Cork 2-17 Kilkenny 1-22
Richie Hogan scored 11 points as Kilkenny opened their Allianz Hurling League Division 1A campaign with a 1-22 to 2-17 victory over Cork at Páirc Uí Rinn.
The All-Ireland champions were made to work for the win, though, as their lead was whittled down to just two points thanks to Conor Lehane's injury-time goal.
Luke O'Farrell flashed a late shot wide, but the Cats deservedly held on with Mark Kelly and Walter Walsh also impressing in attack.
Such a tight outcome looked a remote possibility as Kilkenny began the second half in roaring fashion and appeared to have put down the Rebel challenge.
At half-time, two points had separated the teams, Kilkenny ahead by 1-11 to 0-12 and the exchange of points by Kieran Joyce and Seamus Harnedy suggested that the game would continue to be to-and-fro.
Instead, Kilkenny reeled off five in a row, Hogan and Walter Walsh with two each and Lester Ryan getting the other, as Cork wilted.
Even when Patrick Horgan ended their barren spell, Mark Kelly and Hogan pushed Kilkenny 1-19 to 0-14 clear and it all looked to be cut and dried. Instead, Cork dug deep and forced their way back into contention.
Two Horgan frees - his seventh and eighth points of the contest - gave them hope and that was increased when O’Farrell, not long on, got his stick to Cormac Murphy's delivery to divert it past Eoin Murphy for Cork's first goal of the night.
The score was 1-19 to 1-16 with seven minutes left on the clock, but Kelly could have killed off the Cork challenge a minute later only to be denied by Anthony Nash’s save. Even so, Pádraig Walsh, Kelly and Hogan helped Brian Cody's charges outscore Cork by 0-03 to 0-01 from there to the end of normal time.
Still, Cork would not relent. Again, Cormac Murphy launched a booming clearance and when his namesake Eoin could not catch it cleanly, Lehane went racing in to send it to the net. The Cork supporters were now dreaming of a fairytale finish, but it was not to be.
Kilkenny would have felt aggrieved had they allowed this one to slip as they were the better side for a large majority.
Once Jonjo Farrell's goal in the ninth minute put them ahead at 1-02 to 0-03, they never trailed and but for a Nash penalty save from Hogan, they would have been comfortable in the first half.
As it was, Cork were able to draw level as points from Bill Cooper and Horgan made it 0-11 to 1-08, but when Kilkenny pushed two clear by the interval it looked as if a foundation for victory had been laid. It ultimately had, but it was a foundation which was shaken more than once.
CORK: A Nash; D Cahalane, C Joyce, C O’Sullivan; A Walsh, M Ellis, C Murphy; D Kearney (0-01), P Cronin; S Harnedy (0-01), B Cooper (0-01), C Lehane (1-02); A Cadogan (0-02), P O’Sullivan (0-01), P Horgan (0-09, 0-08f).
Subs used: L McLoughlin for Cronin (45 mins), L O’Farrell (1-00) for P O’Sullivan, C McCarthy for Cooper (both 49), S O’Neill for Cahalane (57), S Moylan for Cadogan (65).
KILKENNY: E Murphy; T Keogh, P Murphy, J Tyrrell; B Kennedy, K Joyce (0-01), C Buckley; C Fogarty, L Ryan (0-01); P Walsh (0-01), W Walsh (0-03), M Ruth (0-01); M Kelly (0-04), J Farrell (1-00), R Hogan (0-11, 0-07f, 0-01 '65').
Sub used: G Brennan for Fogarty (19 mins, inj).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford)