Another page of history for Cats copybook
Published 09/08/2010 | 05:00
IT seems that no matter what you throw at this Kilkenny team, they just jump the hurdles with ease.
A combination of a Cork team that was given no chance, a long break since their Leinster final success and first-half injuries to key players like Brian Hogan and Henry Shefflin should have been enough to allow even the smallest of question marks to creep into the minds of the Kilkenny team.
But then this is no ordinary team and we've known that for a while now. We saw last week how some of the big guns fell in the football championship and afterwards blamed the extended lay-off. Kilkenny made light of that in Croke Park and it just shows that if you're good enough you'll win. And Kilkenny are more than good enough.
Yesterday, their intensity and work-rate was nothing short of incredible and bringing that to every single championship game is a testament to their mindset. Eoin Larkin got through an incredible amount of work and when Shefflin was forced off, Martin Comerford's first act was to send over a sublime point near the touchline under the Cusack Stand. James Ryall was a more than able replacement for Hogan and that both players could step into the game seamlessly suggests the training sessions in Nowlan Park are as physical and sharp as ever.
And those sessions are only going to get more intense over the next few weeks as those fellas will be tearing themselves apart to be in the starting 15 that has their photograph taken before throw-in on All-Ireland final day. You'd hope that Shefflin and Hogan will be fit enough to take their place. It would be cruel on those two to miss out on a shot at history through injury -- particularly Shefflin who has been to the fore on this great side.
However, Brian Cody knows he has plenty more leaders in the team if his talisman does miss out. Richie Power was excellent at full-forward, Aidan Fogarty had another fine outing, while Michael Fennelly's patience has been rewarded and he is having a fine season in midfield. Kilkenny don't have a team ethic, they have a panel ethic.
Cork had no answer but they raced out of the blocks like a team full of good intentions. They hassled and harried but if this match was an arm wrestle they were only ever holding their own -- at best -- for the opening few minutes.
They could point to the Cats' second goal being crucial when Power appeared to impede Donal Og Cusack as he attempted to field a high, dropping ball, but that is only clutching at straws. The Leesiders were game and committed but they simply came up against a far superior force so there won't be any great recriminations in Cork.
Full-forward Aisake O hAilpin didn't see much of the high ball in to him that we might have expected but even when it did come in, Noel Hickey wasn't in a charitable mood. In fairness to Cork, they kept going to the end with Patrick Horgan picking up a few nice late scores but it was only academic at that point, as the game was over as a contest even before half-time.
All eyes will turn to the other All-Ireland semi-final now and talk in Tipp of getting another crack at Kilkenny is dangerous. Waterford have been hurling well with their defensive system and they will enjoy going in as slight underdogs. The winners have the dubious prize of facing Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final and standing between them and history.
This season seems to be heading straight for the history books but we know sport is nothing if not unpredictable.
We'll watch and wait.