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Brothers' torture on huge day of grief

THEIR three-in-a-row dream, their 29th title and the all-time All-Ireland bragging rights, everything may have been lost in those whirlwind, nightmarish 75 minutes.

Yet Kilkenny's squad and management, and two players in particular, will wake up to a far harsher reality this morning which manager Brian Cody said should put yesterday's defeat into context.

"We have won three All-Irelands in the last five years," Cody said. "This is a phenomenal achievement for the lads and I think it's fair to say that in everything we won we had respect for ourselves, the association and our opponents and we are going to lose in the very same way.

"Obviously the lads are devastated and shattered but there's two of our players going home to bury their father and the fact that they were here today, well you don't buyloyalty or spirit like that.

"Their torture is worse than ours at the end of this day and our thoughts are with them," Cody added stonily as questions rained down upon him about their shock defeat.

Losing a game, albeit one of such import, will surely seem trivial in the coming days.

When the Kilkenny players met early yesterday morning to get their luxury coach to Dublin, they learned the terrible news that their teammates, Glenmore brothers Richie and Paddy Mullally, had suffered the most devastating loss overnight; the death of their father Richard who had been ill for some time.

The bereaved brothers honoured their late father's wish, travelling up to Dublin privately with loved ones to meet up with their teammates during the warm-up in Parnell Park beforehand.

What was said between them remained unspoken but there is no doubt that the kinship of sport and the GAA, particularly hurling's tightly-knit brotherhood within and outside of Kilkenny, is something that the Mullally family can trust to help tide them through the dark days ahead.

Kilkenny did not wish to intrude on or trivialise the family's grief yesterday by making any connection between it and their performance but it was one of two reasons why this All-Ireland final will be a memory none of this team will wish to ever re-visit.

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What happened on the field?

"In my opinion the best team always wins an All-Ireland final and that's what happened today," their manager said. "You get 70 minutes to do it and fair play to Cork today, they proved themselves and excellent team today."

Was Cork's loss at this stage last year a factor in sharpening their hunger? Cody insisted no. "I don't ever believe this thing about one team wanting it more than the other. We wanted it monumentally," he stressed. "Just as much as they did."

At what stage did he think it slipped?

"Well, in the last quarter of an hour there but you never give up hope because you always think you might get a goal. Henry almost got one there, the ball just didn't cross the line essentially but the fact that it was saved also influenced them further to drive it on.

"But I congratulate Cork absolutely and totally," Cody insisted. "We tried our damndest, we were knocked out in Leinster, regrouped, came back and went through some tough games to get here but on the day Cork were two good for us and there's no shame in that."

Like DJ Carey, the team's five-year manager said he had no idea, in the immediate aftermath, about what he will do in the future.

Carey said their inability to take their scores in the first half, in contrast to Cork taking theirs in the second, was definitely the root of Kilkenny's problems.

"Maybe it proves how good we were in the past four or five years when we didn't make those mistakes," Carey said. "Because if you don't take every chance you will be punished at the other end. Good luck to Cork, they took their chances when they needed them and in the end they pulled away.

"This is not the time to think about the future for myself, we'll see," he said when asked about retirement.

"But I think the team itself is very young, there's only myself and James McGarry over 30 and I've no doubt that Kilkenny, as a team, will be back."

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