Davy Fitzgerald was close to walking away last winter after two seasons at the helm where they hurled well but failed to get past the All-Ireland quarter-finals. Their structured approach didn’t seem suited to the bigger days yet their hard-running, support play and swarming tackling around the middle third gave them the platform for this win.
Mark Fanning nervelessly converted that fourth-quarter penalty but also pulled off two critical saves, while Liam Ryan, despite going close to give away a penalty himself for a high challenge on Colin Fennelly, Mathew O’Hanlon and Paudie Foley were typically abrasive in the defence.
Young Huw Lawlor lorded the skies for Kilkenny while TJ Reid, having been held scoreless from play when the sides drew earlier this month, hit 0-4 this time to go with his five frees and three 65s. A couple of those efforts were breathtaking but, as has been the case in recent years, the Cats don’t have the bite of old up top, especially as injuries have plagued the likes of Walter Walsh, Ger Aylward and Richie Hogan.
Cork have Westmeath next weekend and will be unbackable favourites to progress into a showdown with Brian Cody and co.