Defending champions, Kilkenny, may have been short 13 of their All-Ireland panel, but they carried on regardless when beating Cork in the opening series of the Allianz National Hurling League.
The Cats, who were one time leaders by seven points during the closing half, held out for a 1-22 to 2-17 win in the end in a fast and furious game in Pairc Ui Rinn last night.
Cork might have stolen victory with the second last puck of the game when sub Luke O’Farrell drilled a shot into the side netting, but it would have been an injustice after the visitors made most of the running.
The winners out-worked, out-ran and hounded the opposition from first whistle to last. The opening four scores were equally shared before a lovely worked point by Alan Cadogan put Cork in front in the seventh minute.
Within two minutes Kilkenny were in front via a scooped home goal from close range by Jonjo Farrell after a vicious drive from Walter Walsh caused goalie Anthony Nash all sorts of problems (1-2 to 0-3). A few minutes later the Cats might have had a second goal when awarded a penalty following a foul on Farrell, but Richie Hogan’s well struck shot was turned out for a 65, which he scored.
That Farrell goal was the main difference between the teams at half-time, when Kilkenny led by 1-11 to 0-12.
Cork were dominated after the turn, and with Walter Walsh causing mayhem from the centre-forward position for the visitors, the home side leaked 0-8 against two replies before the 54th minute as Kilkenny opened out a commanding 1-19 to 0-14 lead.
It looked game over at that stage, but sub Luke O’Farrell threw Cork a lifeline when he touched home a goal from the edge of the square on the hour, a score allowed after the referee consulted with his umpires (1-19 to 1-16).
A blast of points from Padraig Walsh, Richie Hogan and Mark Kelly, against one reply from a Patrick Horgan free, left it a five point game as the end of normal time was reached. Conor Lehane flicked home a late second goal for Cork, and O’Farrell nearly had a third in the 72nd minute that would have been the clincher.
Kilkenny survived, which was a just reward for a terrific effort from the team in general, but especially match star Richie Hogan, Walter Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Tomas Kehoe, Lester Ryan and Mark Kelly, who were all excellent.
Scorers: Kilkenny - Richie Hogan (0-11); M. Kelly (0-4); J.J. Farrell (1-0); W. Walsh (0-3); K. Joyce, L. Ryan, M. Ruth, P. Walsh (0-1 each). Cork - P. Horgan (0-9); C. Lehane (1-2); L. O’Farrell (1-0); A. Cadogan (0-2); D. Kearney, S. Harnedy, B. Cooper, P. O’Sullivan (0-1 each).