O’con­nor strikes late for Cork foot­ballers

Cork Kilkenny 1-17 1-15

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page -

CORK in­flicted a first de­feat of the sea­son on All-ire­land cham­pi­ons Kilkenny at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yes­ter­day to give them­selves a real chance of reach­ing the league semi-fi­nals.

The home sup­port­ers in the 7,864 crowd, bask­ing in the sun­shine, saw Cork over­whelm their op­po­nents in a wind-as­sisted sec­ond half, with Kilkenny re­stricted to just a point from play.

And to add to Kilkenny’s woes star for­ward Richie Power was dis­missed on a straight red card for a wild pull on out­stand­ing Cork cen­tre back Eoin Cado­gan in the clos­ing minute.

It means Kilkenny’s top scorer with 1-11 misses the final game against Gal­way on Sun­day, when Cork travel to Tip­per­ary, and all four coun­ties are in the shake up for the three places on of­fer.

The key to Cork’s vic­tory was re­strict­ing Kilkenny to just a two­point lead at the break, 1-10 to 1-8, and man­ag­ing to main­tain their drive on the re­sump­tion, some­thing they’d been un­able to achieve re­cently.

It was this fac­tor, which pleased coach Jimmy Barry-mur­phy most: “It was the one thing which we stressed to the play­ers at half­time, es­pe­cially as we blew an eight-point lead the pre­vi­ous week against Gal­way.

“In fair­ness, the play­ers were mag­nif­i­cent in keep­ing up the in­ten­sity lev­els in the sec­ond half and I though the de­fence, in par­tic­u­lar, was ex­cel­lent,” he said.

A num­ber of Cork’s promis­ing young­sters came of age in a very com­pet­i­tive en­counter, most notably full back Stephen Mcdon­nell, Wil­liam Egan at left half- back, Dar­ren Sweet­nam, the Ban­don Gram­mar School Leav­ing Cert stu­dent, at mid­field, and 19-year-old Conor Le­hane at right half for­ward.

Sweet­nam’s in­tro­duc­tion in his first game against Kilkenny was to be flat­tened by Michael Fen­nelly af­ter only 15 sec­onds, a free which Pa­trick Hor­gan pointed from the side­line to set the tone.

Le­hane’s ex­quis­ite first touch and elec­tri­fy­ing pace had the crowd buzzing with ex­cite­ment and JJ De­laney’s trou­bles re­sulted in a po­si­tional switch with cor­ner­back Paul Mur­phy af­ter 24 min­utes.

At that stage Cork were keep­ing tabs with Kilkenny, the sides tied at 0-7 apiece be­fore the ante was upped again in a dra­matic clos­ing spell. Power’s move to full for­ward from the wing brought an in­stant re­ward for the vis­i­tors.

His bril­liant turn on the halfhour left Mcdon­nell trail­ing and it needed a des­per­ate lunge from Brian Mur­phy to end his run, but only at the ex­pense of a penalty, which Power dis­patched to the net with im­pres­sive power.

Kilkenny’s 1-8 to 0-7 lead, how­ever, didn’t last long as Cork re­sponded in kind. Two min­utes later Lor­can Mclough­lin drove in a free to­wards the dan­ger zone, where Paudie O’sul­li­van was lurk­ing to first-time the break­ing ball past David Her­rity.

“That goal was a mas­sive boost to our con­fi­dence, can­celling out Kilkenny’s goal al­most im­me­di­ately and it give our fel­lows a lot of heart for the sec­ond half,” Bar­ryMur­phy added.

Fit­tingly, Le­hane be­gan Cork’s sec­ond-half re­vival, mak­ing a mag­nif­i­cent high catch from a Donal Óg Cu­sack clear­ance and point­ing spec­tac­u­larly, though Kilkenny still led 1-13 to 1-10 af­ter 42 min­utes.

Cork, how­ever, gained a stran­gle­hold on pro­ceed­ings from there to the fin­ish, lim­it­ing Kilkenny to

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