Saturday, 25 February 2012

HL 1A: Rebels too hot for Decies 25 February 2012

Conor Lehane impressed as Cork beat Waterford by 3-17 to 0-18 at Pairc Ui Rinn.

The teenager struck seven points from play, giving returning manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy a glimpse of the future of Cork hurling in his first league match back at the helm. A crowd of 7,356 witnessed the exhibition.

Waterford started best with the opening three points but Cork eventually found their rhythm and goals from Paudie O'Sullivan (2) and Cathal Naughton propelled them into a 3-8 to 0-7 interval lead.

After an entertaining rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann, the action got underway and Tallow's Paul O'Brien popped the Decies ahead with a lovely score from play inside the first minute. The Rebels had an immediate opportunity to equalise but Pat Horgan's free went wide.

Centre back Kevin Moran drilled over an excellent point from distance and good defending from Darragh Fives kept Cork at bay as they threatened a third-minute goal. Seamus Prendergast was one of four late additions to the Waterford starting team (with Noel Connors, Aidan Kearney, Shane O'Sullivan and Maurice Shanahan all forced to cry off at the eleventh hour) and he was instrumental in Moran's score and also in the next one from league debutant Martin O'Neill, who duly made it 0-3 to no score after ten minutes.

Horgan hit another wide for the hosts from a free before registering their first point of the night from open play after six minutes. Pa Cronin placed Conor Lehane for the Leesiders' second score and the wing forward was on hand to level the scores with his second minor of the match: 0-3 each after eleven minutes.

Michael Walsh and Shane Walsh both caused consternation in the Rebel rearguard but no score was forthcoming until Ben O'Connor tipped the sliothar over the bar to edge the Cork men in front for the first time on the stroke of 15 minutes.

Iggy O'Regan made a good save to deny Cathal Naughton before the outstanding Lehane benefited from good play by full forward Paudie O'Sullivan to fire over the hosts' fifth successive point. And O'Sullivan - brother of 'The Rock' - claimed the next score himself to make it 0-6 to 0-3 after 19 minutes.

A minute later, the Rebels found the net through O'Sullivan, who was picked out by O'Connor - 1-6 to 0-3 and what a comeback! Paudie Mahony hit points from a free and from play to reduce the arrears but young Darren Sweetman then clipped over his first-ever league point to leave the home team in front by 1-7 to 0-5. Horgan added another instantly for Jimmy Barry-Murphy's rampant side.

It was all Cork and Naughton played a one-two with Lahane before despatching to the net in the 26th minute: 2-8 to 0-5.

On the half hour, it got even worse for Michael Ryan's men: Paudie O'Sullivan had all the time in the world as he placed his second major to the corner of the net to increase the gap to twelve points with five minutes remaining in the first half.

An O'Neill free and a Mahony point from play put some respectability on the scoreboard before the break.

Dungarvan clubman Jamie Nagle closed the margin further with the first score of the second period, 3-8 to 0-8, and Dunhill's Shane Casey moved onto his stronger right-hand side to clip over his first of the night. Waterford were eight adrift but had scored four in a row either side of the short whistle.

A Martin O'Neill free - his third point - kept the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors but former Nottingham Forest triallist Naughton burst through to reply with a facile Cork point in the 42nd minute.

Michael Walsh supplied Waterford's fifth wide off his left-hand side as they continued to battle gallantly. Willie Egan was having an excellent game in the Cork defence but his foul culminated in a 20-metre free, which O'Neill tapped over to close the margin to seven, 3-9 to 0-11.

When Cronin drilled over an exquisite point it meant that all six of Cork's starting forwards had scored from play; Prendergast replied instantly for the away team. Waterford came with two more points to move within five but Lehane proved that he's one for the future with his fourth point from play, 3-11 to 0-14.

And a huge roar went up when - 16 years after making his intercounty debut - Sean Og O Halpin knocked over a 55th-minute point. Waterford needed a goal but they never looked like fashioning one and another Horgan free extended the Rebels' lead to eight again.

Twenty-eleven minor Gavin O'Brien signalled his introduction from the bench with a great Waterford point twelve minutes from the end and Fives made another telling intervention in the Decies defence to repel Horgan as the mist started to descend across the Cork city venue.

But UCC Fresher Lehane capped a fine individual display with his fifth point and substitute Eoin McGrath replied with a Waterford point in the 28th minute before - amazingly - Midleton teenager Lehane popped over his sixth point from near the sideline.

Another teenager, Waterford sub O'Brien, grabbed his second point three minutes from time and again it was Lehane who answered, floating over his seventh point of the match. What a sensational performance from the No.10, who rightly got a rousing reception when he was called ashore before the end!

Horgan stretched the gap to nine on the stroke of full time, 3-17 to 0-17. Tallow clubman Ryan responded with an injury-time score for the valiant losers.

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