Kilkenny's early second half scoring spree topples Cork to set up Limerick semi-final
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final: Kilkenny 2-27 Cork 3-18
AFTER falling short in their respective provincial Championships this summer both Kilkenny and Cork were placed in rehab – with the Cats emerging the fitter and healthier of the two to set up an intriguing All-Ireland semi-final joust with defending champions Limerick in 12 days’ time.
An early second-half scoring blitz saw Kilkenny, last month’s defeated Leinster finalists, break for home – but spare a thought for Pa Horgan.
Cork may have exited this year’s All-Ireland series, but the bigger shame is Horgan has gone from the big stage.
The Glen Rovers ace produced a performance for the ages at Croke Park yesterday, hitting a mesmerising 3-10 and bringing his Championship tally to a staggering 7-62.
Horgan’s contribution was bordering on the super-human yesterday but the problem was he was surrounded by mere mortals.
His attacking partner Alan Cadogan showed flashes of brilliance – but the Rebels simply didn’t boast enough quality, particularly in their half-forward line, to help take some of the scoring burden off Horgan.
All of Kilkenny’s starting forwards, by contrast, scored while substitutes Walter Walsh (0-3), Billy Ryan (0-2) and Billy Sheehan (0-1) showed that Brian Cody has perhaps a bit more in reserve than some people imagine.
Whether or not they have enough quality to topple Limerick on Saturday July 27 is debatable.
“We’re in the semi-final but we’re acutely aware that we’re playing the best team in the country,” said Cody afterwards. “Limerick were the best team in the country last year, and they’re even more so this year by winning the League and the form they showed the last day [their Munster final win over Tipperary] was exceptional. They are everybody’s strong favourites to come out on top, not only the next day but with eventual honours. [But] That’s a terrific challenge for us to be facing.”
In the early exchanges of yesterday’s All-Ireland quarter-final it looked as though the Cats wouldn’t have enough quality to overcome Cork as the Rebels grabbed a third minute goal and should have had another a minute later.
Pa Horgan grabbed the first of three majors with a well struck penalty after Seamus Harnedy was hauled to the ground by Paul Murphy. Seconds later, Alan Cadogan turned Joey Holden in a central area but his low drive was brilliantly turned away by Kilkenny ‘keeper Eoin Murphy.
Cork, it seemed, had rediscovered their swagger that swept aside Limerick in the Munster Championship round robin series back in May.
But, to their credit, Kilkenny steadied themselves and Colin Fennelly’s tenacity and skill saw him turn Eoin Cadogan to slap the sloithar home from close range after seven pulsating minutes of play to edge the Cats ahead, 1-3 to 1-1.
TJ Reid mightn’t have scored from play in yesterday’s encounter but he was proving a thorn in Stephen McDonnell and Cork’s side.
In the 27th minute, Reid robbed Mark Eillis of possession to set up John Donnelly – one of four changes to the Kilkenny side that lost to Wexford in the Leinster final – to register his first score of the day.
But every time Pa Horgan got the ball in his hand Kilkenny full-back Huw Lawlor was powerless to stop him.
Despite Padraig Walsh successfully pulling him down on one knee, Horgan somehow managed to get a shot off to bag his second goal of the day seven minutes before the interval.
Cork led 2-10 to 1-11 at the interval but John Meyler’s men were left punch drunk in the early stages of the second half.
Richie Hogan, who made a rare start for the Cats yesterday, read the dropping high ball quicker than Sean O'Donoghue and blasted into the roof of Cork’s net in the 37th minute.
Between that crucial major and the 52nd minute, Kilkenny outscored their opponents 1-9 to 0-1 to stretch ahead by eight points [2-19 to 2-11], with TJ Reid converting four of his 10 frees in that blistering period.
Afterwards, Meyler acknowledged Cork lost the game in that spell.
“The goal that Richie got just after half-time really killed it,” Meyler said, who is considering his future as Cork manager after three years in charge that yielded two All-Ireland semi-final appearances.
“They outscored us for about 10 minutes - and we just couldn’t get the ball past midfield or their half-back line.”
Horgan continued to ignore the scoreboard and his third goal in the 56th minute cut Kilkenny’s lead to three [2-19 to 3-13]. This one was the best of the lot.
He had no right to win Robbie O’Flynn’s raking pass over the head of Lawlor – and then he escaped the attentions of three defenders to ripple the net.
But unlike the Leinster final, Kilkenny game-managed the final minutes of yesterday's clash by scoring four consecutive points to extinguish any lingering threat from the Rebels.
On Horgan’s five-star display, Meyler said: “‘Hoggie’ has been one of the best hurlers for the last 10 years – incredible hurler – but, you know, we need fellas around him and that’s it.”
Kilkenny got to within two points of Limerick in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final.
They face an arguably bigger task in their upcoming All-Ireland semi-final later this month.
Kilkenny: E Murphy (0-1 free); P Murphy, H Lawlor, J Holden; P Deegan, P Walsh, C Buckley; C Browne (0-1), C Fogarty (0-2); R Hogan (1-2), TJ Reid (0-10 frees), R Leahy (0-1); A Mullen (0-1), C Fennelly (1-1), J Donnelly (0-2) Subs: W Walsh (0-3) for C Buckley (h/t), B Sheehan (0-1) for R Hogan (50), J Maher for C Browne (57), B Ryan (0-2) for J Donnelly (63)
Yellow cards: R Hogan (23), P Deegan (62), J Holden (65)
Cork: A Nash; S O’Donoghue, E Cadogan, S McDonnell; N O’Leary, M Ellis, M Coleman (0-1); B Cooper, D Fitzgibbon (0-1); D Kearney, C Lehane, L Meade; A Cadogan (0-4), P Horgan (3-10, 1-0 pen, 0-8 frees), S Harnedy (0-2) Subs: R O’Flynn for C Lehane (46), S Kingston for D Kearney (47), T O’Mahony for B Cooper (50), D Cahalane for S O’Donoghue (55), C Joyce for L Meade (63)
Yellow cards: B Cooper (43), R O’Flynn (60),
Referee: J Owens (Wexford)