Thursday 18 October 2018

Cork minors went down fighting

The Cork minor hurlers who lost to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland championship semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday.
The Cork minor hurlers who lost to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland championship semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday.
(Pics: Patrick Casey)

KILKENNY . . . . . . .0-15 CORK . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-8 But the Leeside lads put up a brave fight, and they could quite easily have upset the odds but for some needless fouling which allowed ace marksman Richie Power to emerge as the chief architect of Kilkennys single-point victory.

In a disappointing encounter, Power pointed no fewer than eight placed balls, and it could be argued that a few of the frees awarded to Kilkenny were of the questionable variety.

But, in the final analysis, Cork couldn’t complain unduly about the outcome, because they were forced to play second fiddle for long periods in the second half as Kilkenny established firm control in defence, and gained a definite edge also at midfield.

The result was that Cork failed to raise a flag between the 32nd and 46th minutes when Kilkenny transformed a two-point deficit into a three-point lead.

And, in truth, Cork’s failure to resolve their problems from midfield onwards meant that their cause was always shrouded in futility in the last quarter.

Having slipped four points in arrears, Cork were thrown a lifeline with under two minutes of normal time remaining when substitute Diarmuid Dorris, in a one-to-one situation with the Kilkenny ‘keeper, showed good composure to deftly touch the ball to the net from close range.

But Kilkenny refused to be knocked off course, and they had two good chances to stretch the gap before the last whistle, both of which were sent wide by corner forward Rory Wall, whereas Cork failed to create another opening.

Cork made two positional changes to the selected team before the throw-in.

Kevin Canty - whose switch to full forward had done much to inspire the late rally that put paid to Offaly’s ambitions in the quarter-final - started at the edge of the square this time, with Brendan Barry occupying the centre forward slot, while Barry Coleman lined out at wing back, allowing Stephen Cronin to team up with Owen Manning at midfield.

Kilkenny, likewise, didn’t line out as listed on the match programme, and John Tennyson, wearing the No. 3 shirt, filled the centre back berth, with Donncha Cody slotting in at left corner back, and Ian Dalton taking over from Tennyson at full back.

The decision to move Tennyson, tipped to graduate to senior ranks in the very near future, out of his customary post threatened to have serious consequences for Kilkenny as Kevin Canty was very quick to make his presence felt at full forward for Cork against Ian Dalton.

At any rate, Canty had the ball in the net inside five minutes, first-timing an unstoppable shot home after Asaki O’hAilpin had helped to to create the chance.

Preceded by a fine point from his Valley Rovers’ clubmate Owen Manning, Canty’s goal was just the boost that Cork required to put it up to the hot favourites, and, as things transpired, they managed to maintain an advantage for the rest of the first-half.

They were 1-2 to 0-2 to the good after O’hAilpin again soared high to meet a delivery from Maurice O’Sullivan, and the ball broke to Canty, who flashed over a good score in the 14th minute.

Wing forward Ronan Conway got in on the scoring act to make it 1-3 to 0-4 seven minutes later, but Cork had a lucky escape shortly afterwards when ‘keeper, Eoin O’Sullivan, allowed a probing delivery from Kilkenny midfielder Pat Hartley to slip from his grasp, and Rory Wall failed to apply the finishing touch.

Ultimately, O’Sullivan was penalised for lying on the ball, allowing Richie Power to cut the gap to the minimum again, but it must have been a source of concern for Kilkenny that their only score from play at that stage had come from impressive midfielder Hartley.

Full back Niall Horgan, Shane O’Neill in the left corner, and Brian Clifford at left half back were key figures in keeping the much-vaunted Kilkenny attack in check before the break, but Cork’s normally inspirational centre-back Michael Aherne didn’t have things all his own way against Richie Power.

It was much the same story, however, at the other end where Brendan Barry worked hard to keep Kilkenny pivot Tennyson fully occupied, and, with Kevin Canty, Ronan Conway, who picked off two excellent points, and, to a lesser extent, Maurice O’Sullivan showing up well at different stages, Cork looked to have a bit more to offer in attack in the first half.

Although Richie Power blazed a late goal chance over the bar for Kilkenny, it would be fair to say that Cork deserved to go in at the break leading by 1-5 to 0-7.

There was to be no change in the general pattern of the play immediately after half time, and Cork almost goaled in the 34th. minute when Kilkenny ‘keeper, Colm Grant, did well to divert a shot from Maurice O’Sullivan outside the posts.

Michael Aherne pointed the resultant ‘45’ to push Cork 1-7 to 0-7 ahead, and Kilkenny appeared to be in trouble.

Cork failed to keep the momentum going, however, not least because of the grip that Kilkenny gained in the half back line where Donncha Cody made a huge impact on switching from the left corner to the right wing

Cody completely snuffed out the threat from Ronan Conway, and John Tennyson grew in stature also at centre back, while Michael Fennelly and the excellent Pat Hartley took complete control at midfield, an area in which Cork had struggled to some extent from the very start..

As the tide began to flow firmly in Kilkenny’s favour, Richie Power pointed three frees on the trot to tie things up, 0-10 to 1-7, by the 41st minute.

And the signs began to look increasingly ominous for Cork when Kilkenny, with Richie Power growing more and more influential on the ‘40, tacked on the next three points from play.

Although Maurice O’Sullivan, who was about the only Cork forward to look the part in the second half, replied with a point from a free in the 46th minute, Kilkenny continued to dictate matters in the last quarter when Eoin Guinan provided most support for Richie Power in a restructured attack.

Kilkenny looked ready to move clear of the danger zone after a Guinan point made it 0-15 to 1-8 with under nine minutes to play, but Niall Horgan, Shane O’Neill and Brian Clifford continued to give it their all at the back to ensure that Cork remained in with a shout until the finish.

After Maurice O’Sullivan did the spadework for the goal from effective substitute Diarmuid Dorris, however, Cork never threatened to notch another score, and Kilkenny held out for a victory in a game that seldom reached any great heights.

Scorers — Kilkenny: R Power 0-10 (0-8 frees), P Hartley and E Guinan 0-2 each, J Fitzpatrick 0-1.

Cork: K Canty 1-1, D Dorris 1-0, M O’Sullivan 0-3 frees, R Conway 0-2, M Aherne free, and O Manning 0-1 each.

Teams — Kilkenny: C Grant; S Cadogan, I Dalton, D Cody; P O’Donovan, J Tennyson, D Prendergast; P Hartley, M Fennelly; D McCormack, R Power, A Healy; R Wall, J Fitzpatrick, E Guinan. Subs: M Nolan for McCormack, A Murphy for Healy.

Cork: E O’Sullivan (Carrigaline); E O’Sullivan (Ballyhea), N Horgan (Glen Rovers), S O’Neill (Bishopstown); B Coleman (Ballyhea), M Aherne (Ballinhassig), B Clifford (Lisgoold); S Cronin (St. Mary’s), O Manning (Valley Rovers); M Harrington (Douglas), B Barry (Killeagh), R Conway (Bishopstown); M O’Sullivan (Ballyhea), K Canty (Valley Rovers), A Ó hAilpín (Na Piarsaigh). Subs: M Allen (Ballygiblin) for Harrington, D Lucey (Bandon) for Cronin, D Dorris (Glen Rovers) for Conway, A O’Connor (Muintir Bhaire) for Allen (injured).

Ref: B Kelly (Westmeath)