Preview: All Ireland SHC S-F - Cork v Waterford
Sunday August 13
All Ireland SHC Semi-Final
Cork v Waterford, Croke Park, 3.30pm
Can Cork defeat Waterford for the second time in the 2017 Championship? How will Waterford set-up? Will Cork’s youngsters continue flourish? What impact can Waterford’s substitutes have? Who will advance to meet Galway in next month’s All Ireland Final?
It has been a remarkable and rollicking adventure for Cork, who stitched a glorious three match winning sequence together in Munster. Tipperary, Waterford, and Clare were defeated meaning Cork celebrated a particularly sweet provincial triumph.
Delivering on the national stage, though, is the next objective so this match against Waterford drips with intrigue.
Kieran Kingston’s defiant work with Cork is worthy of the utmost respect and praise. While 2016 proved to be a most disappointing and worrying campaign, Cork have summoned a gutsy response.
Youngsters have adapted in splendid fashion to the senior inter-county arena. Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston, and Luke Meade have all enjoyed promising and productive moments.
How Anthony Nash, Damien Cahalane, Mark Ellis, Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane, and Patrick Horgan have assisted in their development shouldn’t be forgotten either.
There is class in every Cork line, but the most serious questions are always posed in Croke Park and Waterford hit GAA headquarters armed with hope and expectation.
Derek McGrath’s team have been narrowly beaten at this exact juncture for the past two years. Reaching a decider is precisely what they want to do, but the unavailability of the suspended Tadhg de Burca is a setback.
In June Cork were able to cope with Waterford’s challenge, but the Deise have come thundering back since that setback.
A triumph over Offaly at O’Connor Park was followed by an extra-time success against Kilkenny at Semple Stadium.
Then Waterford overcame Wexford at Pairc Ui Chaoimh so McGrath’s charges are back in the last four. August has been reached, but getting to September is now the ambition.
Pauric Mahony is razor sharp from frees, Kevin Moran and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh continue to supply leadership and guile, while Austin Gleeson remains a significant threat.
Waterford can score from distance too with Jamie Barron a most durable and effective performer at centrefield.
The manner in which Maurice Shanahan, Brian O’Halloran, Colin Dunford, and Tommy Ryan have contributed as substitutes in the recent triumphs over Kilkenny and Wexford, especially, is another source of encouragement for Waterford.
Humility and honesty are two words repeatedly referenced by Waterford boss McGrath, who has steered his county back to the penultimate round.
Clearing this hurdle is precisely what Waterford want to do, but a pumped up and confident Cork team await. An exciting encounter appears imminent.
CORK: Anthony Nash; Stephen McDonnell, Damien Cahalane, Colm Spillane; Christopher Joyce, Mark Ellis, Mark Coleman; Bill Cooper, Darragh Fitzgibbon; Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane, Shane Kingston; Alan Cadogan, Patrick Horgan, Luke Meade.
WATERFORD: Stephen O'Keeffe; Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors; Kieran Bennett, Austin Gleeson, Philip Mahony; Jamie Barron, Conor Gleeson; Kevin Moran, Pauric Mahony, Jake Dillon; Shane Bennett, Michael Walsh, Darragh Fives.