Waterford 1-16, Cork 1-15 By Mark Jones
If the Waterford players had not relented on their initial position against drug testing following Sunday’s game at Thurles, their memorable win over Cork could have even been declared void.
And that success was thoroughly deserved as the underdogs consigned Cork to the qualifying competition with a display that was full of verve and determination. If Ken McGrath, who had come on as a substitute during the first half despite an injured shoulder, hit the decisive point in added time, it was Paul Flynn who stole the show with an outstanding individual performance.
So often criticized for not delivering in the big games, Flynn compiled 12 superb scores, including nine frees, and his shooting and general play was unmatched by anyone in the Cork ranks. Waterford were unlucky to be trailing by a point, 1-7 to 0-9, at the interval, but they finished the stronger following Tony Browne’s somewhat lucky goal in the 43rd minute.
Browne’s long-range delivery deceived Donal Og Cusack and skidded off the wet surface into the net, and from that moment on, Waterford never lost the initiative. That score saw Waterford surge into what looked like a decisive lead, but to Cork’s credit, they responded in style.
A series of points ate into Waterford’s lead and by the 68th minute, Joe Deane had equalized, but just when a replay looked the most likely outcome, Brian Greene found McGrath, who fired over the winning score.
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It was Waterford’s first championship win over Cork since 1989 and only the ninth in their history. They now meet either Tipperary or Limerick in the Munster final, while Cork join Clare in the qualifier series.
Dublin 1-24, Meath 2-12
Meanwhile, in Leinster, Dublin booked themselves a place in the provincial semifinal against Wexford when they overcame Meath convincingly at Tullamore. Despite a blitz of Dublin scores during the first half, two goals by Meath’s Nicky Horan meant that the gap was only five at the interval.
However, with Kevin Flynn, who finished with 12 points, including seven frees, in fine scoring form, Dublin took control again and if Darragh Spain’s late goal flattered the winners somewhat, they were clearly the superior team.
Jerome Trainor came to Down’s rescue in their Ulster semifinal when his injury time point earned them a 0-12 to 1-9 draw with Derry at Casement Park. Initially, some brilliant scores by Oliver Collins and Geoffrey McGonigle had tilted the game towards Derry, but Down’s tenacity was rewarded in the end and a replay is scheduled for Saturday.
Armagh 2-13, Tyrone 0-16
Tyrone were the favorites, Ulster’s hot ticket, the reigning National League champions, the reigning provincial champions, yet somewhere dormant, there was this belief that Armagh might after all be the Northern team which would go all the way to final day at Croke Park this summer.
That belief gained more currency last Sunday when Armagh were deserving winners in last Sunday’s replay at Clones and now are heading for a semifinal date with Fermanagh on June 9. If they should probably have closed the deal in the drawn game, there was no doubt on this occasion as Tyrone struggled without the injured Peter Canavan.
Armagh were on top during the first half, but with Chris Lawn and Brian Robinson outstanding in defense, the gap was only two points when John McEntee’s goal just before the break gave Armagh a massive psychological boost.
Tyrone’s intensity didn’t drop off during the second half, but without Canavan, who on occasions limbered up on the sideline, they never regained the upper hand. Thanks to significant contributions from Declan McCrossan and Kevin Hughes, Tyrone drew level with seven minutes remaining, but Armagh finished the job with a goal by substitute Barry Duffy.
Revitalized under manager Joe Kernan, Armagh made their mark even though once again Diarmuid Marsden failed to live up to advance billing. However, his tepid form was more than made up for by the display of captain Kieran McGeeney who was outstanding in defense.
“I felt we played quite well,” said McGeeney, “and there’s an awful long way to go. Tyrone missed Peter Canavan out there and they’ll be a match for many teams. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion they we may meet Peter and company again before too long.”
Kildare 0-12, Louth 0-11
Louth blew their chance of qualifying for the Leinster football semifinal when they shot a disastrous total of 20 wides on the way to a one-point defeat by Kildare at Navan.
While Kildare’s Brian Lacey received a head wound after he was struck by an umbrella as he left the pitch, Louth were the ones really smarting as they contemplated yet another missed opportunity. With manager Mick O’Dwyer sensing his side was in trouble, Kildare introduced Dermot Earley, Glen Ryan and Padraig Brennan off the bench during the second half.
“We’re certainly relieved since we’ve had a lot of players troubled by injury,” O’Dwyer said.
Kildare were 0-8 to 0-6 in front at the break, but Louth came alive in the final quarter with scores by Mark Stanfield and Ollie McDonnell and for more than 10 minutes, Kildare were unable to get the ball out of their own half.
Eventually, with the scores tied, they broke clear and Tadgh Fennin found an unmarked Brennan, who drove over the lead score with a minute left. Louth still had an opportunity to snatch a replay, but Christy Grimes summed up his team’s disappointing day when his effort drifted wide.
Offaly 0-13, Laois 2-6
A magnificent last-ditch point by Pascal Kelleghan won Offaly a Leinster semifinal tie against Kildare, but last Sunday’s game at Tullamore turned out to be a disappointing affair.
The football was ragged and unspectacular. However, Kelleghan’s decisive score would have graced All-Ireland final day. Out on the left touchline, near the corner flag, he lofted a sublime point and the final whistle was blown within seconds.
Despite goals from Beano McDonald and Chris Conway, Laois manager Colm Browne readily admitted that eight scores was never going to be enough to win the game.
“We failed to play productive football when we had the momentum of a 4-point lead in the first half,” he said.
Leitrim 0-15, London 0-10
London may be now contemplating the qualifying series following last weekend’s Connacht championship quarterfinal defeat by Leitrim at Ruislip, but they can take heart from their failure to win a first championship game since 1977.
If their forwards can improve their shooting, there could be possibilities as evidenced by the fact that London had closed to a point midway through the second half when James Holohan and Jimmy Guckian kicked the vital insurance points for Leitrim.