A crisp game on a chilly St Valentine’s evening at Pairc Ui Rinn kindled towards the end, with Cork scrambling two goals to put visitors Kilkenny under pressure.
The home side might even have nicked a dramatic win, but a last-gasp Luke O’Farrell shot flashed the wrong side of the post and the Cats picked up their first win of the NHL Division 1A.
Understrength or not, Kilkenny were far hungrier than Cork and outworked their hosts from start to finish. With a dominant defensive spine of Paul Murphy and Ciaran Joyce, the Cats had a solid platform which was converted into scores by an impressive Richie Hogan, supported well by Mark Kelly.
The game’s first goal came on nine minutes, when Walter Walsh forced a good save from Cork ‘keeper Anthony Nash, but Kilkenny full-forward Jonjo Farrell was first to react, diving in to tip the loose ball over the line.
That made it 1-3 to 0-3 and while Daniel Kearney and Mark Ellis came into the game more for Cork and began to feed the forwards in red, the home side couldn’t close the gap - Kilkenny had three of the last four points of the first half to leave them 1-11 to 0-12 ahead at the break.
They outscored Cork by five points to one in the third quarter, however, and at one stage led 1-19 to 0-14, Hogan and Mark Kelly impressing.
With ten minutes left, however, substitute O’Farrell nudged home a Cormac Murphy delivery to rally Cork. Conor Lehane pulled first-time to goal in injury time, but even though O’Farrell came close to winning in the last second, anything other than a Kilkenny win would have been moonlight robbery.
Scorers for Cork: P. Horgan 0-9 (0-8 fs); C. Lehane 1-2; L. O’Farrell 1-0; A. Cadogan 0-2; P. O’Sullivan, S. Harnedy, D. Kearney and B. Cooper 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilkenny: R. Hogan 0-11 (0-7 fs, 0-1 65); M. Kelly 0-4; W. Walsh 0-3, J. Farrell 1-0; P. Walsh, M. Ruth, L. Ryan and K. Joyce 0-1 each.
Cork: A Nash; D Cahalane, C Joyce, C O’Sullivan; C Murphy, M Ellis, A Walsh; D Kearney, P Cronin; S Harnedy, B Cooper, C Lehane; A Cadogan, P O’Sullivan, P Horgan.
Subs: L. McLoughlin for Cronin, 45; L. O’Farrell for O’Sullivan and C. McCarthy for Cooper, 48; S. O’Neill for Cahalane, 57; S. Moylan for Cadogan, 65.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; T Keogh, P Murphy, J Tyrrell; B Kennedy, K Joyce, C Buckley; C Fogarty, L Ryan; P Walsh, W Walsh, M Ruth; M Kelly, J Farrell, R Hogan.
Subs: G. Brennan for Fogarty, 16.
Referee: J. Owens (Wexford).