Hogan turns tide to drive Kilkenny back in the hunt for biggest prize
Kilkenny 2-27 Cork 3-18
Cork knew all about the pain Kilkenny teams inflict on opposition who let their performance levels drop, but they did it anyway and suffered the inevitable consequences.
They returned for the second half leading by two points (2-10 to 1-11), but instead of maintaining the drive and energy that had characterised their first-half efforts, they suffered a catastrophic power failure in the third quarter.
A pointed free by Patrick Horgan was their only score in that period, whereas Kilkenny added 1-8, the goal coming from Richie Hogan a minute after the restart.
So what happened Cork in that quarter? Kilkenny certainly raised their game, but instead of going with them, Cork backed off. Their work rate dropped, their decision-making disintegrated into an embarrassing shambles and their puck-out strategies malfunctioned.
They were led into a state of bewildered confusion as they watched Kilkenny bank a large deposit, which left them well-prepared for a downturn. It came early in the final quarter when Horgan's third goal ignited a Cork revival which cut the eight-point deficit to two inside four minutes.
Horgan's goal was typical of the inspirational role he filled on a day when he took his personal tally to 3-10 (2-2 from play).
Alan Cadogan was an accomplished aid, while Seamus Harnedy had some good moments, but elsewhere the Cork attack were kept under strict supervision by a resolute Kilkenny defence.
Still, with Horgan and Cadogan scoring 3-14 between them, Cork would have fancied their chances of reaching a third successive semi-final if the defence were reasonably secure.
However, as in previous seasons, they came up short again, conceding 2-27 to opposition who had no fewer than 12 different scorers, led by TJ Reid on 0-10 (all frees).
Kilkenny's response to having their lead cut to two points after 57 minutes was straight from the copybook that has served the county so well for so long.
They dug in even deeper, scrapping for every ball with relentless intent and were rewarded with a series of points, some from half chances. It was Kilkenny at their economical best, especially in the last five minutes when they scored four unanswered points.
Three of them came from subs, underlining another significant difference between the sides.
Walter Walsh (3), Billy Ryan (2) and Bill Sheehan (1) scored six points between them, whereas Cork's subs brought no improvement.
Three of them were in attack as replacements for Daniel Kearney, Conor Lehane and Luke Meade, a trio from whom much was expected. They never got into the game and Lehane and Kearney were gone by the 54th minute.
Still, with Horgan and Cadogan going so well, Kilkenny had plenty to worry about.
It would have been even harder on their defence if more ball was fired in towards the deadly Rebel duo, but for some inexplicable reason, Cork persisted in trying to work through the lines, rather than opting for a direct approach.
They did the same with some of their puck-outs, a ploy that also failed as Kilkenny forwards applied heavy pressure, even managing to snatch a few scores after dispossessing Corkmen carrying the ball out of defence. The psychological impact of those turnovers was massive in a contest which exploded into life straight from the throw-in.
Horgan's quick point was followed in the third minute by a Cork penalty which the Glen Rovers man despatched to the net. They were denied a second goal a minute later when Eoin Murphy made a super save from Cadogan.
With their defence looking uneasy, Kilkenny were facing an early test and their response was most impressive. Colin Fennelly fired in a goal and they also scored four points to lead by three after ten minutes.
It was close all the way for the rest of the half, with Cork nudging ahead in the 28th minute when Horgan scored his second goal, which set his side up for a two-point half-time lead.
Their supporters in the crowd of 44,135 would never have expected such a dramatic collapse on the restart but, for whatever reason, Cork were way off the pace in the third quarter, allowing Kilkenny to build what ultimately proved to be a match-winning lead.
Limerick await Kilkenny in the semi-final on Saturday week and while the All-Ireland champions are favourites, they know how difficult it will be against Cody's men.
They ran Limerick to two points in last year's quarter-final and will feel that if they can disrupt the champions' running game, they can book a place in the final for the first time since 2016.
Richie Hogan's return is a major plus for Kilkenny. He scored 1-2 from play yesterday, his goal serving as a classic example of the opportunism they were missing in his absence.
He was replaced in the 50th minute, presumably because his energy levels were dropping after putting in so much hard work.
Having missed so much action this year, yesterday's game will bring him on, which is good news for Kilkenny ahead of the big clash with Limerick on Saturday week.
Happy times for Kilkenny then, as they continue on the All-Ireland trail while Cork are left wondering how long more they will remain the 'nearly' team.
The answer probably rests in what will be a search for some new defenders for next year. They are badly needed.
Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (10f); R Hogan 1-2; C Fennelly 1-1; W Walsh 0-3; C Fogarty, B Ryan, J Donnelly 0-2 each, R Leahy, A Mullen, C Browne, E Murphy (f), B Sheehan 0-1 each. Cork: P Horgan 3-10 (8f, 1-0 pen); A Cadogan 0-4; S Harnedy 0-2; M Coleman, D Fitzgibbon 0-1 each.
Kilkenny - E Murphy 8; P Murphy 7, H Lawlor 7, J Holden 6; C Fogarty 8, P Walsh 7, P Deegan 7; C Browne 7, C Buckley 5; A Mullen 7, TJ Reid 7, R Leahy 7; J Donnelly 8, C Fennelly 8, R Hogan 8. Subs: W Walsh 8 for Buckley (h-t), B Sheehan 7 for Hogan (50), J Maher 7 for Browne (57), B Ryan 7 for Donnelly (63).
Cork - A Nash 6; S O'Donoghue 5, E Cadogan 6, N O'Leary 5; M Ellis 6, S McDonnell 7, M Coleman 6; B Cooper 6, D Fitzgibbon 7; L Meade 5, S Harnedy 7, D Kearney 5; A Cadogan 8, P Horgan 9, C Lehane 5. Subs: R O'Flynn 6 for Lehane (46), S Kingston 5 for Kearney (47), T O'Mahony 6 for Cooper (50), D Cahalane 6 for O'Donoghue (54),C Joyce for Meade (63).
Ref - J Owens (Wexford0