New-look Kilkenny have that old familiar feel as Cork put to sword

Despite changes in personnel Brian Cody’s side put in a a display full of hunger and will

Cork’s Daniel Kearney tries to get clear of the challenge of Kilkenny’s Cillian Buckley during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A clash at Páirc Uí Rinn in Cork. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Cork 2-17 Kilkenny 1-22

For years we’ve nodded sagely at the idea of Kilkenny’s pre-eminence being based on deathless competition for places and yet somehow it still comes as a surprise when they turn up with a busload of unfamiliar names and put on a show. They beat Cork 1-22 to 2-17 in front of a crowd of 8,773 at Páirc Uí Rinn with a display full of hunger and ruthless will.

These league games have a habit of making fools of seers. Cork had had a run through the Waterford Crystal, while Kilkenny had pulled out of the Walsh Cup after the death of Lester Ryan’s father. Cork weren’t far short of their first-choice 15, Kilkenny fielded only seven of the side that started the All-Ireland final replay. Yet instead of a home side easing through the gears, what we got was an away side putting in a night of pure, unadulterated Codyness.

For February hurling, it wasn't at all uneasy on the eye. The pitch was scruffy in places and bare in others but at times the play was of high-enough quality to be leased from mid-summer. Players like Richie Hogan and Paul Murphy picked up where they left off at the end of last year, others like Patrick Horgan and Daniel Hearney came out as though they felt they had some atoning to do. Whatever the motivation, it made for uncommonly stylish hurling at times.


While Kilkenny started with only seven of the side who faced the flag for the All-Ireland final replay, they still turned up in typical force and fettle. Matthew Ruth stuck an early point from a clever Hogan pass, Jonjo Farrell and Mark Kelly caused bother in the Cork full-back line by beating their men to 50/50 ball time and again. Though the faces change, the game stays the same.

Walter Walsh's best spell in a Kilkenny jersey came in last year's league and he was prominent here again from the start. The game was barely 10 minutes old when he barrelled through to strike low from the edge of the square and though Anthony Nash managed to flash a strong wrist and parry the sliotar, it scraped over the goal-line before he dealt with it fully. Farrell followed up just to be sure but it was Walsh's goal.

For all that, Cork were in game mood themselves. Indeed, they led before that Walsh goal thanks to points from Conor Lehane, Paudie O'Sullivan and Alan Cadogan – each one as gorgeous as the last. But more and more as the first half went on, Kilkenny's greater appetite for the evening's delights was apparent.

In nobody was it more evident than the Hurler of the Year. Richie Hogan didn’t put a foot wrong all night, ending it with 11 points and having a hand in plenty more. He clipped a point on the run from the left-hand side and rose to catch and turn soon after. All the while, the tick-tock of his free-taking kept the show rolling.

Kilkenny led 1-11 to 0-12 at the break. It was well deserved, as much because Cork would have had no business leading after such a careless first half. Their full-forward line went out of it after that early flurry, although Lehane was incisive anytime they managed to get him into the game. Were it not for Horgan’s free-taking, they’d have been tailed off.

It wasn't long until they were. Kilkenny came out for the second half with the burst that we all expected from Cork. Kieran Joyce, Walter Walsh and Lester Ryan all landed massive scores from beyond the 65 within 10 minutes of the restart and when Hogan tacked on a couple of frees, Kilkenny were 1-17 to 0-13 ahead. There were 50 minutes gone and Cork hadn't come out of the dressing room.

They shook themselves in the final quarter. JBM cleared the bench and each of the Cork subs made a difference. Luke O’Farrell flicked home a goal 10 minutes from time to bring the margin down to a goal, Lorcán McLoughlin started winning ball around the middle and feeding better possession inside.

In the end, Kilkenny pulled away with points from Pádraig Walsh, Kelly and a final swish of Hogan’s stick. Lehane managed to sniff an injury-time goal but it wasn’t enough.

CORK: Anthony Nash; Damien Cahalane, Christopher Joyce, Conor O'Sullivan; Cormac Murphy, Mark Ellis, Aidan Walsh; Daniel Kearney (0-1), Patrick Cronin; Seamus Harnedy (0-1), Bill Cooper (0-1), Conor Lehane (1-2); Alan Cadogan (0-2), Paudie O'Sullivan (0-1), Patrick Horgan (0-9, eight frees).

Subs: Lorcán McLoughlin for Cronin (44 mins); Luke O'Farrell (1-0) for O'Sullivan, Cian McCarthy for Coope (both 45 mins); Shane O'Neill for Cahalane (55 mins); Stephen Moylan for Cadogan (65 mins).

KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Tomas Keogh, Paul Murphy, Jackie Tyrrell; Brian Kennedy; Kieran Joyce (0-1), Cillian Buckley; Conor Fogarty, Lester Ryan (0-1); Pádraig Walsh (0-1), Walter Walsh (1-3), Matthew Ruth (0-1); Mark Kelly (0-4), Jonjo Farrell, Richie Hogan (0-11, seven frees, one 65).

Subs: Geoff Brennan for Fogarty (17 mins).

Referee: James Owens (Wexford)