Not a single Kilkenny player will be able to look in the mirror this morning and confidently declare they dominated a Cork man.
Michael Fennelly maybe, but Lorcán McLoughlin's response to that was to get in a wrestling match with the huge midfielder as the second half whizzed into action.
“I don’t think I knew what I was letting myself in for,” said the well-made if notably smaller McLoughlin. “It just happened in the heat of the moment, more handbags than anything. The game went on. Nothing malicious in it. Everyone went 100 per cent for every ball.”
The 33,383-strong crowd were stuck between tracking Eoin Larkin’s terrorising run deep into the Cork defence or staying with Fennelly and McLoughlin’s handbagging.
A pair of yellow cards followed (the two most famous yellow cards in Kilkenny hurling history having already been doled out 15 minutes earlier).
Anyway, back to the play, not the handbags, Shane O’Neill realised the peril of allowing Larkin’s run to continue and upended him.
So, to recap, Kelly had to find the scrappers from his throw -in, to dish out yellows, after awarding a Kilkenny penalty. O'Neill cleverly sleeked off the stage as Richie Power stepped forward. Eoin Larkin had come down with the yips and Henry Shefflin had been relieved of his scimitar and armour.
Cork were five points clear of the 14 men. Power’s goal would’ve been Kilkenny’s third all championship and reduced the arrears to two.
Despite a rake of players crowding the square ahead of the ball, Power fired to the net. But Kelly made him take it again. Along with all the red jerseys over the line, Tommy Walsh was also visible.
"Sure, Jesus he was nearly inside touching my nose," laughed Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash. "But, we were grateful for that.
Nash saved Power’s second attempt. It fell to Walsh but Nash saved again. It went back to Power and was deflected over the crossbar.
“It was a big moment in the game obviously, if they had got a goal then. But I would have felt confident that we’d have been able to push on again, but look we don’t know.”
Nash, like all the Cork hurlers afterwards, kept his perspective in check.
"There's no point saying otherwise: Kilkenny are the best team that have ever lived. But I'm not going to harp on a lot in these interviews – it is only one game. Brian Cody touched on it in our dressing-room; it's a quarter-final, let's just put the head down now for the next two weeks and hopefully give Dublin a right good game as well."
Jimmy Barry Murphy could let his words flow a little more.
“Our first-half display was brilliant but there is no doubt the second half was significant,” said Barry Murphy.
"It's hard to come back and beat a team like Kilkenny. They were never going to go easily. Our lads showed great maturity, at times when we had to, I mean, Anthony Nash made two absolutely blinding saves.
“Only for that it would have been a different game, given our vulnerability after the Munster final. We didn’t know how we would react. Thankfully it didn’t go in. It’s a great achievement, Cork to beat Kilkenny. I’m delighted for the lads.”
All this means the Cork hurlers will feel justified to carry that mantle once again. Something similar happened when Barry Murphy brought a young team to Croke Park in 1999.
“Today is just a great boost for our confidence and the public who supported us. The public respect what we are trying to do I think.”