Munster final day is a special occasion in the GAA calendar; one of mystique, legends, competitiveness, excitement, passion, and history. The 2004 Munster final between Waterford and Cork had all that and then some in a scintillating contest. Bringing us back to the action is Luke Lonergan.
55,000 fans came to Thurles that day. Semple Stadium is unique. Not only is it a place of happy memories for Tipperary GAA but it’s also been successful for other counties. Thurles has a rich history; the GAA was founded in Hayes’ Hotel and the stadium is iconic.
Beforehand, Cork goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack said ‘it feels like you’re going to war’ going into a Munster final. A sad fact of life is that war is an underpinning of many facets of history.
It was a war. A rollicking back-and-forth blow-for-blow highlight reel of hurling. Goals, points, clearances, fielding, hooks, blocks. It had everything. Waterford, the underdogs, emerged as giants in hurling folklore. Cork fought hard and well and long, but ultimately they were the fallen.
Stevie Brenner was the first casualty. The sliothar rolled towards goal after a wild Cork shot. It should have been cleared but it rolled between his legs for one of the strangest goals of our time. Cork pounced, grabbing the momentum for themselves; dominating a brilliant first ten minutes. It was hurling at an exhausting, feverish pace.
Waterford’s Eoin Kelly hit back. He charged the field, outmuscled Jerry O’ Connor with brute strength and rifled past Cusack. A shot to the powder keg. The game exploded and opened up. Points were proffered by each side in a glorious exhibition. The counties entered a flow of hurling and Waterford got their second.
Dan Shanahan majestically plucked the sliothar from the air. He turned, lost his defender and shot low past Cusack. Unstoppable. Just what Waterford needed going into the half.
Upon resumption, John Mullane put over a heroic score but turned to villain when he was sent off; walking to the side surrounded by baying fans clad in red and white who smelt blood. Waterford were down and needed an attack.
Morale was low and ranks depleted. A leader was cried for and thus Paul Flynn stood over a free from long range. Time stopped. Flynn conjured magic as he sniped from distance dumbfounding all from Cork as it rattled the net.
The last ten minutes re-entered the frantic pace of the opening exchanges, the pressure and ferocity was turned to maximum level. Body blows were exchanged but Waterford had the momentum and a lofting Seamus Prendergast point put his county up by one. Right after that fantastic score, the war was over. The referee blew the whistle to cries of jubilations from fans and players, as if the oppressed had been unshackled of fetters and sensed freedom. Waterford emerged victorious and Cork slumped to defeat.
The players entered their names into history that day with their skill, craft, passion and determination. They created one of the best games ever and the greatest Munster final ever witnessed. They wrote history.
Pundit Arena, Luke Lonergan.