Kilkenny welcome Cork back to reality

 

NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION ONE: Kilkenny 4-26 Cork 0-11: IN NOWLAN Park they are as choosy as the audience at La Scala when it comes to rewarding performances. But they gave a standing ovation to their men yesterday. At half-time.

They would have thrown garlands of flowers too had they been available.

They did the same against Tipp a couple of weeks ago. There’s no point in being top of the mountain if you aren’t going to enjoy the scenery once in a while.

Spare a thought for Denis Walsh. While Kilkenny were being lauded off on their way to tea and biscuits he was considering the substance of his first half-time speech. Fifteen points down and being swatted for sport he may have rejected the threadbare nostrums of Lombardi or Shankly in favour of a thought from the philosopher Yazoo. The only way is up.

The league may not be stuff of childish dreams in Kilkenny but there is no better way to enjoy it than by devouring Tipperary and Cork like snacks along the way.

Kilkenny were so superior yesterday that by early in the second half they were amusing themselves dropping wickedly spinning balls in on top of Donal Óg Cusack, just to see what might happen and the crowd of 12,000 were creating that sense of theatre you get at a bullfight when a great bull is succumbing to the japs of the picador.

By then Richie Power had his hat-trick, Kilkenny’s lead was at some point approaching infinity and Brian Cody was considering the whimsy of throwing on five second-half substitutes.

All five of them will be contenders for starting positions when the summer comes. Cork will look back and wonder what they were thinking of playing with five forwards when they opened with the wind in the first half.

The gambit which saw them trying to crowd midfield left Michael Kavanagh free to sweep across his full-back line. He didn’t so much sweep as hoover, sucking up just about every ball which cork dropped in.

At the other end Kilkenny were irresistible. Eoin Larkin opened the day’s business with two points before Shefflin added a third and the roof fell in on Cork. Shefflin had a wide. Cork made a mess of a short puck-out. It was driven back in for Richie Power to finish to the net.

Enjoying an injury-free run for the first time since moving to the senior grade, Power is beginning to look like the real deal at last. He gave tyro full back Eoin Cadogan a torrid time before moving out to centre forward in the second half where he continued to inflict woe and torment, this time on Ronan Curran, who had been perhaps Cork’s best performer.

Kilkenny added a second goal not long before the break, opinion being divided as to whether Eoin Larkin had finished it cleanly or it had come off a Cork player. The fine detail of who scored what was of decreasing importance by now. The plain truth was Kilkenny would score what they liked when they liked.

Having led by 15 points at the break Kilkenny keep pushing on in the second half. It isn’t in their nature to ease up and neither would Cork have wanted to feel the indignity of Kilkenny’s pity.

Power added his second just after the break and his side’s fourth soon after and it was fiesta in Nowlan Park.

The subs warmed up and duly came pouring in, each treating their few minutes of action like a fully-blown audition. Richie Hogan was superb.

Martin Comerford looked like the Gorta of old. The rest of the hurling world could only look on and tremble slightly.

“It was very good obviously,” said Cody, the 27-point margin constraining him for once from playing down his side’s excellence. “We got into it early and played very well. Great work rate and some good hurling. They are going out to do as well as they can in the matches.

“We had decent wins against Tipp, against Clare and today against Cork but Cork haven’t the match preparation the rest of us have.”

And the standing ovations Brian? “I didn’t see the first and I didn’t see the second. It’s not about standing ovations.”

And for Cork, the work is just beginning. The war is over, or suspended but the cost has to be counted now. Six months of distraction has left a few older players flat and a few younger lads behind on the learning curve.

And for some reason the county board is packing the side that opened the league for Cork off to La Manga for 10 days while the championship team get down to the slog.

“Fair savage really,” said Denis Walsh of what he had seen. “ The physicality more than anything else. They were very sharp and showed no weakness. They were only missing JJ Delaney and ‘Cha’.”

Nobody had the heart to add the names of Noel Hickey and Derek Lyng to the list. What can you say to a team after that Denis ?

“We had two good wins in the last two weeks. This time two weeks ago against Clare we were facing a 10-point defeat. At least we have avoided relegation now.”

See. Every cloud, etc, etc.

KILKENNY:PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, B Hogan, J Tyrell; T Walsh, J Tennyson, J Ryall; M Fennelly (0-3) , M Rice (0-2); TJ Reid, H Shefflin (0-9, seven frees) , E Larkin (1-3); E Brennan (0-4), R Power (3-1), A Fogarty Subs: M Comerford (0-1) for Larkin (49 mins), R Hogan (0-3) for TJ Reid (49 mins), M Grace for A Fogarty (61 mins), C Hickey for M Kavanagh (61 mins), S Cummins for J Tennyson (61 mins).

CORK:D Óg Cusack; S O’Neill, E Cadogan, C Murphy; J Jordan, R Curran, K McGann; T Kenny, K Hartnett; B O’ Connor (0-5 all frees), K Murphy, G Callanan (0-2); P Horgan (0-1), N Ronan, J O’Connor (0-2) Subs: P Cronin for K Murphy (27 mins), B Corry for N Ronan (HT), C Naughton (0-1) for Hartnett (ht), T Og Murphy for P Horgan (53 mins), F O’Leary for Kenny (58 mins).

Referee:M Wadding (Waterford).