Allianz National Hurling League: Cork 2-22 Kilkenny 2-23
In what looked to have been the final attack of the game, with the scores level at 2-22 apiece, Cork keeper Patrick Collins is bringing the ball out and assessing who to pass to. He spots Luke Farrell around the 45 yard line. Cork are still alive if he gets the sliotár to him.
Kilkenny sub John Power is between the two men. Collins mishits his pass, it goes to Power instead. The UCC student’s shot for a point goes over and Cork are killed. Cork 2-22 Kilkenny 2-23; a suitably dramatic finale to a brilliant seventy minutes hurling in front of over 8,000 spectators.
Cork needed to show-up in Páirc Uí Rinn tonight in front of their own after an embarrassing loss to Dublin in Croke Park last week. Embarrassing not due to the ten-point losing margin, but the sheer lack of effort and care shown. They certainly cared tonight however. Being clad in the blue 1916 throwback jerseys had an almost cathartic affect after their sub-standard performances in red this year.
Kilkenny were blown away in an initial burst of hurling by the hosts. The man who epitomised this was Seamus Harnedy. In at full-forward, he gave Joey Holden an absolutely miserable evening. Rubber stamping his influence – the St Ita’s man goaled after he caught a long ball in from Lawton, turned and struck past Richie Reid into the top right corner.
14 minutes gone and the Rebels lead by 1-6 to 0-3. Three more drives at Kilkenny’s goal, by Harnedy (twice) and Farrell were well dealt with by the Noreside backs. It was telling that Cork had four goal chances in the first-half alone. It showed all their qualities of 2013: fearless hurling and running at the opposition. It’s nice to see it hasn’t disappeared, but the caveat here is that Cork supporters now rightly expect this team to play to their potential every time.
Kilkenny meanwhile were pedestrian. TJ Reid missed an easy free early on from 45 yards, but it proved to be his last miss of the game; stitching ten frees in addition to his 1-2 from play. Lehane had three great scores from play in the first period, which in addition to points from Harnedy, Horgan, Cormac Murphy, Brian Lawton and Lorcán McLoughlin gave Cork a 1-12 to 0-11 lead at half-time.
The initial purple patch of fury wearing off as Kilkenny settled into the game and kept the scoreline lower than it should have been. The second-half saw the Cats maintaining the steady flow of points. Reid’s accuracy was imperative in this regard.
Cork’s second-coming arrived and powerful it was. Again it was the long-ball tactic to Harnedy that proved integral. A ball from midfielder Paul Haughney was controlled on the full-forward’s stick. He rode some heavy tackling and holding, the Kilkenny backs would have accepted a penalty at this stage. He stayed on his feet admirably, if only Alan Pardew was there to see it, his shot after the exhausting drive forward was didn’t make it over the line but luckily Bill Cooper was on hand to turn it into the net. 50 gone 2-14 to 0-17.
O’Farrell’s first of the day came not soon afterwards; the resultant roar from the crowd nearly lifting the corrugated iron roof off the stand, as the home fans scented blood.
Unfortunately they had to settle for the comfort that is redemption. With less than five minutes left Cork were up by five. Colin Fennelly narrowed the gap to two points. His goal coming after a fantastic one-two with Richie Hogan in the narrow confines of the Cork full-back line.
Lester Ryan made it a one-point game with his third point of the night. The first of two daggers to Rebel hearts came when TJ Reid won a high-ball, re-enacts Fennelly’s goal by going on another one-two and finding the net.
Cork weren’t for losing heart now though. Lehane pointed a free and levelled the game after striking over after a pass from O’Farrell. 71 minutes gone and the score is a fantastic 2-22 each.
A draw was just about a fair result but Power capitalised on young Collins’ error to give Cody’s men the points and guarantee Cork a relegation play-off.
Perspectives will have changed on this Cork side after the seventy minutes. To a man they hurled intensely and often intelligently. The key to this group of players is that they need to be tuned-in enough and up for a fight to utilise their obvious skill. Despite the rather negative state of Cork Hurling now, there are some fantastic players on the panel and they are good enough to be regularly challenging for top honours.
Wides proved to be an issue tonight – hitting eleven compared to Kilkenny’s two. But we’ll forgive them for that. The most important thing tonight was that they turned up. It’s grand turning up, however the Rebel faithful know that they’ll have to keep up the turning up and banish the malign on the team that is inconsistency. Then they’ll be fine and the obituaries for Cork Hurling can be withheld for a while at least.