/ GAA

Cats hammer Cork in League decider

Updated: Friday, 11 May 2012 19:09 | Comments

Cork's Sean Og O hAilpin tackles Cillian Buckley of Kilkenny
Cork's Sean Og O hAilpin tackles Cillian Buckley of Kilkenny

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Kilkenny inflicted a 3-21 to 0-16 defeat on a rudderless Cork side as they comfortably secured their first Allianz Hurling League title since 2009.

The Cats rattled off 2-06 in a devastating opening ten minutes, with captain Eoin Larkin and Colin Fennelly finding the net.

Top scorer Pat Horgan hit all bar one of Cork’s points as they fell 3-11 to 0-06 behind by half-time.

TJ Reid had swept home Kilkenny’s third goal and they coasted home during a flat second half.

It was a facile victory for Brian Cody’s men who dominated all over the pitch with Paul Murphy and Tommy Walsh starring in defence and man-of-the-match Larkin oozing class up front.

Losing a league decider will not alter Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s plans for Cork, but this was quite a setback given the closeness of the Championship.

For Kilkenny to serve up such a hammering without the injured Henry Shefflin, Richie Power, Michael Rice, Aidan Fogarty and Noel Hickey shows the enviable depth of Cody’s panel.

Newcomers like Cillian Buckley, Matthew Ruth and Richie Doyle are developing into fine players, and Buckley was very effective in centre-field this afternoon when taking over from the injured Michael Fennelly.

Chasing their first Division 1 crown in 14 years, Cork’s recent displays had convinced some pundits that they were primed to upset the reigning All-Ireland champions.

But Kilkenny, who lost last year’s final to Dublin, are not used to letting silverware slip through their grasp and that was obvious right from the off in Thurles.

TJ Reid and Horgan both struck wides before Kilkenny ominously opened up an early two-point lead without breaking sweat.

Michael Fennelly launched over the opener from a Paul Murphy pass and then Matthew Ruth wriggled free from Shane O’Neill to score from close range.

Cork struggled on their own puck-outs, missing the sidelined Donal Óg Cusack’s accuracy, with Kilkenny’s half-backs and midfield duo stronger in the air and quicker to any breaking balls.

Defensively, the Rebels were also suspect and Kilkenny skipper Larkin burst away to fire home a fourth minute goal with his bouncing shot to the far right corner deceiving Cusack’s deputy Martin Coleman.

Horgan opened Cork’s account with an eighth minute free but a trio of scores from the impressive Paddy Hogan underlined Kilkenny’s dominance.

Coleman had to fetch the ball out of his net again in the ninth minute. Pa Cronin coughed up possession and the Cats quickly turned defence into attack, with Colin Fennelly taking Larkin’s hand pass and stepping away from Brian Murphy to lash home goal number two.

Ruth tagged on a point to make it 2-06 to 0-01 and Cork looked alarmingly off the pace.

A second free from Horgan and a John Gardiner point from play gave them some much-needed encouragement, as did the crisp clearing of dual player Eoin Cadogan.

But Kilkenny were just sharper both on and off the ball - further evidence of this came when a free was swung wide for an unmarked Tommy Walsh to drive over his side’s eighth point.

Horgan swung over a lovely effort off his left to close the gap and wayward shots from Paddy Hogan and Larkin took Kilkenny’s wides tally to seven.

In the 27th minute, Cork starlet Conor Lehane showed his ability when he went on a solo run and JJ Delaney gave away a 20-metre free for pulling back the youngster.

Horgan went for goal and a combination of David Herity and Paddy Hogan blocked the ball over the crossbar for the concession of a point.

Cody’s charges responded with a Ruth score from play and a brace of Larkin frees, and Cork’s challenge grew ever greater when Reid slammed home his well-taken goal.

Colin Fennelly and Larkin continued to cause problems for the Rebels rearguard and although the latter’s shot was blocked by Coleman, the net minder’s attempted clearance fell invitingly for Reid to rasp home.

Horgan ended the first half’s scoring with the free and repeated the feat when the second half got underway. Niall McCarthy then finished off a good run with a point to make it 3-11 to 0-08.

A goal was needed though and Herity and his defenders were giving very little away, eager to keep out a Cork side that beat them 1-17 to 1-15 on Leeside back in March.

Every time the Rebels looked like they were piecing together a comeback, Kilkenny roared back at the other end.

Man-of-the-match Larkin was beating his marker Brian Murphy time and again, and frees from the Kilkenny captain and Richie Hogan extended their lead to 15 points.

Substitutes Darren Sweetnam and Jamie Coughlan made good impacts with a couple of points, but scores from Colin Fennelly, Cillian Buckley and Reid kept the Cats on course.

A brace from Horgan, who profited from Pa Cronin’s ball-winning skills, cancelled out a Colin Fennelly point that came from another poor Cork puck-out.

Cork were carrying more of a threat now with Lehane providing a target near the square, but the goal they craved never came.

Paul Murphy did brilliantly to clear away a Luke O’Farrell shot that was destined for the net in the 59th minute. Horgan had the best chance three minutes later, however having won a penalty his rising shot cleared the crossbar.

The sides went point for point in the concluding minutes with Kilkenny substitute Mark Bergin getting on the scoresheet and Colin Fennelly and Reid both boosting their tallies.

Sweetnam replied for Cork and Kilkenny stopper Herity dived to his right to pull off a fine save in injury-time, turning a Cathal Naughton shot over the bar.

That was the final action of a disappointingly one-sided final which suggests that the gap between Kilkenny and the chasing pack may be widening.

Scorers – Kilkenny: E Larkin (0-03f), C Fennelly 1-04 each, TJ Reid 1-02, P Hogan (0-01f), M Ruth 0-03 each, M Fennelly, T Walsh, R Hogan, C Buckley, M Bergin 0-01 each

Cork: P Horgan 0-09 (0-06f, 0-01 pen), D Sweetnam 0-02, J Gardiner, J Coughlan, N McCarthy, W Egan (0-01f), C Naughton 0-01 each

KILKENNY: David Herity; Paul Murphy, JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell; Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Richie Doyle; Michael Fennelly, Paddy Hogan; Richie Hogan, TJ Reid, Cillian Buckley; Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin (capt), Matthew Ruth.

Subs used: Kieran Joyce for Delaney (half-time), John Mulhall for M Fennelly (41), Mark Bergin for P Hogan (62).

CORK: Martin Coleman; Shane O'Neill, Stephen McDonnell, Brian Murphy; Seán Óg hAilpín, Eoin Cadogan, William Egan; Lorcán McLoughlin, John Gardiner; Conor Lehane, Pa Cronin, Niall McCarthy; Luke O'Farrell, Paudie O'Sullivan, Pat Horgan (capt).

Subs used: Darren Sweetnam for McLoughlin, Conor O'Sullivan for McDonnell (both half-time), Cathal Naughton for O’Sullivan (46 mins), Jamie Coughlan for McCarthy (50).

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)

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