Awesome Cats rip through Rebels

November 8, 2018

Kilkenny remain on course for their third consecutive All-Ireland title after they produced a devastating display of hurling to defeat old rivals Cork by 1-23 to 0-17 at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.

Kilkenny proved to the rest of the country that any lay off does not bother them as they produced an excellent display of hurling to book their place in the All-Ireland final where they will meet either Tipperary or Waterford.

This was the match that everyone had been waiting for – two sides that have dominated the All-Ireland championship this decade and the question was could Cork stop Kilkenny from doing the three-in-a-row. Of course that was in the back of their minds when the ball was threw in as the Rebels bid to reach the final, while the Cats were eager to do likewise.

In the early exchanges, the sides were evenly matched and Cork looked up for the match, but in the last ten minutes of the half, the defending All-Ireland champions stepped up a gear and looked in a different class.

An interesting factor of the opening 35 minutes was that Kilkenny scored all but two points of their tally from play, while Cork only managed four points from play during the same period of the match.

Both sides squared up to each other early on as there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on, but normality was soon restored as the game started at a frantic pace as neither side gave an inch. A foul on Eoin Larkin gave Kilkenny the fist opportunity to score, but Henry Shefflin’s long range effort drifted wide.

Just a few second later and the Cats were off the mark when Aidan Fogarty scored a fine point from over his shoulder. Cork responded quickly as Cork captain John Gardiner found some space to slot over from 70 metres and already there was a sense that this could well be a classic.

Cork corner forward Patrick Horgan bore down on the Kilkenny goal and was fouled as he attempted to shot leaving Ben O’Connor with an easy free to tap over after eight minutes of play. A great cross-field ball by Richie Power was gathered by Shefflin and he levelled matters, striking over the ball off his left.

Jerry O’Connor won a free 75 metres out and his brother Ben found the range to put Cork in front and at the other end Shefflin scored another excellent point to make it 0-3 to 0-3 after 12 minutes. The returning Noel Hickey cut out a good ball by Cathal Naughton to avert the danger in the Kilkenny defence.

Horgan fired over a good point following a move involving three players and once again it was Shefflin who restored parity as he slotted over his first over of the afternoon. An inspirational catch by Diarmuid O’Sullivan was followed by a long range Jerry O’Connor point, which was greeted by a loud cheer from the Cork supporters.

Shefflin then converted a ’65 for his fourth score of the match as the sides were level for the third time. However, from the puck out Tom Kenny took a pass from Pa Cronin and pointed. Shefflin was involved in KK’s next score when he laid off a wonderful pass to the impressive Eoin Larkin and he tapped over from 40 metres.

A second point by Fogarty put Kilkenny in front after the corner forward found himself in acres of space. Another Shefflin pass to Larkin culminated in a point for the Cats as they went two points clear and then Eddie Brennan with his first touch of the match made it 0-9 to 0-6 after 28 minutes.

The games first goal came when the Cork defence seemed to hesitate when Larkin raced through and blast the ball to the back of the net and Cork had to respond quickly and they nearly did when Ben O’Connor’s shot juts went narrowly wide.

Brennan hit another point as Kilkenny stamped their authority on the match by going into a seven point lead to leave Cork shell shocked, but the Rebels were by no means out of the match even though they hadn’t scored since the 12th minute.

Fogarty was running riot up front and he hit his third point of the match as Kilkenny began to dominate all over the field particularly in defence where Hickey was outstanding at full back in his first match back since last year.

The gap went out to nine points when Brennan hit another point as Cork finally ended their scoring drought when Ben O’Connor pointed another free to leave the scoreline at half time 1-12 to 0-7.

Cork had come from behind in their last two matches against Galway and Clare, but Kilkenny are a different prospect and they are not the best in the country for no reason. The Cats were out on the field long before Cork, who introduced Kieran Murphy for Joe Deane.

Sean Og O’hAilpin had his hands full with Shefflin and the Cork defender gave away a cheap free when he fouled the aces marksman only 20 metre from goal and it was a handy point for Kilkenny. Shefflin is certainly back to his best as he picked up a loose ball and slotted over another point, his sixth of the afternoon.

Cronin got Cork’s first point of the second half, although moments earlier Ben O’Connor’s effort looked to have sailed over from a tight angle, but the umpires waved the effort wide, much to the anger of the Cork following. O’Connor did get the next score from a free as Timmy McCarthy came on for Niall McCarthy as the Munster side looked to shake things up.

A point by Naughton on the run reduced the gap to seven points and this seemed to rally Cork as McCarthy made an immediate impact by firing over another point to leave the scores 1-14 to 0-11. An excellent score by Kenny almost lifted the roof off Croke Park after Cronin had a shot blocked by JJ Delaney.

Shefflin converted a free from close in after O’Sullivan was book for a foul on Fogarty and then Ben O’Connor won and pointed a free to leave five points between the sides with 17 minutes remaining. Comerford was then replaced by Willie O’Dwyer as the Cats tried to get back into the match and a point from Brennan came at a crucial time when Cork looked to be in the ascendancy.

Larkin was fouled 50 metres from goal and the result was evident as Shefflin scored his eighth point of the afternoon to leave them 1-17 to 0-13 ahead. O’Connor was keeping Cork in touch with frees as he pointed another placed ball and then Shefflin showed his accuracy after Jackie Tyrell was fouled following a determined run out of defence.

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody brought on TJ Reid for Richie Power who had a frustrating afternoon, while Cork introduced Neil Ronan for Patrick Horgan after Ben O’Connor had sent a free wide.

Midfielder Derek Lyng put eight points between the sides once again as the game entered the last eight minutes and Kilkenny were remaining on course for their third consecutive All-Ireland title. O’Connor hit his seventh from frees, but the atmosphere had died considerably and when Kilkenny captain James ’Cha’ Fitzpatrick made it 1-20 to 0-15; the Cork crowd began to leave the grounds.

It was champagne stuff at this stage as O’Dwyer hit quite an exquisite point, but Fitzpatrick was carried off when he suffered a blow to a tender area and was replaced by Michael Rice. Another point by O’Connor was little consolation and then Ronan went for goal from 23 metres, but his effort sailed over the bar and then Reid and Fogarty hit points for KK to leave the score 1-23 to 0-17.

Kilkenny – PJ Ryan, M Kavanagh, N Hickey, J Tyrrell, T Walsh, B Hogan, JJ Delaney, J Fitzpatrick 0-1, D Lyng 0-1, E Brennan 0-4, M Comerford, E Larkin 1-2, R Power, H Shefflin 0-9, 5f, 1 ’65, A Fogarty 0-4. Subs – W O’Dwyer 0-1 for Comerford, T J Reid 0-1 for Power, M Rice for Fitzpatrick.

Cork – D Óg Cusack, S O’Neill, D O’Sullivan, B Murphy, J Gardiner 0-1, R Curran, S Óg Ó h’Ailpín, T Kenny 0-2, J O’Connor 0-2, B O’Connor 0-8, 8f, N McCarthy, P Cronin, C Naughton 0-1, J Deane, P Horgan 0-1. Subs – K Murphy for Deane, T McCarthy 0-1 for N McCarthy, N Ronan 0-1 for Horgan, P O’Sullivan for Naughton.

Ref – M Wadding (Waterford)