This year’s Division 1 final will be a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland decider as Kilkenny were too good for Cork in an error-strewn semi-final in UPMC Nowlan Park.
Once again, Billy Drennan’s flawless marksmanship was a highlight in a disappointing game which previously unbeaten Cork will be ruing for a variety of reasons.
Eoin Downey picked up a red card and now risks missing the county’s Munster SHC opening game against Waterford in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on April 30. Downey was sent to the line for his involvement in a row, which the Central Competitions Control Committee may yet seek to review.
Down a man, Cork’s challenge looked forlorn. Up 1-12 to 0-12 at the turnaround, Kilkenny went six up in the 46th minute after Drennan composed himself having been fouled by Damien Cahalane for a penalty and struck the ball to the corner of the net.
Downey was dismissed in the 50th minute for his involvement in the melee as his brother Robert, Tommy O’Connell, Timmy Clifford and Paddy Deegan were booked.
Kilkenny would have been out of touch had Patrick Collins not denied Paddy Deegan a goal in the 56th minute. Cork reduced the deficit to four points in additional time but Eoin Murphy had a quiet day in the Kilkenny goal and Gearóid Dunne and Drennan’s eighth converted free finished out the game.
Kilkenny led from the first minute to the 38th when John Keenan blew for half-time. They developed a three-point advantage in the opening five minutes and were four up in the 12th minute before Cork began to settle.
Seven of Kilkenny’s first eight points came from placed balls, all but from Billy Drennan frees, but scores from Shane Kingston and Conor Cahalane had Cork within two points by the 21st minute.
Kilkenny’s second score from play, though, turned out to be a Martin Keoghan goal a minute later. Originating from a block on a Cork defender, Deegan realised a goal was on, ran forward to feed Keoghan who applied the finishing touch.
Cork responded positively with the next two points although they were cancelled out by a quick John Donnelly brace. However, they were back within touching distance of Kilkenny before the break with a couple of Shane Kingston frees.
B. Drennan (1-13, 1-0 pen, 8 frees, 4 65s); M. Keoghan (1-0); J. Donnelly, A. Murphy (0-2 each); R. Hogan, T. Clifford, C. Kenny, C. Fogarty, G. Dunne (0-1 each).
S. Kingston (0-9, 8 frees); S. Barrett, P. Horgan (frees) (0-3 each); C. Cahalane, P. Power (0-2 each); J. O’Connor. R. Downey, T. O’Mahony (0-1 each).
: E. Murphy; M. Butler, T. Walsh, P. Walsh; D. Corcoran (c), H. Lawlor, D. Blanchfield; C. Fogarty, A. Murphy; R. Hogan, J. Donnelly, P. Deegan; B. Drennan, M. Keoghan, T. Clifford.
Subs for Kilkenny: C. Kenny for R. Hogan (50); G. Dunne for T. Clifford (59); N. Brennan for A. Murphy (68); C. Delaney for D. Corcoran (70); E. Cody for M. Butler (70+3).
: P. Collins; N. O’Leary (c), E. Downey, D. Cahalane; T. O’Connell, C. Joyce, R. Downey; B. Roche, E. Twomey; C. Cahalane, C. Lehane, S. Barrett; S. Kingston, P. Power, J. O’Connor.
Subs for Cork: T. O’Mahony for E. Twomey, P. Horgan for J. O’Connor (both 50); E. Roche for C. Cahalane (53); B. Hayes for P. Power (67).
Red card: E. Downey (50, straight).
Referee: J. Keenan (Wicklow).