The Kilkenny bid for another National League/Championship double came to an abrupt end in Thurles yesterday when flying Cork out-gunned the fading Cats in a fascinating All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-final (0-19 to 0-14).
The fleet-footed, slick hurling Leesiders took the lead in the 10th minute with a point from a free by deadly free taker, Patrick Horgan, and they led all the way home from there as they booked a place in the semi-finals against Dublin in Croke Park in two weeks time.
Kilkenny’s chances of qualifying for what would have been a 17th successive semi-final nose dived a minute before the break when nine times All-Ireland medal winner, Henry Shefflin, was sent off when yellow carded for the second time. The Ballyhale Shamrocks man must be considered unlucky, because the first booking appeared harsh and the decisive second foul was more an awkward challenge than a malicious one although his hurley and arm ended up tangled around an opponent’s neck.
By that time wind assisted Cork were beginning to get a hold of the tie and their free running, ‘keep possession game’ was causing the defending champions problems. Cork went in at the break leading by 0-11 to 0-6. They had a narrow escape seconds earlier when Walter Walsh threatened their goal but the Tullogher man was crowded out with the target in sight.
The Cats exploded into action after the throw-in, and a charge up the field ended with Eoin Larkin being fouled and a penalty awarded. Richie Power’s first penalty strike hit the net, but referee Barry Kelly ordered a retake because a brigade of players had charged forward before the player hit the ball.
The retaken penalty was saved, but Power put the ball over the bar from a frantic piece of play that ensued in the goal area before it could be cleared.
Kilkenny enjoyed their best period of the game during the minutes that followed, and a 44th minute point from powerful wing back Tommy Walsh narrowed the gap to 0-9 to 0-12. The winners were under pressure.
Cork were employing corner-back, Conor O’Sullivan, as the extra man and sweeper behind their defence, and he played a key role as they weathered the storm and got their free and easy game motoring again. The Leesiders picked off a brace of points through the deadly Patrick Horgan, the first following a superb low delivery from the influential Daniel Kearney and the second from a free, to help them steady the ship.
Kilkenny powered on and on, but the loss of a man up front was sorely felt as O’Sullivan, Christopher Joyce, Stephen McDonnell and company defended brilliantly and mopped up hopeful ball pumped forward. Michael Fennelly did get sight of the Cork goal in the 63rd minute, but ’keeper Anthony Nash brought off an excellent save. The score was 0-18 to 0-11 at the time.
Kilkenny claimed four of the closing five scores, but Cork’s best advantage of 0-18 to 0-10 (62nd minute) had left them with enough in the tank to weather the storm.
Scorers: Cork – Patrick Horgan (0-11, eight frees); Conor Lehane, Patrick Cronin (0-2 each); Seamus Harnedy, Luke O’Farrell, Jamie Coughlan, Stephen Moylan (0-1 each). Kilkenny – Eoin Larkin (0-6, three frees, one 65); Richie Power (0-2, one free); Michael Fennelly (0-2); Paul Murphy, Tommy Walsh, Walter Walsh, Aidan Fogarty (0-1 each).
Kilkenny – Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, J.J. Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Kieran Joyce, Cillian Buckley, Michael Fennelly, Colin Fennelly (capt), Richie Power, Eoin Larkin, Walter Walsh, Richie Hogan, Henry Shefflin. Subs – Lester Ryan for Buckley ht; Aidan Fogarty for Power (inj) 56th min; T.J. Reid for Hogan 62nd min.
Cork – Anthony Nash, Shane O’Neill, Stephen McDonnell, Conor O’Sullivan, Tom Kenny, Christopher Joyce, William Egan, Lorcan McLoughlin, Daniel Kearney, Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Cronin, Luke O’Farrell, Patrick Horgan, Jamie Coughlan. Subs – Stephen Moylan for L. McLoughlin 55th min; Cathal Naughton for J. Coughlan 71st min.
Referee – Barry Kelly (Westmeath).