The clock struck 4 pm (3 pm if you didn’t move your clocks forward) and it was time for the highly anticipated encounter between the two most successful counties in the history of the sport as Kilkenny welcomed Cork to UPMC Nowlan Park with a place in the league final at stake against Limerick.
The Cats were no doubt seeking retribution after being knocked out at the same stage last year by their old rivals on a scoreline of 1-27 to 2-20. It was evident the home side was up for it from the off, registering the first three scores of the game, the first coming from none other than the great Richie Hogan. The black and amber roared with that one as the much loved Danesfort man was making his first start for Kilkenny since 2020 All Ireland Semi-final. Billy Drennan added the other two, thus adding to his already impressive league tally. Shane Barrett opened the scoring for Cork from distance.
Kilkenny distribution was much improved from previous games, with the backline also looking very impressive in the opening ten minutes. Cork gave away a few too many frees, with Conor Cahalane picking up an early yellow, the problem for Pat Ryan would be none other than Billy Drennan standing on the frees, who put three more dead balls over. Kingston got himself two frees over the bar but missed another to leave the game still with just one score in it at 0-06 – 0-03. Cork made it back-to-back scores when Padraig Power got on the end of the long ball, but two more fouls allowed two more points for Billy Drennan.
The rebels started marching into the game with Kingston, with his back to goal, and Conor Cahalane registering scores. As all signs were pointing toward Cork grabbing a foothold in the game, Paddy Deegan had different ideas. The O’Loughlins man went for the jugular instead of taking his point, Deegan carried the ball in before passing it off to Martin Keoghan and with that, we had our first goal. Alan Murphy, out of nothing, on the sideline 50 yards out got Kilkenny’s first score after the goal, which seemed like an eternity when in reality it was only three minutes. In that three-minute period Cork looked to have reacted brilliantly to the goal putting two points over, but every time they seem to get back into it, Lyng’s men squash them out, with their two points canceled out by the aforementioned Alan Murphy point and a Drennan ’65.
The Blarney man Padraig Power had Cork’s best chance at goal, after collecting a long puck out he fired at goal but saw it just go over. Kingston made it back-to-back scores to make it once again a one-score game before John Donelly made it back-to-back points for himself to put the five-point distance between them again. the last two scores left for a very interesting second half as both came at the hands of Cork, with Kingston knocking over a couple of frees.
Half-time score: Kilkenny 1-12 Cork 0-12
The second half started the same way the first half did, with Kilkenny grabbing the first point, this time at the hands of Alan Murphy. Each side traded scores for the next ten minutes before Billy Drennan found the net for the second time for Kilkenny. Another foul brought him down, with Conor Calahane allowing Drennan the chance of a penalty.
Then as our own Adrian Ronnan likes to say, there was a bit of a schmozzle between the two sides. It seemed to go on for an age with numerous players involved, yellow cards being banded about before Eoin Downey received a red. The sending-off now will no doubt have a big bearing on this game with Cian Kenny, who replaced Richie Hogan, and Billy Drennan firing the Cats eight ahead. The sting was well and truly taken out of the game by Cork being reduced to 14 men. Patrick Collins was called into action, to really give his side some type of hoping, saving a Paddy Deegan shot from seven yards out.
The game seemed to be just flowing along toward the final whistle, but before you knew it there were four points in it with seven minutes of added time. There was still time for a spectacular comeback, Cork however seemed content to take their points instead of going for the goalmouth. Like when Patrick Horgan took the one point from a free in front of the goal mouth.
Full-time score: Kilkenny 2-22 Cork 0-22