BY NIALL SHERRY
Cork win by 4 to secure final berth
Allianz National Hurling League Semi-Final
Cork 1-27 (30)
Kilkenny 2-20 (26)
Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork
Cork stunned Kilkenny with a second-half comeback on Leeside last Saturday night, as they advanced to their first league final since 2015 with a 4-point win over the Cats in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. They will now face Waterford in the final showdown.
While the home sides energetic display in the second period earned the Rebels the victory, their extra man in the shape of referee Sean Stack, ensured a steady supply of frees for Cork throughout proceedings, that allowed 11 of the winning teams total to come from the placed ball, with Glen Rovers Patrick Horgan notching eight scores from frees.
Based on this display, I’d like to think that this match official won’t be in charge of many other Kilkenny games as the season progresses.
Back to the game itself, we’ll come across Mr. Stack at various stages in this piece.
The visitors started like a team that meant business. Shamrocks Ballyhale forward Eoin Cody pointed in the opening seconds to give the Cats the lead. Cork replied immediately through Darragh Fitzgibbon, who surged through the Kilkenny half before slotting over a nice point.
Eoin Murphy then played a short puck out to Mikey Carey, who drilled the ball towards Padraig Walsh. The Tullaroan man made in-roads towards the Cork goal with a storming run. As he attempted to fashion a shot, a combination of red shirts surrounded him and the sliotar came loose. As a little bit of pin-ball ensued, the ever-alert Mossy Keoghan stabbed the ball into the home net, with less than 2 minutes on the clock.
Young Irelands Mikey Carey turned provider again in the 4th minute when we played a lovely pass to Billy Ryan. The skillful attacker took the pass on the run, showing good skill before firing over a well-worked score. The Graigue-Ballycallan man repeated the feat moments later when he pointed after some lovely support play from Alan Murphy. Eoin Cody then picked up possession on half-way before striking a fine point from distance, to leave Kilkenny leading 1-4 to 0-1 on 6 minutes.
Patrick Horgan opened his account shortly after from the placed ball, after the referee adjudged the Cats wing-backs to have fouled a Cork attacker. Young Hurler of the Year Cody then fired over another point following some good pressure applied by Glenmore’s Alan Murphy.
Blackrock’s Alan Connolly then headed for goal, before being stopped in his tracks, illegally in the view of referee Stack. Horgan popped the resulting free over the bar for his sides third score of the game with almost 13 minutes gone. Midleton’s Conor Lehane then set-up Connolly for a fine point, to reduce the deficit to 4 points, but again Brian Cody’s men responded straight away when nice play from Dicksboro’s Cillian Buckley, saw him pass to Cian Kenny who dispatched a fine point between the Cork posts.
O’Loughlin’s Paddy Deegan, restored to the starting line-up at centre-back, was harshly adjudged to have fouled, and Patrick Horgan popped over another ‘handy’ free, before Alan Connolly left his marker Conor Delaney in his wake before splitting the posts, to make it a one-score game. Cheered on by the large home support, Cork had a little more spring in their step in the second quarter, and this was emphasised when wing-back Ciaran Joyce struck one of the scores of the opening half, with a monster effort from his own half.
The game was being played at championship tempo with lots of robust challenges and big hits going in from both sides, but only those in black and amber appearing to be catching the eye of the very fussy Dublin whistler.
Kilkenny wing-back David Blanchfield was then blown up for a challenge, and again, Patrick Horgan punished this decision by scoring the free, to leave just one between these great rivals. Horgan was again on the score sheet moments later, when another soft free was awarded. Stack, sorry, Cork were now level.
The impressive Mikey Carey then produced some good hurling before setting up Alan Murphy for a lovely point, to edge the Cats back in front on 22 minutes. The visitors followed this nice score up with another. The Village’s Cian Kenny combined with Walter Walsh to set-up Blanchfield who struck over a long-range point from out on the left side of the pitch.
Kieran Kingston’s side then created a good goal-scoring opportunity. Conor Lehane took the ball and sprinter in on the angle towards the Kilkenny goal. His arrowed shot across the goal, was brilliantly stopped by Eoin Murphy. The Cats netminder got up quickly to thwart the rebound, and a scramble ensued, before the sliotar was ushered out of play for a ‘65. Horgan mis-hit the ‘65, but the alert Alan Connelly reacted quickly to fire the ball over the bar from close range.
On 27 minutes, three of Kilkenny’s attacking unit combined for a great team score. Padraig Walsh picked up possession, before passing to the supporting Eoin Cody. The Ballyhale man had the vision to pick-out Billy Ryan who completed the move with another fine point.
Corks main threat from open play appeared to be Charleville man Darragh Fitzgibbon in midfield. Fitzgibbon is a big unit and his surging powerful runs from the engine room were causing problems for the likes of Cian Kenny, Cillian Buckley and Alan Murphy. An example of this came on 29 minutes, when a nice pass from Blarney’s Shane Barrett was taken by the Cork No.8 who duly rifled over a nice point.
With just one point between them, Kilkenny struck for their second major of the night. Mikey Carey, who was finding space on the right flank, struck a long pass to Mossy Keoghan. The Sash forward turned his man brilliantly before racing towards the Cork goal and striking a powerful low shot beyond Patrick Collins in the Rebels goal. The Cats now led by four, 2-9 to 0-11.
It would come as no surprise that Cork’s next score would come from the placed ball, and the usual recipient, Patrick Horgan. Again, those in stripes responded. The ball was worked out to Padraig Walsh on the left touchline who struck a stunning point over his shoulder, to the cheers of the travelling Kilkenny support. From the restart, Cork keeper Collins found his centre-forward Shane Barrett who pointed from wide-out on the left side.
Billy Ryan then beat his marker, Daire O’Leary and made an angled run towards the Cork goal. Just as a gap opened up in front of him, he struck his shot high over the bar. There may well have been a goal chance, had he have opted for a hard and low finish.
The continual mesmerizing decisions by referee Stack, were causing both the Kilkenny players and officials to seek clarification or question the Dublin man’s calls. With 33 minutes gone, the referee had awarded Cork 12 frees, to just 1 in favour of the Cats. Cork free-take Patrick Horgan popped over another placed ball, to leave just a goal between the sides.
The clock would have 37 minutes and 17 seconds on it, before Kilkenny ‘earned’ their second free. Alan Murphy stepped up and fired over the placed ball right on the stroke of halftime, despite the noisy attempts of some unsportsmanlike home supporters. On the short whistle, the Páirc Uí Chaoimh scoreboard read, Cork 0-14, Kilkenny 2-12.
Cody’s Cats started the second half, exactly like they did the first. Alan Murphy fired over his second point from play with just 7 seconds on the clock. Cork’s Robbie O’Flynn then made a lung-bursting run down the right touchline, before sending over a lovely point on the run. Eoin Murphy’s puck out was picked off by Conor Lehane, whose shot sailed over the bar, as the home crowd found their voices.
A long searching ball into the cork half-back line was broken down by Walter Walsh, and the on-running Cillian Buckley collected the ball and slotted it between the posts for a good point. The Rebels then went on a scoring spree. The Cork manager’s son, Shane Kingston, who had been having a very quiet afternoon, sprung to life and took a fine point. The dangerous Lehane then sent over a monster score from half way, before Alan Connolly pointed from over the shoulder to make it a one-point game. The raucous crowd then gave their biggest roar of the day as substitute Tim O’Mahoney rifled over the equalising score in the 45th minute.
The Rebels seemed to be gaining momentum, and with that came a new energy and hunger. The red shirts were first to every break and were winning the crucial battle in the middle third. Brian Cody responded by withdrawing Cian Kenny and sending on the more physically imposing James Maher. Kilkenny needed a score, and it came in the shape of an Alan Murphy free from roughly half way. Eoin Cody then struck a lovely point from out the field to put the Cats two ahead. With 54 minutes on the clock, the Cats looked jaded and a little leggy.
Patrick Horgan was then gifted another scoring opportunity from his new best friend from the Capital, before the same player scored from play following a very sloppy pass out of defence from keeper Eoin Murphy. The sides were deadlocked again, 0-22 to 2-16. The next change for the visitors came on the hour mark, when 2-goal hero Mossy Keoghan was replaced by Thomastown’s John Donnelly.
With Patrick Horgan having been called ashore by Cork, the beneficiary of the official’s generous decisions was Conor Lehane. The Midelton players first opportunity from the placed ball came on 62 minutes and he made no mistake.
The next passage of play saw John Donnelly rise highest of all and claim a fantastic catch. Donnelly turned away from the Cork defenders and fired over a lovely point from out on the left wing. This year’s captain, Richie Reid then replaced Cillian Buckley as the Cats sought to tighten things up a little as the game approached its closing stages. Kilkenny’s placed ball man, Alan Murphy then sent a long-range free between the Cork posts to nudge his side ahead.
The game then took another twist as Cork raised their only green flag of the day. Conor Cahalane struck a long searching pass out of the Rebels defence, which was secured by substitute, Jack O’Connor. The sub managed to lay the ball off to the steam train that was powering forward in the shape of Darragh Fitzgibbon. The Towering midfielder took the pass and, in a few strides, was bearing down on the Cats goal. Fitzgibbon batted his shot towards the net. Keeper Eoin Murphy got something on it, but couldn’t prevent the effort from crossing the line.
Lehane then popped over what seemed like the hundredth Cork free of the day to leave the Rebels up by 3 points on 67 minutes. The menace that was Fitzgibbon then struck his third point of the day, to almost rubber stamp the outcome. A Conor Lehane free on half way left the home side 5 points ahead, as the game reached stoppage time. Alan Murphy then fired over a Kilkenny free as 4 minutes of additional time were signaled. Cork’s final score of the day dame moments later, from another Lehane free.
The Cats scrambled to try and gain possession of the ball. John Donnelly and Walter Walsh applied serious pressure to the Cork defence, forcing the turnover. Padraig Walsh struck the ball over the bar to reduce the arrears to four points, but time was not on Kilkenny’s side. Brian Cody’s men forced one final free, a goal was needed to give the away team the remotest chance of forcing extra-time. Alan Murphy stood over the ball, knowing that the odds were heavily stacked against him. He drove his effort towards goal, but Cork repelled the shot and Cork referee, sorry, Dublin whistler Sean Stack blew for full-time. Final score in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork 1-27, Kilkenny 2-20.
Scorers Cork: P Horgan 0-9 (0-8 f), C Lehane 0-6 (0-3 f), D Fitzgibbon 1-3, A Connolly 0-4, S Kingston, S Barrett, R O’Flynn, T O’Mahony, C Joyce 0-1 each.
Scorers Kilkenny: M Keoghan 2-0, A Murphy 0-6 (0-4f), E Cody, B Ryan 0-4 each, P Walsh 0-2, D Blanchfield, C Kenny, C Buckley, J Donnelly 0-1 each.
CORK: P Collins; N O’Leary, D O’Leary, D Cahalane; R Downey, M Coleman, C Joyce; D Fitzgibbon, G Millerick; R O’Flynn, S Barrett, C Lehane; A Connolly, P Horgan, S Kingston.
Subs: T O’Mahony for D O’Leary (half-time inj), S Harnedy for Barrett (47), C Cahalane for Kingston (52), J O’Connor for Horgan (59), S Quirke for Millerick (69).
KILKENNY: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, C Delaney; M Carey, P Deegan, D Blanchfield; C Kenny, C Buckley; W Walsh, P Walsh, E Cody; B Ryan, M Keoghan, A Murphy.
Subs: J Maher for Kenny (46), J Donnelly for Keoghan (61), R Reid for Buckley (64).
Referee: S Stack (Dublin possibly)
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
Congratulations to Cork on reaching the Allianz National League Final 2022. The Rebels will now face-off against Wexford’s conquerors Waterford.
To summarise, Kilkenny couldn’t cope with the Cork pressure in the second half. The Cats only managed 8 points after the interval. The Rebels on the other hand notched 1-13.
Eleven of the winners scoring total came from frees. Over the course of 74-odd minutes of hurling, the referee awarded Kilkenny just 9 frees, with only 2 coming in the opening half.
If there was an assessor in attendance on Leeside, I would like to think referee Stack’s performance will have been rated in low numbers. I genuinely feel that the official called many things incorrectly on the night.
Hopefully we won’t encounter Mr. Stack over the course of the championship.
Right, back to the game. Mossy is certainly a goal getter. Eoin Cody and Billy Ryan looked sharp and contributed 8 points between them. Alan Murphy hasn’t been found wanting in TJ’s absence in hitting the placed balls. He also gets through a mountain of work all over the park.
In defence, a big shout out to the 2 Mikey’s, Butler & Carey. These new additions to the Kilkenny cause are welcome and add some much-needed depth Brian Cody’s options. O’Loughlin’s Butler is a great little warrior. As the saying goes, he would put his head where many a man wouldn’t put a spade.
Being the son of a hurling great isn’t easy. Being the son of a Kilkenny hurling great is even more difficult. Young Irelands Carey showed a real eye for a pass last Saturday night, and was instrumental in a number of scores.
Paddy Deegan was back in the county jersey at No.6 and this outing will stand him in good stead, come championship hurling. Behind him, Huw Lawlor is purring nicely.
I would say that Eoin Murphy will be annoyed with a couple of little things from the semi-final defeat. But, make no mistake, this man is not an All-Star for no reason. I certainly wouldn’t swap him.
There are still a couple of players to come back in as well. TJ, well we know what he will add to the entire set-up.
All in all, a National League campaign that has taken our men to the semi-final stage, plenty to work on over the coming weeks. Brian Cody will relish the prospect of leading his beloved black and amber into another championship season. Bring it on.