Cork 1-24 Kilkenny 0-24: New season, new stadium, new manager: Cork collected their first NHL points on Saturday night, in their first competitive game in the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Three points separated them from Kilkenny after a free-flowing game in front of 16,189 spectators, the home side outscoring the Cats five points to two in the closing stages.
It was a game both sides could take positives from: Cork surfed the boost of an early Shane Kingston goal and closed out a game calmly, while Kilkenny blooded several new players and hit 24 scores over the hour.
“We were well in the hunt,” said Kilkenny boss Brian Cody afterwards.
“We were competitive right through the game and it was score for score a lot of the time. Cork got an early goal, and that goal divided us at the finish.
“We’d be very happy with a lot of the things that happened out there, obviously everybody from Kilkenny is disappointed, the two points matter, but we had a very inexperienced team and they did acquit themselves fairly well.”
The Kilkenny man’s synopsis was accurate. Inside the opening minutes Shane Kingston snapped a ground stroke past Eoin Murphy — who would pull off two superb saves later in the game — and that goal was ultimately the cushion for Cork.
Kilkenny were quick to the pitch of the game, though, and their appetite for work isn’t affected by changes in personnel. They turned Cork over far too often in the first half for manager John Meyler’s satisfaction, and thanks to Richie Reid and Alan Murphy, they led 0-15 to 1-11 at the half.
“I was delighted with the second-half performance,” said Meyler.
“We upped it there, Conor (Lehane) got a few nice frees, Jack O’Connor came in, Tim O’Mahony played well, they’re all young fellas learning their trade.
“We weren’t that sharp in the first half, we had eight turnovers compared to Kilkenny’s two, but once we cut out the unforced errors, and came out with the ball in the second half, playing it up to the forwards, we were much more competitive.
“Kilkenny were sharper than us tonight but they’ve had competitive games. It’s only a start, it’s only a win.”
Cork outscored Kilkenny 0-13 to 0-9 in the second half, and if Lehane’s free-taking caught the eye, O’Mahony’s calm distribution, Sean O’Donoghue’s aggression and captain Seamus Harnedy’s work rate also impressed.
Meyler was also loud in his praise of his number three, football convert Eoin Cadogan: “He was under pressure from Walter (Walsh) and TJ Reid went in there in the second half. But Cadogan is a winner, he’s won an All-Ireland football medal and that’s why we brought him back. He gives us that character and the younger lads look up to him. I was delighted with his performance.”
Cody was pragmatic about his team’s lack of a goal threat:“You’d like to obviously score a goal — or a couple of goals. We created fairly well up to a point but got smothered a couple of times.
“Look, a lot of our forwards were possibly playing their first league game for the Kilkenny seniors, and I thought there were a lot of good things about the performance.”
The Cats may still be searching for some balance in selection — Padraig Walsh’s lung-bursting run and point suggested a wing-back trapped in a full-back’s post — and a run of three wides in the second half will concern their management.
On the Cork side Meyler and his selectors will want to settle faster next week, after the rusty start to last Saturday night’s game.
Top scorer Conor Lehane was already looking forward to progressing in the Rebels’ next game, with Wexford: “It’s baby steps. We focused all week on that and likewise the week after, game on game. It’s a cliche but that’s how you have to look at if you want to keep improving.”
John Divilly and Anthony Daly review the opening weekend of the Allianz League:
Scorers for Cork:
C. Lehane (0-11, 0-9 frees); S. Kingston (1-1); R. O’Flynn, A. Cadogan, S. Harnedy (0-2); L. Meade, D. Kearney, M. Ellis, C. Spillane, D. Fitzgibbon, J. O’Connor (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilkenny:
A. Murphy (0-5, 3 frees); C. Buckley, R. Reid, TJ Reid (frees) (0-3 each); E. Murphy (frees), W. Walsh (0-2 each); P. Lyng, J. Maher, M. Keoghan, C. Martin, C. Fogarty, P. Walsh (0-1 each).
P. Collins, M. Ellis, S. O’Donoghue, E. Cadogan, C. Spillane, C. Joyce, T. O’Mahony, D. Fitzgibbon, B. Lawton, R. O’Flynn, C. Lehane, D. Kearney, A. Cadogan, S. Harnedy (c), S. Kingston.
L. Meade for B. Lawton (26); M. Cahalane for R. O’Flynn (56); R. O’Shea for D. Kearney (blood 57-60); J. O’Connor for A. Cadogan (62).
E. Murphy, J. Holden, P. Walsh, P. Deegan, C. O’Shea, J. Lyng, C. Buckley (c), C. Fogarty, J. Maher, M. Keoghan, R. Reid, P. Lyng, A. Murphy, W. Walsh, C. Martin.
J. Donnelly and TJ Reid for C. Martin and M. Keoghan (44); L. Blanchfield for A. Murphy (50); R. Leahy for J. Maher (56); E. Morrissey for C. Buckley (inj., 65).
Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved