KILKENNY’S return to the big stage proved too much for Cork.
The Rebels’ lacklustre performance in the second half left them wondering what had happened. They were in a decent position at the break — two points to the good — but the Cats’ display thereafter, with the wind to their backs, was powerful. They played it as it was, with everything on the line.
Even with Patrick Horgan giving a masterclass in attack (3-10), John Meyler couldn’t have been happy with the support play up front, aside from Alan Cadogan. Cork were under pressure in too many other positions, and every time Cadogan got on the ball, Kilkenny were happy to draw the foul.
Cork’s puck-out came under scrutiny also.
Granted, 3-18 is not bad scoring but when this contest developed into a shoot-out, Kilkenny had all the answers. Their six forwards, both midfielders and three of their five substitutions contributed.
In contrast, none of the Cork half-forward line got on the scoresheet, there was just the one point from centre-field (Darragh Fitzgibbon) — albeit Bill Cooper did have to retire in the second half with an injury. And not any of the bench that was introduced registered, although Tim O’Mahony and Robbie O’Flynn did improve the supply into the danger area.
Evidently, Kilkenny’s stock has risen since losing out to Wexford in the Leinster final. They obviously felt they had a point to prove with Brian Cody making four changes from that defeat. Most notable was the inclusion of 30-year-old Richie Hogan from the start. His goal just after half-time was the catalyst that helped them work their way back.
However, it was far from plain sailing for Kilkenny who were in difficulty as early as the second minute when Séamus Harnedy was dragged down in front of the posts and Patrick Horgan dispatched the penalty without mercy to the top left corner.
Kilkenny subsequently went ahead thanks to a Colin Fennelly goal, but the Leesiders outscored the Black and Amber 1-6 to 0-4 in the second quarter.
Kilkenny began the second half with gusto.
A mix up in the Cork full-back line left Hogan through for a crucial Kilkenny goal – and they started to hurl with renewed vigour. They were back in business. Walter Walsh came in and he won ball after ball, as well as firing over three points.
By the 52nd minute, Kilkenny had landed eight unanswered points. Cork were really up against it, but battled back, 1-3 bringing them to within two points, and there was still plenty time to turn it around.
The story of the remaining 10 minutes plus four additional, was that Kilkenny closed out spectacularly. Of their final five points, four came from subs Walsh, Billy Ryan and Bill Sheehan.
A painful defeat for Cork. But too many players didn’t play to their potential. Kilkenny’s did.