There's no holding back, you simply go out to win – Cody
SHADOW boxing at the Gaelic Grounds on an afternoon when the old master and young apprentices steered Kilkenny through to another Allianz Hurling League final.
Henry Shefflin's enduring class was evident as the Ballyhale sorcerer sliced over four points from play while also providing some other moments of individual brilliance.
Shefflin's touch was not 100pc, but there were tricks, flicks and scores as a new breed of Kilkenny stars rose to the challenge.
A familiar surname occupied the right half-back position, but it was Pádraig Walsh, not Tommy, lording it on the 40.
Pádraig capped a man-of-the- match display with two points from play and on this evidence, even a nine-time All Star may struggle to fill a championship shirt.
Tommy wasn't even summoned from the bench on an afternoon when Brian Kennedy impressed once again in the full-back line.
And just when they needed it most, John Power rose salmon-like to poach a 53rd-minute goal after plucking goalkeeper Eoin Murphy's lengthy free from the clouds.
"It's the semi-final of the league and obviously the winners are going to play in two weeks' time, which is a great game to be getting. We're happy enough to be playing that game," said Brian Cody afterwards.
As per usual, the Kilkenny boss was not revealing his innermost thoughts, but this has been a productive league campaign for Kilkenny.
The holders have progressed to a May 4 showpiece with Tipperary and found some new players along the way – job done.
And while the standard of fare was well below championship pace, Cody insisted that there had been no holding back on Kilkenny's part.
"Not a hope – not at all. I don't think it's something you can do either. You can pretend you do if you lose. No, there's no holding back. You just go out and try to win the game that you're playing," he said.
Cody declared himself pleased with Kilkenny's second-half display after the Cats had fallen 0-11 to 0-6 behind at the break.
It was business as usual in the dressing-room during the interval, assessing what was good and not so good, before plotting a course forward accordingly.
"Half-time is half-time. You realise that there's a lot of time left in the game. Worried is not the word I'd be using. You'd be just seeing how things go, see how things went in the first half and see what you're trying to do, trying to drive things on for the second half," Cody said.
That they did and he noted: "We got into it early and picked up the pace of it a bit better.
"At the end of the day we worked a bit harder in the second half. We got a good start – a nice few points in a row and we got a goal.
"There was nothing in it at all times. The free at the end could have been a goal. It was a very tight game."
The free that Cody referred to left his opposite number Anthony Cunningham calling for an advantage rule in hurling.
Jonathan Glynn had broken through JJ Delaney's robust challenge, but James McGrath whistled back for a 20-metre free.
Conor Cooney's fierce drive was blocked out by the massed ranks on the Kilkenny goal line and Cunningham said: "David Burke had a shot come off the bar, we were in hard luck there that Johnny Glynn was pulled up there at the finish.
"There are always going to be close calls, but I think that one was very unfair – I think at that stage of the match we were looking for the advantage.
"We failed to take a few chances and Kilkenny were going to come back. There was a fair breeze out there, it may not have looked it.
"At the same time we are disappointed (to have lost). It's a game we could have won and had enough chances.
"We did well in defence and midfield for most of the match and a lot of good play up front as well, but we will have to be a bit sharper."
Cunningham said that the advantage rule in operation for Saturday's All-Ireland U-21 football semi-finals is something that he would like to see in the small-ball code.
"I'm not in any way being down on referees, but I think the advantage rule yesterday in the All-Ireland semi-finals was excellent," he said.
"I'm not one to talk about specific referees, but I think the advantage rule helps the referees and helps the game.
"There were probably one or two chances that could have gone the other way.
"Look, there are always going to be close calls and we don't want to talk about referees, but it (advantage) can help referees."
Cunningham also pointed to a haul of nine wides in the first half as a factor in his side's defeat.
"A few of those chances were rushed and we missed two goal chances in the first half and then, invariably, they dry up," he said.
"Kilkenny had a strong second-half performance and they had a lot of experience there in that team."