A place in the Leinster semi-finals and pride restored. It was a win-win situation as the Kilkenny minor hurlers roared back to winning ways.
With the pain of a big defeat to Dublin still raw to the touch, the provincial champions showed they meant business as they blasted past Carlow side in a one-sided affair Dr Cullen Park on Saturday.
“We’re delighted to get the win,” minor boss Pat Hoban told the ’People. “This game was very much about winning it and moving on to the next phase. After the Dublin game it was great to get the result and get a good scoreline.”
The Carlowmen opened the scoring and finished it - the only trouble was that little else went their way.
Right from the off a mean-looking Kilkenny took the game by the scruff of the neck and refused to let go. Starting with a strong wind - not a breeze - at his back goalkeeper Darren Brennan bombarded the Carlow defence with booming puck-outs. Many landed in and around the 25m line, helping a sharp Kilkenny half-forward line keep the pressure on their rivals.
While Kevin McDonald grabbed the opening point from a long range free after two minutes it was the only flag the umpires at the scoreboard end waved for a long time as Kilkenny took over.
Making an immediate response, the Cats’ half-forward line clicked into gear. Ronan Corcoran got them off the mark with point, before Sean Morrissey teed up John Walsh to give Kilkenny a lead they would never lose.
Corcoran and Morrissey proved to be a real handful, the former adding another point to stretch the lead. The advantage grew when Alan Murphy converted two frees, the Glenmore man then ghosting in at the back post to collect Billy Ryan’s searing 11th minute sideline cut and flick it over the head of netminder Shane Walshe.
The Cats continued to show their claws, Corcoran adding his third point - but only after John Walsh was denied a goal by a sliding Walshe save - with Murphy (free) and Sean Morrissey continuing the one-way traffic.
Tough nut to crack
A gloomy day didn’t get much better for Carlow. When they get through the solid midfield of Darren Mullen and Andrew Gaffney they found a Darragh Joyce-marshalled defence a tougher nut to crack. Chris Nolan did mine a point from play (their first of the afternoon) for the hosts on 25 minutes, but a late flurry from Morrissey (2), Murphy (two frees), sub Eoin Kenny and Gaffney saw Kilkenny coast in 15 points clear at the interval (1-14 to 0-2).
There were still 30 minutes to play, but it looked like game over for Carlow.
Even though they were now playing against the elements, Kilkenny were swiftly back into their stride on the restart. An 18-point gap opened up by the 34th minute, Liam Blanchfield hitting the last point after a fine pulled pass from clubmate Sean Morrissey. Refusing to give up, Carlow shaved off two points thanks to Nolan and Owen Roberts, but the game was all but up when Murphy netted his second goal on 40 minutes, turning Morrissey’s hand-pass into a blistering shot that flew into Walshe’s net (2-17 to 0-4).
The last 20 minutes were played at a slower pace, but Kilkenny didn’t ease off too much. They rounded off their afternoon with a late haul of 1-5, sub Daniel O’Connor rattling the net with a bullet of a goal on 49 minutes, while Murphy (three frees) and Morrissey (2) piled more misery on the hosts.
It was a good performance for Hoban to reflect on, but the Kilkenny boss believed his side still had facets of their game to improve on.
“We played with the breeze in the first half which helped, but I wasn’t overly happy at half-time as I felt that there were a number of chances we had casually missed.
“Against other opposition that could have been costly,” he added. “From that point it was a good win, but there’s a lot of work to do.”
Winning the game was all the side wanted, he stressed, especially after losing to Dublin last time out.
“We were all very disappointed with the Dublin game, but training has gone very well since then,” he said. “Everyone wanted to respond to that loss, and I felt the work we did in training reflected that.”
SCORERS: Kilkenny - Alan Murphy (2-9, 0-9 frees); Sean Morrissey (0-5); Ronan Corcoran (0-4); Daniel O’Connor (1-0); Andrew Gaffney, Liam Blanchfield, John Walsh, Eoin Kenny (0-1 each). Carlow - Kevin McDonald (0-3, frees); Chris Nolan (0-2); Owen Roberts, John Murphy (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - Darren Brennan, Tommy Walsh, Conor Delaney, Jack Keoghan, Jason Cleere, Darragh Joyce, Conor Doheny, Darren Mullen, Andrew Gaffney, Ronan Corcoran, Sean Morrissey, Billy Ryan, Alan Murphy , Liam Blanchfield, John Walsh. Subs: Eoin Kenny for J. Walsh, 25 mins; Gary Bryan for Kenny, 31 mins; Bill McDowell for Cleere, 36 mins; Daniel O’Connor for Blanchfield, 47 mins; Cian O’Meara for T. Walsh, 49 mins.
Carlow - Shane Walshe, Thomas Maher, Paddy Shanahan, Padraig Coughlan, Dean Greene, Eoin Redmond, Adam Dunne, Kevin McDonald, Ger Coady, Owen Roberts, Conor Foley, Andy Kane, Darragh O’Neill, Liam Galway, Chris Nolan. Subs: Shane O’Neill for Foley, 20 mins; John Murphy for Grennan, 27 mins; Colin Byrne for Maher, 34 mins; Andrew Casey for Coughlan, 39 mins; Conor Foley for Kane, 45 mins.
Referee - Danny Harrington (Dublin).