They were made to earn it, however, as a battling St Pat’s fought back from a very poor start and brought it right down to the wire.
Played in terrible conditions, it was CIT straight into their stride, Kilkenny star Colin Fennelly using his pace to drive in from the corner and smash a low drive past Eoin Reilly, inside the first minute.
With four unanswered points (two well-struck frees by Patrick O’Connor, one each from Fennelly and corner-forward Ryan Clifford), CIT built on that lead and led 1-4 to 0-0 after quarter of an hour, playing into the wind.
That scoreline was flattering, however. With late call-up Tom Breen causing problems inside, St Pat’s had created a plethora of chances but eight wides in that period told a tale. Eventually they got off the mark, a point in the 20th minute from free-taker Paudie Kehoe, and from there to the end, they were actually the better side. Three points they added before the break (Breen with two, centre-forward Johnjoe Farrell with the other), against two from CIT (frees by O’Connor and Clifford), to leave five between them (1-6 to 0-4).
The second half was when the Kilkenny-powered St Pat’s really came to the fore. Points from Farrell and Kehoe, against another Clifford free, reduced the deficit to 1-7 to 0-6, and in the 37th minute, real trouble for the home side. A brilliant pass by St Pat’s Paudie Kehoe found the unmarked Ian Duggan in the right corner and the Mullinavat marksman beat Tommy Quaid from point-blank range.
Bafflingly, though, with the strong wind at their backs, CIT were playing with a withdrawn attacker, leaving the dangerous Fennelly isolated up front and St Patrick’s with an extra defender to cut off the supply. It made no sense, and from a situation in which CIT had looked like they were coasting to victory, now it was game on.
CIT hit back, yet another Clifford pointed free, but not for the first time in this campaign St Pat’s dug in, Breen still causing problems inside. They were level in the 52nd minute, Kehoe converting two frees on Breen. CIT edged ahead again, Clifford’s fourth pointed free after Fennelly drew the foul, but this was almost immediately negated when, at the other end, Kehoe notching his fifth point from placed balls. With Five minutes left, conditions making good hurling impossible, it was very much a case of who wanted it more. And this was when CIT showed true grit. A muscular point from Colm Casey put them a point up with four minutes left in normal time. They toughed out four minutes added time, Clifford with the final say with a free from 45m on the right sideline.
Scorers for CIT: R Clifford 0-6 (0-5f); C Fennelly 1-1; P O’Connor 0-3(0-3f); C Casey 0-1.
Scorers for St. Patrick’s: P Kehoe 0-5 (0-5f); G Spollen 1-0; T Breen 0-2; JJ Farrell 0-2.
(Cork unless stated): T Quaid (Limerick); J O’Callaghan, E Dillon, J O’Herlihy; S McDonnell, R Cashman, C Leahy; S White, L McLoughlin; P O’Connor (Clare), C Casey, M Bowles; M O’Sullivan, C Fennelly (Kilkenny), R Clifford.
Subs: P Gould for White (43); S Corcoran for O’Sullivan (48); E Cronin for Casey (58); S Daniels (Waterford) for O’Herlihy (inj. 59).
E Reilly (Laois); D Wafer (Kilkenny), A Murphy (Kilkenny), N Ring (Dublin); M Quilty (Dublin), B Travers (Wexford), C Whelan (Waterford); L Ryan (Kilkenny), I Whelan (Kilkenny); C Maher (Kilkenny), JJ Farrell (Kilkenny), A Dermody (Kilkenny); G Spollen (Offaly), P Kehoe (Carlow), T Breen (Kilkenny).
Subs: N Breen (Wexford) for Dermody (43); B Timmons (Tipperary) for Spollen (48). Blood sub: Spollen for Duggan 50/52.
Referee: P Casey (Waterford).