Cork 2-26 Dublin 0-24
Cork hurling manager Kieran Kingston challenged his team to improve further after Saturday's win over Dublin secured a first All-Ireland semi-final spot since 2018.
The Rebels had eight points to spare in Thurles, though they had seen a half-time advantage of the same size shrink to four with five minutes left as a Dublin scoring burst brought them almost to within touching distance.
However, Cork saw out the win with points from Patrick Horgan (two), Niall O'Leary and sub Alan Connolly to set up a semi-final clash with Kilkenny in Croke Park next Sunday. In such a setting, Kingston knows further improvement will be needed.
“We’re happy to be in an All-Ireland semi-final,” he said, “we haven’t been there in a while so it’s great to be back there.
“For us, the pleasing thing for us was to put a performance on the back of a performance. Last week was a huge game for us, we were lucky to get out of there, and we knew that tonight was going to be the same.
“We knew that if we didn’t play as well as, or better than, we did last week then we wouldn’t get out of there, so that’s pleasing.
“The disappointing thing is I thought we were quite poor and sloppy in the third quarter. We lost it by a point and only drew the second half so we have a huge amount of work and that wouldn’t be good enough to beat Kilkenny tomorrow week.”
While Dublin began well, they couldn’t pull clear of Cork and early half-chances of goals came to nothing. Cork had tied at 0-6 each as the first-half water-break approached when they made a decisive move, wing back Tim O’Mahony scoring a brilliant individual goal after Robbie O’Flynn and the lively Jack O’Connor had gone close before that.
That ensured that they led by at least two points for the rest of the half, with Séamus Harnedy and Conor Cahalane impressing while Donal Burke was deadly accurate from placed balls for Dublin.
As injury time-began, Cork were five ahead and they had had a further boost as Shane Kingston scored a second goal, O'Flynn the architect, but while they did hold a nine-point lead during the third quarter, Dublin refused to wilt.
Between the 61st and 65th minutes, they reeled off four straight points, from Riain McBride, Jake Morris, Donal Burke and Danny Sutcliffe, and Cork were looking shaky. They steadied though as Horgan sent over his 11th point of the night and saw out the game to progress.
Kingston admitted that he had been nervous as Dublin drew closer to his side.
“Absolutely,” he said, “I was worried when we were at nine! That’s the nature of the game – we saw last week, we were six points up in the 70th minute and lucky to get out of there.
"We saw in the Munster final how a big lead can change in a matter of minutes. Hurling is crazy at the moment and I don't think there's any lead safe, you'd nearly want to be up 30 points!
“It’s great to be back in Croke Park and back in an All-Ireland semi-final but we know that we’ll go in as underdogs and that’s just the way it is.
“We know it’s a massive game, a huge, huge challenge against Kilkenny, they’ve been kingpins the last number of years.
“We’ll go in as underdogs but I think this group will give it their best and that’s all I can ask for.”
Meanwhile, Dublin manager Mattie Kenny was left to rue the failure to push on in the early stages, when they were on top.
“We started very brightly and controlled that first 10-12 minutes of the game and created a lot of scoring opportunities,” he said.
“In hindsight, we needed a goal at that stage to really threaten the scoreboard and open up a gap. In fairness to Cork they kept the scoreboard ticking.
“While we did most of the hurling in the first 10-12 minutes . . . we were happy with the way that we were playing and Cork got a goal maybe against the run of play which gave them the momentum.”
CORK: P Collins; S O'Donoghue, R Downey, N O'Leary (0-1); G Millerick, M Coleman, T O'Mahony (1-1); D Fitzgibbon, L Meade; R O'Flynn (0-2), C Cahalane (0-1), S Harnedy (0-4); J O'Connor (0-3), P Horgan (0-12, eight frees, one 65), S Kingston (1-0).
Subs: S Barrett (0-1) for Kingston (48), S O'Leary Hayes for O'Donoghue (58), A Connolly (0-1) for O'Flynn (60), B Hennessy for Meade (63), C Spillane for O'Leary (70).
DUBLIN: A Nolan; A Dunphy, P Smyth, C O'Callaghan; D Gray, L Rushe (0-1), J Madden; R McBride (0-1), C Burke (0-2); D Burke (0-13, seven frees, one 65), C Crummey, D Sutcliffe (0-2); C O'Sullivan (0-3), R Hayes, C Boland (0-1).
Subs: J Malone (0-1) for O'Callaghan (49), D Keogh for O'Sullivan (52), O O'Rorke for Boland (63), P Crummey for Hayes (69).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford)