Cork begin All-Ireland defence with win over Waterford

The Munster champions won by six points on Saturday

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Cork's Vera Foley, Rena Buckley and Ciara O'Sullivan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ephie Fitzgerald admitted that his Cork players were “flat” on Saturday as they dug out a six-point victory over Waterford in the first round of the TG4 Munster Ladies Senior Football Championship.

But Fitzgerald, overseeing his first championship game in charge, wasn’t unduly concerned as Cork had come through an energy-sapping Lidl Division 1 League final clash with Mayo on the previous Saturday.

Cork carried some niggles into this Fermoy fixture and lined out without concussed captain Ciara O’Sullivan.  Dual star Rena Buckley was also forced off at half-time with a hamstring problem but the All-Ireland champions still managed to get off to a winning start.

Fitzgerald reflected: "I thought we were a bit flat. In fairness to Waterford, they were well organised and got 12 and 13 bodies behind the ball. After last week, it was always going to be maybe a little bit difficult to rise our girls again but I thought we ground it out in the second half." 

"There was only going to be one winner. We kicked a lot of wides, which we wouldn’t be happy about, but they flooded the full-back line and anywhere around the D there, it was very difficult to get chances. All in all, we won by six points, which is pleasing, but we’ll put that to bed now. It’s the first round out of the way and we move on to Kerry."

This was a meeting between All-Ireland champions in two grades (Cork senior/Waterford intermediate) and both counties were also coming into this fixture on the back of winning League titles over the course of the previous weekend.

Waterford defeated Tipperary to claim Division 3 glory but getting one over on Cork in the championship was a step too far. Waterford troubled Cork for spells but spoiled much of their good approach work with a tally of 13 wides – and the Déise went from the 22nd to the 51st minutes without registering a score.

Cork led by 1-6 to 0-5 at half-time and it was a run of four unanswered points approaching the break that handed the hosts that advantage. When Cork had the ball, Waterford defended in numbers and forced numerous turnovers but much of their good work was undone in the 16th minute when Áine O’Sullivan’s speculative effort looped over Hannah Looney’s head and into the Waterford net.

That was Cork’s first score from play and O’Sullivan added a point to put them two points clear, 1-2 to 0-3, on a perfect afternoon for football. Back came Waterford with points from Delahunty and Michelle Ryan to draw level again but Cork upped the ante approaching the interval and four points in as many minutes handed them some breathing space.

Delahunty, who finished up with seven wides, was also Waterford’s leading scorer with three points and she almost found the back of the net after half-time, but Briege Corkery produced a piece of outstanding defending to divert the ball behind for a 45.

As Waterford struggled for scores, Cork were content to keep the scoreboard ticking over and while Annie Walsh’s sin-binning allowed Waterford to get to within four points, 0-7 to 1-8, the Rebelettes hit back with two late scores from leading scorer O’Sullivan.

Cork racked up ten wides in the second half and while there were sloppy elements to their display, Fitzgerald explained: "We trained on Wednesday but we had an awful lot of knocks and bruises and it’s very difficult to pick yourself up, with such a short turn-around." 

Waterford had even less of a turn-around but the intensity of the Mayo game was a factor there. We looked very leggy for times. Rena struggled with a hamstring problem, we had to take her off at half-time.

"Obviously we lost Ciara, we had a lot of niggles. Girls played with little niggles but we raised it in the second half and gave a much better performance. “Waterford are young, fit and move the ball quickly. They troubled us a bit there in the first half but I thought we got to grips with it after half-time. We created a lot of chances, didn’t take them but I’m happy enough."

Scorers for Cork: Á O’Sullivan 1-3, O Finn 0-5 (4f), O Farmer 0-2

Scorers for Waterford: M Delahunty 0-3, M Ryan 0-2, A Wall & S Ryan 0-1 each.

CORK: M O’Brien; M Ambrose, B Stack, E Meaney; V Foley, D O’Reilly, R Phelan; A Walsh, B Corkery; R Buckley, Á O’Sullivan, O Farmer; R Ní Bhuachalla, H Looney, O Finn.

Subs: A Hutchings for Ambrose (27), N Cotter for Buckley (h.t.), E Farmer for Ní Bhuachalla (47), S Kelly for O Farmer (57), Á Hayes for Phelan (60).

WATERFORD: K Hannon; M Dunford, M McGrath, L Wall; A Mullaney, M Wall, H Power; E Murray, G Kenneally; R Tobin, M Ryan, K Murray; M Delahunty, S Ryan, A Wall.

Subs: L McGregor for Tobin (36), C Hurley for S Ryan (49), L Devine for M Ryan (52), S Dunphy for McGregor (53).

Referee: K Delahunty (Tipperary)