BY NIALL SHERRY
Extra-time heartbreak for Cody’s men as rebels win by 5
After an epic encounter at headquarters in front of the biggest crowd since the pandemic begun, Kilkenny bowed out of this year’s All-Ireland championship following an extra-time defeat to Cork.
It was a fantastic advert for hurling, but Brian Cody and his men will take little comfort from this, having come out on the wrong side of the 1-37 to 1-32 score line.
The 24,000 Gael’s in attendance witnessed an almighty game that had everything, except of course a Kilkenny win. The cats came into the game with history very much on their side. The Nore-siders record at the business end of the season is one to be reckoned with. Since Semi-finals became a feature of the hurling championship in 1984, Kilkenny had played in twenty-six penultimate matches, losing just five of these.
The rebel county doesn’t care much for history and tradition as they’ve shown this year. A young and energetic bunch, their trajectory is definitely on the upward scale.
Even before the throw-in both sides were involved in some ‘handbags’ as they attempted to gain a psychological advantage. It would be the black and amber that settled first, with points from Richie Reid and Padraig Walsh as the cat’s tactic of retaining possession was reaping reward.
Kieran Kingston’s men appeared nervous and the decision to get keeper Patrick Collins in more advanced positions after short puck-outs was back-firing, as Kilkenny stole possession on a few occasions and punished the rebel’s, with Eoin Cody registering a couple of scores to leave Cody’s men leading 0-6 to-02 after 11 minutes.
Shortly afterwards, Ballyhale’s TJ Reid could have been awarded a penalty when Cork’s Mark Coleman appeared to foul the number 14, however referee Fergal Horgan deemed the Kilkenny man to have over-carried, a harsh call.
This let-off appeared to act as a catalyst for the rebels who were now settling into their running game, and their pace was causing much danger all over the pitch. Cork then hit the next five points in the game, largely from frees, Patrick Horgan was certainly in top form. Cats defender Paddy Deegan then found himself in the book having caught Cork’s O’Mahoney quite high while on the stretch.
Kilkenny responded with a further two points from Billy Ryan and TJ’s second free to lead by two, 0-9 to 0-7. The Lee-siders responded with scores from Fitzgibbon and Barrett, but the real scoring threat continued to come from Patrick Horgan both from free’s and play as Cork edged ahead. The Cork defence were limiting TJ to mostly frees. However, Eoin Cody, Billy Ryan and captain Adrian Mullen kept the scoreboard ticking over with scores from play. Ballyhale’s Cody almost hit the net before the interval, but his shot was struck too close to the Cork netminder. Kilkenny led by the minimum at the break, 0-15 to 0-14.
When the match resumed, the roller-coaster of momentum continued. Firstly, TJ scored a number of frees to move the cats four ahead, but the lead was reduced with scores from O’Flynn and the deadly Horgan. Cork boss Kingston had been forced to make one change before half-time, sensed that Kilkenny were gaining the upper hand, and decided to shuffle his pack. Both Alan Cadogan and the managers son Shane entered the fray. The changes had the desired effect, as both replacements pace and direct style and most importantly scoring ability helped bring the rebels back on terms by the second water break with a score line of 0-21 apiece.
The break did little to disrupt Cork’s dominance and flow. Kilkenny had full-back Huw Lawlor to thank for denying Alan Cadogan a certain goal when the O’Loughlin Gaels man made a superb block. Unfortunately, this didn’t stem the rising Cork tide, as both Cadogan and Shane Kingston hit some wonderful scores as the rebels registered six points without reply in a devastating nine-minute spell.
Free-taker Reid kept eating away at the Cork lead with a series of further scores from dead balls. When Cork’s answer to TJ, Patrick Horgan missed a ‘65 in injury time, it appeared the cat’s late effort was to be in vain. However, as Cody’s men have shown this season, they never fade away and surrender lightly.
As the clock edged towards the 75th minute, Glenmore netminder Eoin Murphy launched a final attack. Cork lost possession when Tim O’Mahony was robbed by Padraig Walsh whose pinpoint pass found captain Adrian Mullen, who created the angle to unleash a great shot to the rebel’s net. The Kilkenny supporters erupted. Extra time.
Cork must have feared the worst. Having watched the cat’s comeback and extra-time victory against Wexford in the provincial semi-final, surely Cody’s charges would use the injury-time equaliser and push on for victory. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Both sides sensed blood, and goals seemed to be the method chosen to secure victory. Cork keeper Collins deflected a Billy Ryan shot over, while both Walter Walsh and Martin Keoghan saw efforts hit the side netting. At the other end Eoin Murphy had to come off his line to prevent Alan Connolly hitting the net. There was to be no repeat shortly after as Cork’s Jack O’Connor showed a good turn of pace to beat two Kilkenny defenders before smashing a thunderous shot from the angle. Tj Responded with yet another free before Horgan did likewise. Cork would lead by three at the break in extra time, 1-32 to 1-29.
When extra-time resumed Cork’s energy and pace caused more problems, with goal-scorer O’Connor pointing along with super-sub Shane Kingston and Harnedy in quick succession. Despite further points from TJ and Richie Hogan, which reduced the deficit to four, Cork sub-Declan Dalton hit the final point of the game to leave five between the sides at the final whistle and secure a final date with Limerick. Final score, Cork 1-37 Kilkenny 1-32.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Huw Lawlor, Paddy Deegan; James Maher (0-01), Padraig Walsh (0-01), Michael Carey (0-01); Conor Fogarty (0-01), Richie Reid (0-01); Adrian Mullen (1-03), John Donnelly, Billy Ryan (0-05); Eoin Cody (0-04), TJ Reid (0-13, 3 ‘65s’, 9f), Alan Murphy (0-01).
Subs: Cillian Buckley for Richie Reid (50), Martin Keoghan for Donnelly (ht), Walter Walsh for Murphy (52), James Bergin for Keoghan (60), Richie Hogan (0-01) for Cody (et), Donnelly for Ryan (et), Delaney for Carey (et)
Cork: Patrick Collins; Niall O’Leary (0-01), Robert Downey, Sean O’Donoghue; Tim O’Mahony, Mark Coleman (0-01), Ger Millerick; Darragh Fitzgibbon (0-01), Luke Meade; Conor Cahalane, Seamus Harnedy (0-02), Robbie O’Flynn (0-02); Shane Barrett (0-01), Patrick Horgan (0-15, 9f), Jack O’Connor (1-03).
Subs: Eoin Cadogan for Millerick (35), Shane Kingston for Fitzgibbon (0-07) (42), Alan Cadogan (0-03) for Barrett (47), Damien Cahalane for O’Flynn (68), Alan Connolly for C Cahalane (et), Sean O’Leary Hayes for Coleman (et), Fitzgibbon for Meade (et), Declan Dalton for O’Connor (0-01) (et)
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)
Alas the dream is over. Perhaps it was more in hope than expectation that Liam would return to the county this year.
In the build-up to last Sunday’s game, there was much talk about which of Kilkenny and Cork would prevail and set up a final shot with Limerick. Would it be the seasoned county, the Cats with a greater tradition and the genius of Brian Cody at the helm. Or would it be the lee-siders with their pace and dynamism.
Well, we now know that it was Cork that would prevail. Their pace and running, certainly caused Kilkenny problems. Kieran Kingston decided not to start his son Shane. Once introduced, he was immense. Scoring 0-7 from the bench is a mighty feat. Alan Cadogan’s introduction also yielded 0-3. Kingston would take the MOTM award in most circles, however Patrick Horgan’s tally of 0-15, included some fine scores too. It isn’t often that TJ is outscored, either in victory or defeat, but Sunday was one of those days.
Extra time was a bonus. I didn’t see the goal coming. The move that led to the equalising score was direct. It needed to be. The craft that Adrian Mullen showed to engineer the angle for his shot was lovely. The Ballyhale man is growing into his role within the team.
Would Cody’s cats have been best placed to challenge the Treaty men for Liam this year? Who knows?
There’s work to be done. We have experienced quite a lot in this condensed season. Thank you, Adrian & Co. We’re with you.