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Cork edge out Kilkenny after extra time cracker in Croker to set up final date with Limerick

All-Ireland Hurling Semi-Final:

CORK 1-37


By Tom McLoughlin

In a frenetic and pulsating encounter in Croke Park, Cork recovered from the disastrous concession of an injury time Adrian Mullen goal to overpower the Cats by five points in extra time. Today’s encounter had everything – superb point taking, pace, power, tough tackling, eye-catching saves and even had a last minute wonder goal thrown into the mix. Both sides certainly provided great entertainment for the lucky 24,000 or so that were in attendance.

In truth, the Rebels were the better team, particularly in extra-time and effectively had to win the game twice as they gave up a six point lead in the last ten minutes of regulation time. However, Kieran Kingston’s men showed character aplenty to overpower Kilkenny in extra time thanks largely to a wonderful Jack O’Connor as well as the scoring exploits of super-sub and man of the match Shane Kingston. I’m sure there will be an interesting conversation on the way home with his father having been dropped for this crucial clash but Shane was sprung from the bench in the second half to score seven wondrous points from play. Indeed it was Cork’s bench that arguably held the winning of this game as Kingston, Alan Cadogan and Declan Dalton contributed an impressive 0-11 between them when introduced whilst in contrast Kilkenny’s substitutes scored just one solitary point through Richie Hogan.

It was the Leinster champions who got off to the better start racing into a lead of 0-6 to 0-2 after eleven minutes courtesy of scores from Richie Reid, Pádraig Walsh, Alan Murphy, a T.J. Reid free as well as two fine points from Eoin Cody. Cork’s scores came via a Patrick Horgan free and Robbie O’Flynn, whose pace caused the Cats problems all day. However, Cork after a nervy start, stormed into the game and scored the next 5 points in a row to go into the first water break with a 0-7 to 0-6 lead. Kilkenny’s early lead had been overturned through an inspirational Niall O’Leary point from corner back along with four Horgan points, three from frees, with the Glen Rovers having more of an influence on the game and causing the Kilkenny full back line untold problems with his clever movement.

After the water break, Brian Cody’s charges reeled off the next three scores, two of these from Graigue-Ballycallan’s Billy Ryan who took on Robert Downey to fire over two fine points in quick succession. Kilkenny had ended Cork’s purple patch and now had a two point advantage. However, it was Cork’s turn to respond and they did so with three points in a row themselves from Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Barrett and a glorious point from Horgan over his right shoulder to give Cork a 0-10 to 0-9 lead. The next few scores were tit for tat between the sides and the first real goal chance came in the 31st minute when T.J. Reid fed Cody but the Ballyhale man’s shot was straight at Patrick Collins. Reid converted the 65’ and Kilkenny led 0-13 to 0-12.

In the 34th minute, Adrian Mullen lashed over an audacious point from distance before Horgan responded with a point over his left shoulder. In injury time of the first half, Billy Ryan extended Kilkenny’s lead to two points but Horgan would have the last say of the half as he got his tenth point of the day from a free to leave his side trailing 0-15 to 0-14 as the teams headed for the dressing rooms.

The third quarter was nip and tuck with Kilkenny hitting three points in a row between the 39th and 42nd minutes from Mullen and two T.J. Reid frees to extend their lead out to four points. The Rebels rallied though and hit their own purple patch as they scored the next five points with two of these coming from the hurl of Shane Kingston who made an immediate impact upon introduction. Cork had turned a four point deficit into a one point lead with the score 0-20 to 0-19 after fifty minutes. Reid fired over another free to level and Mullen got his third point of the day to give his side the lead before Kingston scored his third to leave the sides level on 21 points a-piece at the second water break. Cork had also survived what would have been an unforgiveable concession of a goal after goalkeeper Patrick Collins was stripped of possession by Mullen but his shot was saved on the line by Niall O’Leary. A goal for either side would be pivotal as this game looked like it was very much going to go the distance.

After the water-break, Cork entered a period of ascendancy and their pace in the full forward line came to the fore with substitutes Kingston and Alan Cadogan running riot. Between the 58th and 63rd minutes Cork blitzed Kilkenny for six unanswered points. Seamus Harnedy, Alan Cadogan, Horgan and O’Flynn all raised white flags along with two from Kingston and the Munster men led 0-28 to 0-22 going down the stretch. Kilkenny looked shell-shocked but you write off Cody and the Cats at your peril.

A TJ Reid ’65 and free were followed by points from Mullen and Cody to leave just two between the teams as the game ticked into four minutes of added on time. Jack O’Connor popped up with a vital score in response and when Horgan stood over a ’65 to put four between the teams, one felt the jig was up for Kilkenny. However, Horgan who would finish with a remarkable tally of 0-15, uncharacteristically skewed his effort wide and Kilkenny had a lifeline; a lifeline they were to fully avail of. In the final few seconds of this enthralling battle, Padraig Walsh dispossessed Tim O’Mahony, who seemed to be nonchalantly trying to retain the sliotar at the back. Walsh had the Joe Canning like vision to pick out Mullen with a beautiful pass, who hammered the ball past Collins in the Cork net to dramatically level the game. We were heading to extra time in Croker.

Kilkenny had all the momentum it seemed heading into extra time and the Cork players would need to get their heads right again if they were to win a game they probably thought they had in the bag just minutes previous. To Cork and Kingston’s credit, they were by far the superior team in extra-time and while both teams were visibly fatigued, it was Kilkenny who seemed dead on their feet. In the 7th minute of extra-time, Eoin Murphy made a phenomenal save from Alan Connolly, when he threw his body in front of the goal bound effort. The crucial score of the game followed not long after as Cork struck the back of the net through Jack O’Connor. O’Connor has pace to burn and he left a trail of Kilkenny defenders in his wake with a run along the Hogan Stand before launching an unstoppable shot to the corner of the Hill 16 goal. This was to prove to be the decisive score and Cork now led 1-32 to 1-29 at half-time of extra-time.

Cork would not relinquish their lead as a second comeback proved too much for Kilkenny. In the second half of extra-time Cork were able to kick on and extended the lead out to six points with their substitutes prominent as Kingston, Cadogan, and Declan Dalton all kept the scoreboard ticking over. Reid added to his tally with two late frees and finished the day with a personal haul of 0-13 but interestingly just one point from play as the Cork defence largely dealt well with Kilkenny’s danger man. Ultimately, it was a disappointing day for Reid and Kilkenny as Cork ran out deserving victors after extra-time on a score-line of 1-37 to 1-32.

The Rebels last tasted All-Ireland success in 2005 and will be looking to bridge that sixteen year gap when they face reigning champions Limerick. Limerick looked impressive in their dismantling of Waterford and are seeking their third Liam McCarthy in just four years in what is a glorious period of dominance for the Treaty County. However, Cork hurling is very much on the rise at all level and they will not fear Limerick. Cork does confidence better than any other county and Kingston will instil a belief in his side. In two weeks’ time, The Rebel army will hope to echo the famous words of former captain Mark Landers in 1999 when he uttered the immortal words: “Welcome back to Leeside, Liam McCarthy, we’ve missed you a lot!” John Kiely and Limerick may have other ideas.

Scorers – Cork: Patrick Horgan 0-15 (9 frees), Shane Kingston 0-7, Jack O’Connor 1-3, Alan Cadogan 0-3, Seamus Harnedy 0-2, Robbie O’Flynn 0-2, Niall O’Leary 0-1, Mark Coleman 0-1, Darragh Fitzgibbon 0-1, Shane Barrett 0-1, Declan Dalton 0-1

. Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-13 (9 frees, 3 65s), Adrian Mullen 1-3, Billy Ryan 0-5, Eoin Cody 0-4, James Maher 0-1, Padraig Walsh 0-1, Michael Carey 0-1, Conor Fogarty 0-1, Richie Reid 0-1, Richie Hogan 0-1, Alan Murphy 0-1.

Cork: Patrick Collins; Niall O’Leary, Robert Downey, Seán O’Donoghue; Tim O’Mahony, Mark Coleman, Ger Millerick; Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade; Conor Cahalane, Séamus Harnedy, Robbie O’Flynn; Shane Barrett, Patrick Horgan, Jack O’Connor. Subs: Eoin Cadogan for Ger Mellerick (36), Shane Kingston for Darragh Fitzgibbon (42), Alan Cadogan for Shane Barrett (47), Damien Cahalane for Robbie O’Flynn (68), Alan Connolly for Conor Cahalane (71), Sean O’Leary Hayes for Mark Coleman (80), Darragh Fitzgibbon for Luke Meade (83), Declan Dalton for Jack O’Connor (85).

Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Huw Lawlor, Paddy Deegan; James Maher, Pádraig Walsh, Michael Carey; Conor Fogarty, Richie Reid; Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly, TJ Reid; Alan Murphy, Billy Ryan, Eoin Cody. Subs: Martin Keoghan for John Donnelly (half-time), Cillian Buckley for Richie Reid (51), Walter Walsh for Alan Murphy (52), James Bergin for Martin Keoghan (60), Richie Hogan for Eoin Cody (80), John Donnelly for Billy Ryan (89).

Venue: Croke Park

Man of the Match: Shane Kingston

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)

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