Billy Drennan dazzles once again as Kilkenny defeat Cork and book League final date with Limerick
Kilkenny 2-22 Cork 0-22
Kilkenny will face Limerick in a mouth-watering Division 1 HL League final after goals proved the difference when overcoming Cork in Nowlan Park this afternoon.
These sides met at the same stage last year with Cork prevailing but the Cats exacted revenge as a goal in either half from Martin Keoghan and Billy Drennan booked an early-season date with the Treaty.
Pat Ryan's Rebels suffered their first defeat of the season with five weeks now left before their Munster opener away to Clare at the end of April.
Kilkenny raced into an early lead with Richie Hogan, making his first start for the Cats in nearly two in a half years, firing over after 35 seconds while Drennan quickly followed up with two placed balls.
His accuracy was impeccable in the opening half as he fired over frees at will and a trio of placed balls helped them into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead after 12 minutes.
Cork struggled for traction in the opening quarter with Kilkenny's movement upsetting the structure of their half-back but they slowly steadied to the task with young gun Pádraig Power, who notched two first-half points, making a decent impression at No 14.
They narrowed the gap to two, 0-8 to 0-6, with Shane Kingston and Conor Cahalane firing over from play but they were soon in trouble at the other end with Keoghan blasting to the net in the 22nd minute.
That came after great work from Drennan and Paddy Deegan - who gave a lovely dummy handpass to set Keoghan free - but the Rebels crucially fired over from the resultant puck-out with Cahalane on the mark again before Jack O'Connor pointed.
It was tit-for-tat from there to half-time with Keoghan's goal the difference at the break as the home side led by three, 1-12 to 0-12.
Kilkenny continued to threaten the Cork goal upon the resumption and they got their rewards in the 46th minute when Drennan coolly slotted away a penalty after being fouled by Damien Cahalane en route to goal, 2-14 to 0-14.
The teams got to know each other just seconds later with a dust up resulting in four yellow cards (one each for Kilkenny duo Timmy Clifford and Paddy Deegan and the same for Rob Downey and Timmy O'Connell) while Eoin Downey was shown a straight red by referee John Keenan.
It looked like Kilkenny were going to power home when twice extending their lead to eight points but Cork fought on despite their numerical disadvantage.
They had the gap back to four in injury time, 2-20 to 0-22, but Gearóid Dunne made a big impact off the bench for the Cats while Drennan kept the scoreboard ticking over as they prevailed by six points.
Kilkenny will now face All-Ireland SHC champions Limerick in a fortnight's time as they bid for Lyng's first piece of silverware as senior boss.
Kilkenny: B Drennan 1-13 (1-0 pen, 8f, 0-4 '65), M Keoghan 1-0, J Donnelly 0-2, A Murphy 0-2, T Clifford 0-1, C Kenny 0-1, C Fogarty 0-1, G Dunne 0-1, R Hogan 0-1
Cork: S Kingston 0-9 (8f), S Barrett 0-3, P Horgan 0-3f, C Cahalane 0-2, P Power 0-2, J O'Connor 0-1, R Downey 0-1, T O'Mahony 0-1
KILKENNY - E Murphy; M Butler, T Walsh, P Walsh; D Corcoran, H Lawlor, D Blanchfield; C Fogarty, A Murphy; J Donnelly, R Hogan, P Deegan; B Drennan, M Keoghan, T Clifford.
Subs: C Kenny for Hogan (50), G Dunne for Clifford (59), N Brennan for A Murphy (68), C Delaney for Corcoran (70), Evan Cody for Butler (72)
CORK - P Collins; N O'Leary, E Downey, D Cahalane; T O'Connell, C Joyce, R Downey; B Roche, E Twomey; C Cahalane, C Lehane, S Barrett; S Kingston, P Power, J O'Connor.
Subs: T O'Mahony for Twomey and P Horgan for O'Connor (both 51), G Millerick for C Cahlanae (53), B Hayes for Power (67)
REF - J Keenan (Wicklow)