Cork bring Kilkenny’s reign as kings of the summer to an end

Henry Shefflin sent off as the reprieved Patrick Horgan makes hay

CORK 0-19 KILKENNY 0-14: In the most fantastic, unpredictable hurling championship perhaps ever, Kilkenny are no more. With shades of 1999, yet even more comprehensive, Jimmy Barry Murphy's brand new Cork team did what Tipperary and Waterford could not.

They did to Kilkenny what Kilkenny did to them in 2006; put what seems like the final nail in the greatest team’s coffin.

And King Henry walked before anyone else. He will be 35 next January.

The reward is an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin on August 11th. An age old rivalry, in both football and hurling, is about to be revived.


But yesterday’s colours were red against black and amber. That in itself seemed to make reputations immediately irrelevant. This was Cork against Kilkenny. A young, ravenous Cork hurling team who paid no heed to names like Tyrrell or Shefflin when it came to the early collisions.

Everything that had gone before this summer was shelved.

Cork shot into a 0-11 to 0-6 lead at half-time just as Henry Shefflin tore off his helmet and jogged to the sideline. Referee Barry Kelly sent him off for a second yellow card moments before the near flawless Patrick Horgan – freed from a match ban by Cork's precise rule argument – whipped over his eighth point. Horgan was excellent, finishing with 0-11.

Shefflin was yellow carded on 10 minutes for a wild pull. That allowed Horgan make it 0-4 to 0-3 from miles out the field.

The game's greatest player in modern times was gone on 35 minutes for catching the head of Jamie Coughlan, having tracked to his own half back line in frustration. It looked worse than it was but Kelly's decision was clearly instinctive.

Cork owned the loose sliotar before and after. Tom Kenny, their only surviving All-Ireland winner, was all over Shefflin. The corner backs, Shane O'Neill and Conor O'Sullivan, devoured Richie Hogan and Walter Walsh.

O’Sullivan became an extremely effective spare man in the second half.

The other returning, would-be Kilkenny saviour, Michael Fennelly, was clever and astute in his endeavours but Cork and particularly Lorcán McLoughlin enveloped the big man whenever possible.

Cork's brilliant newcomer, Séamus Harnedy, also got a perfect block on Fennelly that brought Conor Lehane to life after some poor shooting.

Daniel Kearney was another man buzzing around the middle third, cleaning up and hurling countless ball. William Egan too. But they were all at it.

No impact
Down the other end not a single Kilkenny forward made an impact. Eoin Larkin finished with 0-6, two from play, but was just plain poor. After three wides Richie Power took responsibility for a 65. He missed. Shefflin grabbed the sliotar for the next free. He missed as well.

The majority of the crowd were decked out in Rebel red. They were ebullient as half-time rolled around, almost glad Horgan was sent off against Limerick so they could do this to Kilkenny.

Brian Cody reacted by withdrawing the utterly anonymous Cillian Buckley with Lester Ryan coming into the midfield but also failing to get up to Cork's manic tempo.

The throw-in for the second half was like the beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan. Fennelly and McLoughlin got embroiled in a nasty brawl. The play rushed away from them with O'Neill bringing an illegal halt to Larkin before he could pull the trigger.

Call it cynical, call it clever, it saved a certain goal.

Power had to re-take the resulting penalty, despite pounding it to the net, as players from both sides, including Tommy Walsh, had prematurely flooded the lines. Anthony Nash got a sensational touch to the next shot and Walsh's follow up before it ricocheted back to Power whose third attempt was deflected over the crossbar.

The Cork defence, without the household names of last year, was as good as it has ever been. O'Sullivan, sitting in between the other fullbacks who were minding Colin Fennelly and Walter Walsh, seemed to have plenty of time to clear his lines.

“I think Conor O’Sullivan is very good at that role, good hurler, good head for the game,” said Jimmy Barry Murphy.

“In the modern game with the way fitness levels are it is very difficult to play against 14 men. It is impossible. You saw in the Munster final we hung in there and didn’t get much credit for it but we hung in for a long time. It is impossible to hold out. I thought our lads used the extra man very well and it is very difficult to compete with that.”

Kilkenny were struggling so badly for scores that Tommy Walsh had to come up the right wing and take a point. Paul Murphy did something similar from corner back.

On that alone they deserve to have gone the way of the Tipperary.

It seemed for a time like the Cork forwards had stopped hurling. Horgan had done nothing of the sort, sending over another super point before winning a free off JJ Delaney on the next ball. That lift and strike from the right sideline made it 0-14 to 0-9.

Cork looked untouchable. Kilkenny awfully mortal.

Horgan finally registered a wide on 52 minutes after Kenny, unburdened of Shefflin duties, had hounded Richie Hogan into a foul.

It got worse for Kilkenny as Power was worryingly carted off with a bad injury.

Despite 13 minutes to play, it was over as a contest when Stephen Moylan’s point was followed up by another from Luke O’Farrell.

An eight point mountain to climb without Power or Shefflin. The last 10 minutes were mere window dressing as Kilkenny's failings against Dublin were all too apparent again.

CORK: 1 A Nash; 3 S McDonnell, 2 S O'Neill, 4 C O'Sullivan; 5 T Kenny, 6 C Joyce, 7 W Egan; 8 L McLoughlin, 9 D Kearney; 11 S Harnedy (0-2), 15 J Coughlan, 12 P Cronin (0-2); 14 P Horgan (0-11, 0-7 frees), 13 L O'Farrell (0-1), 10 C Lehane (0-2). Subs: 23 S Moylan (0-1) for L McLoughlin (55 mins), 22 C Naughton for J Coughlan (70 mins).
KILKENNY: 1 E Murphy; 2 P Murphy (0-1), 3 JJ Delaney, 4 J Tyrrell; 5 T Walsh (0-1), 6 B Hogan, 7 K Joyce; 12 E Larkin (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65), 9 M Fennelly (0-2); 8 C Buckley, 11 R Power (0-2, 0-1 free), 15 H Shefflin; 13 W Walsh (0-1), 14 R Hogan, 10 C Fennelly. Subs: 20 L Ryan for C Buckley (half-time), 21 A Fogarty (0-1) for R Power (56 mins), 27 TJ Reid for R Hogan (62 mins).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent