satisfying win for the Rebels.