It may be the calm before the storm, with the senior final eight days later, but if both sides measure up to their potential then this intermediate showdown should provide top-notch fare.
If incentive is a key ingredient for success, then the Cats are already halfway to lifting the title. Twice in successive years, they’ve been defeated by Cork in the final, losing the 2003 decider to the rebels by a solitary point and going down again the following year in a replay.
“There will be no lacking in commitment, no lacking in incentive either,” said manager Maurice Power.
However, the Carrickshock man is adamant that a repeat of their semi-final display against Galway won’t be nearly good enough.
“Our first-half display against Galway was very poor, we were as bad as them. A repeat of that display won’t be nearly sufficient against a supremely-skilled Cork team,” said Power.
However, Kilkenny upped the tempo of that first-half display several notches and it is a measure of the side’s potential that they had a whopping 14 points to spare (2-15 to 0-7) in the end. The Kilkenny camp is not without its problems on the eve of the final with doubts remaining about team captain David Carroll, while Niall Kennedy is definitely ruled out with an ankle injury. If the skipper is unable to play, his loss will be incalculable and could mean a call-up for the Conahy Shamrocks clubman Denis Kelly.
Carroll, however, is being given every chance to prove his fitness and a final decision won’t be made until shortly before the throw-in.
Throughout the field, the Cats have players of experience and ability with the experienced Sean Cummins and the unrelated Joyces, Ger and Kieran fronting a cool and confident net minder in James Stephens’ Derek Brennan. Conor O’Loughlin and former minor star Patrick Hogan will be the likely midfield partnership, with Clara’s Austin Murphy set to lead an attack that will also include free-scoring forwards in Alan Healy and Michael Murphy. The Cats were at their free-scoring best in an 18-point demolition of All-Ireland champions Wexford in the Leinster final, 2-20 to 0-8. But as they’re without an All-Ireland victory at this level since 1995 — and having lost four finals since — their resolve to end that sequence isn’t difficult to appreciate.
: D Brennan; S Cummins, G Joyce, C Joyce; P Hartley, D Carroll, A McCarthy; P Hogan, B Phelan; E O’Donoghue, A Murphy, C O’Loughlin; G Nolan, M Murphy, A Healy.