Victory to Kilkenny in this NHL Division 1A clash with Cork, 8,274 in attendance on a chilly afternoon in Walsh Park as the home side’s goals gave them the platform for the win.
The visitors defended the dressing-room end in the first half, and both sides had personnel changes before the throw-in, with Billy Ryan and Kevin Kelly coming in for Martin Keoghan and Richie Hogan for the home side, while Cork midfielder Bill Cooper was replaced by Conor Cahalane.
It was 0-2 apiece after a low-key opening ten minutes, Aidan Walsh and Patrick Horgan (free) to Kevin Kelly’s two frees: both sides hit some poor wides as they acclimatised.
Newcomer Declan Dalton’s sideline cut gave Cork the lead before Conor Delaney and Horgan swapped points: 0-4 to 0-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Three dead balls from Kelly gave the Cats the lead and after a Horgan point the home side goaled. A clever Billy Ryan lay-off on 26 minutes opened the Cork defence and sub Richie Leahy netted.
Horgan pointed twice in response and it was 1-6 to 0-7, the game livening up somewhat. Billy Ryan and Horgan swapped points again but a Horgan free and Cormac Murphy’s late effort made it 0-10 to 1-8 at the half.
John Donnelly and Murphy swapped points on the resumption before Billy Ryan fielded cleanly and soloed through to goal on 40 minutes: a James Maher point immediately afterwards and it was 2-10 to 0-11.
Kilkenny were now on top and when Kelly nailed a difficult free with 20 minutes left it was 2-13 to 0-13. Cork needed a goal to make it interesting but the Cats were able to take points to maintain their lead: a terrific Eoin Murphy save from Horgan helped Kilkenny preserve their advantage.
Scorers for Kilkenny: K. Kelly (0-8, 1 65, 7 frees); B. Ryan (1-1); R. Leahy (1-0); J. Donnelly (0-3); C. Delaney (0-2); G. Aylward, C. Fogarty, C. Browne, P. Deegan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: P. Horgan (0-10, 5 frees); C. Murphy (0-4); D. Kearney, A. Walsh, D. Dalton (sideline) (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: E. Murphy, P. Murphy, H. Lawlor, T. Walsh, C. Delaney, P. Deegan, E. Morrissey, J. Maher, C. Fogarty (c), J. Donnelly, G. Aylward, G. Malone, G. Aylward, B. Ryan, L. Scanlon, K. Kelly.
Subs: R. Leahy for Malone (inj, 16); C. Browne for Maher (44); L. Blanchfield for Scanlon (57); P. Lyng for Aylward (64).
CORK: A. Nash, S. McDonnell, D. Cahalane, C. O’Sullivan, C. Joyce, T. O’Mahony, S. O’Donoghue, C. Cahalane, C. Murphy, D. Kearney (c), D. Dalton, L. Meade, J. Coughlan, A. Walsh, P. Horgan.
Subs: J. O’Connor for Coughlan (HT); C. Lehane for C. Cahalane (42); D. Lowney for C. O’Sullivan (50); M. O’Halloran for Meade (62)
Referee: J. Owens (Wexford)
Before the game there was a minute’s silence for the late Michael ‘Mick’ O’Neill, popular groundsman at Nowlan Park.