Kilkenny withstand Rebels' resurgence

 

ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION ONE Kilkenny 0-14 Cork 1-10:IT TOOK 37 minutes for Cork to score from play at Nowlan Park yesterday. In the house of the big cats, such delay is normally fatal.

In the end that was how it proved to be. Kilkenny prevailed by a point. Cork asked a few questions of hurling’s food chain though.

First though, the questions which Cork raised about themselves. It was Ben O’Connor, one of the senior bondholders, who scored that first point from play and generally right through the pitch it was the older players who dragged Cork back into this match. Jerry O’Connor arrived in, so did Tom Kenny and Cathal Naughton. Cork got a little smell of blood. William Egan and Cian McCarthy contributed but it was to old faces that Cork turned to however.

Kilkenny weren’t expecting such resistance. The Nowlan Park pitch is a little imperfect after the hard winter and the lumps and thickets had an impact on the hurling. But having conceded an early point to a free, Kilkenny reeled off nine points without reply to lead comfortably after half an hour. Cork scored twice in the final minutes of the first half but went to their tea trailing by eight points.

“Half-time? The better they got the more difficult we found it I suppose. Combination of everything I suppose. They had the better of the second half. We had the better of the first. Lucky we had enough of a lead to keep ourselves there,” said Brian Cody.

“Tough contest. Great game to get. Tipp and Cork at the start, we are happy to have won them. Corresponding matches last year weren’t won and we would much prefer to be winning them.”

Nobody expected much of the second half. Cork looked quite inept before the break and Kilkenny seemed content to leave them that way. Anybody betting on a second half which contained a penalty, a sending off (JJ Delaney on a second yellow) and a cliffhanger ending deserved the crazy odds they got.

When the sides resumed Ben O’Connor had no sooner narrowed the gap when Richie Hogan went close to ending the game. A solid goal chance snuffed out by John Gardiner and cashed in for a point by Hogan. Next Eddie Brennan had a goal disallowed for holding Eoin Cadogan’s stick. It looked for a while as if everything was about to spill over.

It did spill in the end but not as we had expected. Cork clawed their way back into the game point by hard-won point. It looked impossible they could draw level however without the aid of a goal.

And a goal looked impossible until Paudie O’Sullivan was felled by Cha Fitzpatrick and a penalty was awarded. Three minutes left and Patrick Horgan made the rain dance off the Kilkenny net with the penalty. Cork were level.

It was the briefest of reprieves however. Richie Hogan won a tough ball out near the left sideline and turned over the score of the day by way of crushing riposte.

Horgan popped another free though, this one a slight toughie from 40 yards or so. Level again.

And then William Egan got yellowed for a high swing. Hogan calmly stuck the ball over. Kilkenny a point to the good and going to hold on to it this time.

Niall McCarthy had a chance in the last minute from the left. He didn’t settle himself though and put it wide at the far post. Kilkenny retained their wafer-thin margin and gave thanks.

Second half was something else Brian, we asked afterwards?

“I thought,” replied Mr Cody wryly “the first half was better to be honest. It was a great contest out there. It’s tough at this time of the year. Pitch took a battering in the snow, hasn’t recovered too well yet. Great game. Happy to have won it.” And Kilkenny’s emerging star? “Richie Hogan?

“Yeah the previous score to the free was an excellent score. He won a fierce hard ball out of the sky, hit it and over it went. He was very strong for us all day today. Others were too. Cork came at us though. It was a great contest.”

Cork counterpart Denis Walsh was upbeat in the aftermath.

“Early on it looked a bit, well I don’t know. It was a battle, let’s be honest. We battled it out. Maybe we should have got something out of the game but that’s it.

“The players were very focused and I thought we actually played well enough in the first half, kept the game tight, misplaced four or five passes that they got scores off. The scoreboard gave a slightly distorted picture. What I learned is that we will be in contention, that’s what I learned more than anything else.”

February and all to play for.

KILKENNY: D Herity; C Fogarty, JJ Delaney, M Kavanagh; T Walsh, J Tyrrell, PJ Delaney; P Hartley, M Fennelly (0-1); J Mulhall (0-1) , M Rice (0-1), A Fogarty;, C Fennelly, E Brennan (0-1) , R Hogan (0-10, five frees, one 65). Subs: TJ Reid for C Fennelly (53 mins), P Hogan for J Tyrrell (h-t), J Fitzpatrick for Hartley (61 mins).

CORK: M Coleman; S McDonnell, E Cadogan, S Murphy; J Gardiner, R Curran, W Egan; G Callinan, B Murphy; M Cussen, N McCarthy (0-2), P Cronin; P O’Sullivan, P Horgan (1-6, 1-0 pen, six frees), B O’Connor (0-1). Subs: J O’Connor for Callinan (30 mins), C McCarthy (0-1) for P Cronin (h-t), T Kenny for Cussen (h-t), C O’Sullivan for S Murphy (40 mins), C Naughton for Curran (56 mins).

Referee: J Owens(Wexford).