No TJ Reid, no problem – new era but same old Kilkenny as Billy Drennan puts Cork to sword

Allianz NHL Division 1 semi-final Kilkenny 2-22, Cork 0-22

Players from both sides tussle during the Hurling League Division 1 semi-final between Kilkenny and Cork at Nowlan Park. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

There may be a new face calling the shots on the sideline, but it’s the same old Kilkenny under Derek Lyng.

Effort and attitude were never questioned during Brian Cody’s record-breaking reign and Lyng has continued where he left off, as they booked their place in the league final.

The Cats got stuck into Cork from the off, with a blistering opening quarter setting the template for success, and for all the Rebels’ pace, they were rarely allowed to build up a head of steam in Nowlan Park yesterday.

A goal in either half from Martin Keoghan and Billy Drennan (penalty) proved the difference. While TJ Reid’s Kilkenny days may be numbered as he turns 36 before the year’s end, his heir apparent in terms of free-taking seems to have arrived in the shape of the eagle-eyed Drennan.

​The Galmoy attacker was blemish free from 13 placed balls – as well as winning the penalty that he converted in the 46th minute – as Lyng looks set to balance his U-20 and senior duties in the coming months.

The biggest test awaits Drennan and Co in a fortnight when they face John Kiely’s Limerick, but it’s one that Lyng is relishing.

“Absolutely, that’s what we want. There’s no point in being here otherwise. We’re playing against a phenomenal team and we’ll have a crack at them. And either way, we’re getting ready for the championship,” Lyng said.

Cork were left in the blocks as they struggled to cope with Kilkenny’s movement – led by the returning Richie Hogan at No 11 – while they were reduced to 14 men on 50 minutes as Eoin Downey was shown a red card for his part in a feisty melee.

Rebel heads could have dropped, with little going right and no sniff of a goal chance, but manager Pat Ryan was buoyed by their fight.

“The one thing I’d say is the fellas are fighting for us and you could see that even in the second half. I’m disappointed in the level of our performance, but we came back,” Ryan said.

Ryan has five weeks before their Munster SHC round-robin opener against Waterford at the end of April, with preparation including a training camp in Johnstown Estate (Enfield) on April 15/16.

The Cork boss is also hoping to have Downey available for that tie.

“We’ll be looking at the video and seeing if we can appeal that because I didn’t see Eoin doing too much. There were 25 fellas involved.

“A fella getting sent off for something like that and he’s going to miss a championship match, it’s totally unfair. They are separate competitions and should be treated that way.”

SCORERS – Kilkenny: B Drennan 1-13 (1-0 pen, 8f, 0-4 ‘65), M Keoghan 1-0, J Donnelly, A Murphy 0-2 each, T Clifford, C Kenny, C Fogarty, G Dunne, R Hogan 0-1 each. Cork: S Kingston 0-9 (8f), P Horgan (3f), S Barrett 0-3 each, C Cahalane, P Power 0-2 each, J O’Connor, R Downey, T O’Mahony 0-1 each.

KILKENNY – E Murphy 7; M Butler 7, T Walsh 7, P Walsh 7; D Corcoran 7, H Lawlor 7, D Blanchfield 8; C Fogarty 8, A Murphy 6; J Donnelly 7, R Hogan 7, P Deegan 7; B Drennan 8, M Keoghan 7, T Clifford 6. Subs: C Kenny 6 for Hogan (50), G Dunne 7 for Clifford (59), N Brennan for A Murphy (68), C Delaney for Corcoran (70), Evan Cody for Butler (72).

CORK: P Collins 7; N O’Leary 6, E Downey 5, D Cahalane 6; T O’Connell 6, C Joyce 6, R Downey 8; B Roche 6, E Twomey 5; C Cahalane 6, C Lehane 5, S Barrett 7; S Kingston 6, P Power 6, J O’Connor 6. Subs: T O’Mahony 7 for Twomey and P Horgan 6 for O’Connor (both 51), G Millerick 6 for C Cahlanae (53), B Hayes for Power (67).

REF – J Keenan (Wicklow)