Rebels up against it as Cats chase Holy Grail

CORK coach Johnny Keane yesterday outlined the magnitude of the task confronting his charges in tomorrow’s All-Ireland IHC final clash with Kilkenny at Semple Stadium, Thurles.

“Cork only narrowly defeated Kilkenny in extra-time in last year’s final. Under the rules of the competition we had to parade a whole new side this season, while Kilkenny were able to field the same team that went so close.

“As a consequence we are under no illusions as to the size of the challenge facing us. The biggest motivating factor in our favour, however, is that we don’t want to be the first team to lose to Kilkenny who are going in search of the Holy Grail - winning four All-Ireland hurling titles in the one year,” said Keane.

Cork defeated Limerick, Tipperary and Antrim en-route to the decider and according to Keane: “we went further than we expected, but that is not to say that we are content to rest on our laurels. We are only an hour away from winning the All-Ireland and we are going to give it everything we have got,” he said.

Keane was particularly pleased with his side’s performance against Tipperary in the Munster final. “We played very well on that occasion but, unfortunately, since then we have lost the services of our two Blackrock players, Paul McGrath and Colin O’Reilly, because of injury. They are two talented forwards and, as everyone knows, good forwards are hard to come-by.”

Keane felt Cork struggled against Antrim in last weekend’s semi-final. “This was not one of our better games. Perhaps we were a bit over-confident but we scored goals at crucial stages which carried us through eventually,” he disclosed.

Cork have had three training sessions since then and are “really up” for tomorrow’s showdown against a highly-rated Kilkenny side spearheaded by senior squad members Ritchie Power and Diarmuid Mackey. “I have received very good reports of this Kilkenny team and I know it is an old cliché, but every member of our side will have to perform at the peak if we are to come out on top,” said Keane.

Keane says the bookmakers have installed Kilkenny as 15/8-on favourites but he believes if the players’ attitude is right and they play to their full potential “we will be there or thereabout.”

However, he stressed that Cork will have to perform as well as they did in the Munster final to accomplish, what would be a prestigious achievement.

Indeed to put back-to-back All-Ireland Intermediate titles together with two different teams would be a truly outstanding feat. But Kilkenny, with so much at stake, will be up for it.

CORK: A. Nash; J. Crowley, L. Hayes, R. McCarthy; B. Walsh, T. Lordan, D. Fitzgerald; T. Healy, J. Olden; J. Russell, D. Dineen, B. O’Dwyer; E. Conway, R. Doherty, S. Hayes.

KILKENNY: R. O’Neill; C. O’Neill, S. Lannigan, P. Costello; J. Tennyson, J. Costello, J. O’Neill; R. Power, C. Herrity; D. Buggy, P. Cleere, B. Phelan; M. Grace, J. Power, D. Mackey.

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