Kilkenny manager Brian Cody praised opponents Cork after they ended the Cats' winning streak in this year's Allianz Hurling League with a 1-17 to 1-15 defeat.
Yesterday's Division 1A clash saw the All-Ireland champions lose their grip on a 1-10 to 1-8 half-time lead as top scorer Pat Horgan (0-8) guided the Rebels home.
Speaking after the game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cody admitted: "Cork were definitely the better team, could have won by more.
"Their young lads were very impressive. We were probably lucky to lose by only two points or whatever it was in the end, Cork could have won by more.
"Cork never surprise me with their ability to play hurling. It's a good result for them, they're the makings of a very, very serious team very quickly."
Jimmy Barry-Murphy's men have moved up to second in the table, a point behind table toppers Kilkenny who will need to get a result next weekend against Galway in order to book their semi-final spot.
It must have been heartening for the Cork management to see the level of performance delivered by forward starlet Conor Lehane and Leaving Cert student Darren Sweetnam, who dovetailed well with another young gun Lorcan McLoughlin in midfield.
Cody decided to give a league debut to corner back Willie Phelan yesterday, wing back Kieran Joyce made his first league start and reserve goalkeeper Eoin Murphy was tried out at corner forward.
Rather than pointing the finger of blame at any individuals, the James Stephens clubman insisted that the panel will have to take collective responsibility for the below-par display.
"It wasn't just the fellas who came in, we were out-hurled throughout the field. We were playing second fiddle in nearly every position," added Cody.
"It wasn't that fellas weren't regulars, Cork were just very good. I'd be disappointed with the display, disappointed with the result.
"But, at the same time, you can't expect to go through the full league undefeated. Coming to Cork any time is a big ask, today it was too big an ask."