Cork get their chance to end Kilkenny’s season for once and for all
“There is an honestly about them and a work rate but above all there is tremendous pride in their team,” says Waterford boss Michael Ryan of Cody’s charges
Kilkenny’s Richie Hogan who proved a thorn in Waterford’s side in the qualifier clash. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Cork and Kilkenny. A game that used to decide the September spoils. A total of 64 All-Ireland titles between them, they have contested three finals this century in 2003, 2004 and 2006 with 1999 also bracketed in that era.
And here they are, on Sunday at 2pm (the opening act) playing for a shot at redemption or revival, depending on your perspective.
Of course that Cork team are no more. Many of the Kilkenny players forced to fend them off before securing secure greatness are still playing – even if Dublin shattered their aura of invincibility in June.
The last day it took extra-time to kill off Michael Ryan’s Waterford. It was a match that reminded everyone of their resilience.
“Kilkenny are far from finished in my opinion,” said Ryan. “They are very, very serious contenders for this year’s championship.”
That didn’t look the case when Dublin beat them on June 29th – when Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly were sitting in the stand.
But Fennelly starts on Sunday. Shefflin will come in.
That changes the dynamic but, as Ryan points out, at different stages of this year’s undulating championship road Richie Power, Jackie Tyrrell, Richie Hogan, Eoin Larkin and Walter Walsh have made hugely significant contributions.
“Richie Hogan was the man against us who popped up and got the points in extra-time but there is always somebody to do it for Kilkenny.”
Walter Walsh was unmarkable in the drawn game with Dublin, finishing with 1-4. Until his red card, Power was the driving force in the replay.
“It was Eoin Larkin against Tipp. They have enough players to take up the baton when it matters. That’s why they are such a great team.”
Waterford remarkably reeled them in down the home straight but that’s when we saw the sheer stubbornness of Kilkenny, refusing to be extinguished when their embers burned low.
“There is an honestly about them and a work rate but above all there is tremendous pride in their team,” Ryan continued.
But, the latter agrees, they are beatable nowadays. He feels it is crucial that Cork deliver an early scoring blitz.
“They struggled a little physically against Limerick and Kilkenny are even more physical,” added Ryan.
“They must take the game to them early on. And if they get ahead, well, we’ve seen that anything can happen.”
There are not many Do’s that can be listed for playing Kilkenny, but Ryan is adamant about a Don’t – steer clear of gifting Tyrrell, Brian Hogan, Paul Murphy and JJ Delaney with aerial ball.
“There is no point dropping balls down on Kilkenny. They’ll catch them all day long. You’ve got to move the ball quick and try and open up the game. But that’s easier said than done.
“There has to be some kind of method or strategy against them.
“Jimmy Barry Murphy has done it before,” he said in reference to the 1999 All-Ireland final, a victory that kick-started the last golden period of Cork hurling.
“Cork must run them all over the pitch. And react to what happens thereafter.
“Kevin Moran ran at them from deep. He had a phenomenal game particularly at the end of normal time but in extra-time they regained their composure.
“We even hit them with a goal with three minutes to go but what did Kilkenny do? They won the next three balls and scored three points. That was the measure of their greatness.
“Now, Cork don’t play the kind of game we played. They like to move the ball more. Paudie O’Sullivan is a big loss. Brian Murphy is a huge loss. Shane O’Neill was very good against Limerick and would be another huge loss. At least Pa Cronin will benefit from the Munster final. He needed the game after illness.”
So Kilkenny to keep the train on the tracks? “I do think so. Bottom line, we were short a couple of scoring forwards against them.”
We are about to find out if that’s also the case with Cork.