BOTH sides entered this South East Cup semi-final game short a number of key players but it was Gorey, who will play the All-Ireland League final in a fortnight, who displayed greater hunger and physicality when inflicting a heavy defeat on Kilkenny, who are preparing for their first Leinster Culliton Cup final in over 20 years.
While the scoreboard does not accurately reflect both teams’ ability when at full strength Kilkenny, coming off the back of a big win the previous weekend against Portlaoise, were not ready for a Gorey side who had a number of fringe players fighting hard for places on their final side.
The opening ten minutes dictated the trend of the game as Kilkenny, despite starting competently, were counter-rucked off their own ruck ball four times. They failed to make even one first up tackle despite their scramble defence being solid.
Gorey got the game’s first try after ten minutes, getting the luck of the bounce from a return kick which should have gone dead but instead bounced up and into the arms of the grateful chaser.
A penalty kick and a switch move, where the runner evaded several Kilkenny players, left Kilkenny 24-0 down after 20 minutes and desperately chasing the game. They did that right up to the interval, playing a similar open game to gorey albeit at less intensity.
Frustration set in as Darren Knox was held up over the line while, in forcing the game, try-scoring opportunities were spurned as Diarmuid Hickey, Liam McWey and Hugh Lane all put passes to ground when overlaps had been created.
The breakthrough came at the start of the second half when Rikki Drennan scored an excellent try. The ball moved swiftly to space for a change, allowing Drennan to kick ahead. With Sean Mulholland putting pressure on the defence Drennan gathered and scored under the posts for a try which was converted by Lane.
However, after gathering the restart Kilkenny forced the game again and tried to run the ball laterally, allowing Gorey to intercept and score the clincher just five minutes into the second half. Later in the game two defensive lapses led to further tries by Gorey. Kilkenny’s best efforts went unrewarded as passes by Darragh Morrissey and John Curtin went to ground again in scoring situations, while McWey and Morrissey were both denied by the dead ball line.
Kilkenny’s afternoon was made even worse when scrum-half Robbie Corcoran suffered a freak injury, landing badly when jumping to block a drop goal attempt late in the game. Kilkenny, who were further hampered by the departure of Conor Quinlan and Tadhg O’Carroll through injury, had good performances from Rikki Drennan at full-back and Liam McWey.
Kilkenny: Rikki Drennan, Will Bergin, Adam Jordan, Liam McWey, Sean Mulholland, Hugh Lane, Robbie Corcoran, Mick King, John Curtin, Nick Feehan, Tadhg O’Carroll, Conor Quinlan, Darragh Morrissey, Darren Knox, Diarmuid Hickey. Subs: Ciaran Sutton, James Rafter, Craig Murphy.