Peerless Cats Crush Cork


Mastery, coldly mechanic and utterly relentless mastery. Kilkenny’s search for a third successive All-Ireland looks far more likely than plausible, after a semi-final win here which left Cork totally bereft of excuses or thoughts of what might have been. They were soundly beaten by a superior team. That’s all there was to it.  

Not that Cork played badly – far from it, at least at the beginning. But Kilkenny, in this form, at this stage, took their time, and gradually started stomping. Cork threatened a revival midway through the second half but their opponents snuffed it quickly. There would be no miracle resurrection, not now, not here, not on Kilkenny’s watch.

All-Ireland SHC Semi-Final: Kilkenny 1-23 Cork 0-17

Some nervous play too saw both sides laying passes astray early on, and pulling wildly on the ball on occasion.

John Gardiner gave Cork the opening score and the lead five minutes in with a giant score from the half-way line, before Richie Power retorted two minutes later after Cork lost possession in their own third.

Patrick Horgan almost stole in around the back for a chance on goal a minute later, but hauled down, Ben O’Connor converted the free. On nine minutes Kilkenny were level again, Shefflin stepping away from Sean Óg O’Hailpín to make space for the point. So it went for the next ten minutes – a Ben O’Connor free levelled by an increasingly confident Shefflin, winning his battle with O’Hailpín. Jerry O’Connor was then cancelled out by Shefflin again for four points apiece.

Joe Deane was getting no change from a superb Noel Hickey, who forced him down blind alleys and picked his pocket at every stage. At the other end Cork’s supposed weak point and flashpoint Diarmuid O’Sullivan made fools of all who doubted his ability to continue functioning at this level, making two huge catches over Martin Comerford’s head in a return to his best form.

Jerry O’Connor landed a massive point from distance to give Cork the lead again on 18 minutes, Shefflin splitting the posts with a ’65 two minutes later. Tom Kenny had Cork back in front a minute later, and with 14 minutes to the break, Cork were looking good.
Well. If they could freeze that moment. Kilkenny grabbed the game at that point. Eoin Larkin levelled for Kilkenny again on 22 minutes, before Richie Fogarty gave them the lead they would hold for the remainder a minute later. Larkin popped up on 27 minutes to stretch the gap to two points, and Shefflin made it three seconds later. The killer blow arrived 29 minutes in. Larkin took the ball away from a battling scrum of players, stepped inside Shane O’Neill, and buried it past Donal Og Cusack – 1-9 to six points.

Ben O’Connor fired a goal effort wide a minute later, before Eddie Brennan grabbed his first point of the afternoon. Walsh blocked a Deane effort for a point as Cork were evermore frustrated up front. Fogarty added two more points to close out the half for Kilkenny, who were dominating most areas of the pitch by now. 1-12 to 0-6. Ben O’Connor pulled one back at the death of the first half, and Cork were dreaming of comebacks again.

Shefflin put eight points between the sides straight after the restart with a free, and added another on 38 minutes after benefiting from a poor dropped ball by Cathal Naughton. Cork came out late for that second half, but what could possibly be said or done to staunch the flow? Deane didn’t emerge for the second half, replacement Kieran Murphy [Sarsfields] faring little better against Hickey.

And yet Cork did manage a minor revival. Pa Cronin pulled one back with a good effort, Ben O’Connor added another free, Naughton launched a great point from the central channel. On 44 minutes Timmy McCarthy found time and space around the corner to shoot for goal, blasting the ball over instead. Cronin had another goalbound effort blocked brilliantly by JJ Delaney, and Kenny broke a Kilkenny attack on half-way, looking up to send the ball over for the days’ best score.

With five scores in a row, Cork had the gap down to a margin reachable for them, but still comfortable for Kilkenny. O’Sullivan, now marking Richie Power, was shown a yellow card for slapping Brennan off the ball, after referee Michael Wadding gave Kilkenny a debatable free outside the box. It could have been worse for Cork, Wadding bizarrely appeared to signal a penalty without awarding one.

Shefflin placed it easily. He added two further frees as the ineffective Comerford was pulled out of action, to be followed shortly afterwards by Power. O’Sullivan had marked both men out of contention. Cork’s problem lay in the fact that they were losing every other battle, midfield swinging to Kilkenny, Cronin getting no joy from Tommy Walsh, Naughton cut adrift as a third midfielder and McCarthy seeing precious little ball.

O’Connor and Shefflin traded frees, to leave the margin at seven entering the last ten minutes. Cork were looking ragged up front, and Derek Lyng pulled Kilkenny ahead to the half-time margin with a neat effort on 62 minutes.

Cork brought Neil Ronan on for Horgan, and Paudie O’Sullivan followed replacing Cathal Naughton, no time to make any impact up front. James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick capped his peerless display with a good point, substitute Willie O’Dwyer added another taking a Shefflin handpass, and Kilkenny kept Cork at arms length for the remainder.
Nine points the margin by the end, Brian Cody was relaxed enough to share a joke with a supporter before the end.

Why not. On days like this you wonder how men like him can fashion a side of such peerless dominance. Who knows what it takes, what mystery backs up the majesty. Whatever. The game today was theirs. The All-Ireland should follow.  

Scorers for Cork: B O’Connor (0-8, 8f), N McCarthy (0-2), T Kenny (0-2), J O’Connor (0-2), C Naughton (0-1), J Gardiner (0-1), P Cronin (0-1),

Cork: D Og Cusack; S O’Neill, D O’Sullivan, B Murphy; J Gardiner, R Curran, S Og O hAilpin; T Kenny, J O’Connor; B o’Connor, N McCarthy, P Cronin; C Naughton, J Deane, P Horgan.

Subs: K Murphy for J Deane (half-time), T McCarthy for N McCarthy (’42), N Ronan for P Horgan (’62), P O’Sullivan for C Naughton (’66).

Scorers for Kilkenny: H Shefflin (0-11, 6f), E Larkin (1-2), A Fogarty (0-5), TJ Reid (0-2), R Power (0-1), E Brennan (0-1), J Fitzpatrick (0-1).

Kilkenny: PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Horgan, JJ Delaney; J Fitzpatrick, D Lyng; E Brennan, M Comerford, E Larkin; R Power, H Shefflin, A Fogarty.

Subs: W O’Dwyer for M Comerford (’54), TJ Reid for R Power (’60), M Rice for J Fitzpatrick (’68).

Referee: Michael Wadding (Waterford)

Attendance: 71,235

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