It will be a Limerick v Cork All-Ireland SHC final on August 22 as Cork booked their place in the decider with a memorable victory against Kilkenny in Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.
Before the ball was thrown-in by referee Fergal Horgan there was a scuffle in the middle of the field. The tension was palpable on the pitch and in the stands. The tempo had been set.
TJ Reid, making his 66th appearance for Kilkenny, got the first score of the game with a simple free that was quickly responded to by Cork talisman Patrick Horgan with his first effort from a free.
The opening score of the game came from the Ballyhale Shamrocks axis when TJ Reid caught an Eoin Murphy handpass before linking up with Richie Reid who pointed from just inside the Cork half. Kilkenny continued to dominate early on when Cody opened his account and centre back Paraic Walsh split the posts from distance as the men wearing black and amber rushed into a 0-04 to 0-01 lead.
Robbie O’Flynn and Alan Murphy exchanged impressive scores from play as Kilkenny’s set up seemed to nullify Cork’s forward threat while also allowing for space for their own inside forward line as TJ Reid got in a position to get the first goal of the game but was adjudged to have over carried the ball.
2020 Young Hurler of the Year Cody created a half yard of space for himself when he dropped a shoulder in front of the watching supporters in the Hogan Stand before hitting the target to double his personal tally. Two frees from Cork captain Horgan kept Kieran Kingston’s side within touching distance of the Leinster champions after a nervy start.
O’Loughlin Gaels corner back Paddy Deegan received the first yellow card of the day after a high tackle on standout half-back Tim O’Mahony. Horgan made no mistake with the free just outside the Kilkenny ’45 to reduce the gap to a single point and they were soon level when good build-up play was clinically finished off by Castelyons corner back Niall O’Leary who stuck his efforts between the posts.
The Rebels ventured into the lead for the first time when Horgan received the ball and got his first from play to leave the scoreboard reading Kilkenny 0-06 to 0-07 Cork at the first half water break.
Kilkenny replied to a productive period for Cork with an equaliser from Billy Ryan before the Graigue Ballycallan man almost immediately got his second to move Kilkenny one ahead.
Cork, seeking to end their three-match losing run in All-Ireland semi-finals, were incapable of stemming another purple patch for the Cats as a Reid free was their third unanswered point. Cork midfielder Darragh Fitzgibbon and corner forward Shane Barrett scored for the first time to level the game before the biggest roar from the crowd came when Horgan showed his class with another fine point in front of the Cusack Stand.
James Maher and Michael Carey, two of three Kilkenny changes from the side that retained the Leinster championship with a win over Dublin, pointed either side of a Horgan free and Cork’s record scorer got another from play with five minutes left in the opening period, Kilkenny 0-11 to 0-12 Cork.
Reid tapped over a free straight in front of the goal as the sides could not be separated yet again. A ’65 from the 33-year-old edged his team ahead and club compatriot Adrian Mullen linked up with Reid to get his maiden point and double Kilkenny’s lead.
Horgan got his ninth and tenth points of an outstanding first half display late in the half, but a Billy Ryan point gave Kilkenny a one-point lead at the interval, Kilkenny 0-15 to 0-14 Cork.
John Donnelly was replaced by shock exclusion Martin Keoghan at half time, but it was Ryan who continued from where he left off with the first point of the second half and his fourth in total.
Mark Coleman took advantage of a loose pass from Kilkenny corner back Tommy Walsh to reply for Kingston’s men. Kilkenny captain Mullen expertly pointed from the left hand sideline to get his second of the game and a Reid free left three between the teams five minutes into the first half, Kilkenny 0-18 to 0-15 Cork.
Reid dispatched of an easy free for a man of his calibre as the game was slowly moving away from an inexperienced Cork side. Erin’s Own wing forward Robbie O’Flynn pulled one back for Cork and Horgan got his first of the second half with a free to keep his side within touching distance.
Substitute Shane Kingston scored for the first time in a pulsating tie as they continued to turn around their fortunes. Mullen missed a golden opportunity to get that all-important first goal of the game when Patrick Collins misread a ball, but the half forward’s shot was saved on the line.
Horgan and Kingston moved Cork into a 0-19 to 0-20 lead before a Reid free levelled it for Kilkenny with twenty minutes left on the clock. Cody finished beautifully as Kilkenny sneaked ahead but a Kingston point, an inspired substitute by manager and father Kieran, meant the teams were tied at the second half water break, 0-21 to 0-21.
Eoin Murphy made his first save of the day from a weak effort by substitute Alan Cadogan to keep the game on a knife-edge. Jack O’Connor and Conor Fogarty exchanged scores from play before Cadogan salvaged another goal scoring opportunity by eventually putting the ball over the bar to move the 2005 All-Ireland champions into a 0-22 to 0-23 lead with little over ten minutes remaining.
The Cork subs highlighted the importance of the bench as Kingston raced past Michael Carey before pointing for the Leesiders and Douglas man Cadogan got his third off the bench as they moved into three-point lead.
Seamus Harnedy opened his account and star man Horgan added to his tally as Cork moved into their biggest lead of the game, 0-22 to 0-27. Kingston latched onto a loose ball and pointed again as Cork’s fresh legs led to a strong finish that Kilkenny could not match.
Reid got two back with a ’65 and a long distance free and captain Mullen led by example with an inspirational score from the halfway line to make it a one score game. The Ballyhale Shamrocks contingent continued to take the game to what was now a tired looking Cork as they took complete control.
Jack O’Connor got a much-needed response for the Munster outfit as four minutes of additional time was indicated.
It looked like it would be a scoreless four minutes as Horgan missed the chance to make it a two-score game with a ’65 but Mullen stepped up when he was needed most as he found the goal Kilkenny desperately craved to send the game to extra-time against all the odds. It was a moment that marked Mullen’s full arrival on the intercounty stage as he left his mark on a big game.
Cork were dejected. In contrast, Kilkenny were ecstatic as extra-time commenced.
Billy Ryan opened the scoring in extra-time for his fifth point of an impressive performance but that was cancelled out by a Horgan free and substitute Kingston got his sixth of the game to move Cork one point ahead midway through the opening period of extra-time.
A key moment in the first half came when Eoin Murphy made a save worthy of an All Star ‘keeper before a low and powerful shot from Walter Walsh was turned behind for a ’65 that was clinically dispatched by the seemingly always accurate Reid.
The goal did finally come though as Jack O’Connor used all of his blistering pace to race by the Kilkenny defence before striking across Murphy for their first goal of the game. Reid attempted to get Kilkenny back on track with a point from play, but Patrick Horgan got the final score of an eventful first half to leave three points between the sides at half time, Kilkenny 1-29 to 1-32 Cork.
Jack O’Connor, Kingston and Harnedy all got quickfire points to double their lead as Cork somehow found the energy that looked unlikely at full-time.
Kilkenny legend Richie Hogan looked to lead the retrieval mission for Cody’s side with a fine score from play. Alan Cadogan and Reid exchanged scores at the halfway point of the second half of extra-time. Reid reduced the deficit to four points with another free but Declan Dalton sealed a famous victory for the Rebels with one last point as the Rebels progress to their first All-Ireland final since 2013.