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Gary Carr/INPHO Brian Cody watched his team progress to the last four of the All-Ireland series.
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Cody relishing showdown against 'the best team in the country'
Kilkenny will take on the reigning All-Ireland champions in the semi-final in two weeks.

THE PRIZE FOR Kilkenny following yesterday’s stirring defeat of Cork is a last four meeting with reigning National League, Munster and All-Ireland champions Limerick.

“From the frying pan into the fire!” quipped Cats boss Brian Cody after he watched his side dismantle the Rebels in an impressive second-half showing. 

“We’re in an All-Ireland semi-final and we’re very, very happy to be there but we’re acutely aware we’re playing the best team in the country,” he continued.

“They were the best team in the country last year because they won the All-Ireland final but more so now because they followed it up by winning the league and their form the last day was exceptional.

“They’re everybody’s strong favourites to come out on top, not just the next day but with eventual honours. It’s a terrific challenge for us.”

No doubt it’s a task Cody will relish. If the 65-year-old were to lead Kilkenny to a 12th All-Ireland under his stewardship next month, it would surely go down as his finest achievement.

Colin Fennelly scores a goal under pressure from Niall O’Leary Gary Carr / INPHO Colin Fennelly bats in a goal during the first-half. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

A 10-point haul of frees from TJ Reid, 1-2 from Richie Hogan, 1-1 from Colin Fennelly and three points from the stick of Walter Walsh were critical as Kilkenny sealed a return to the All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 2016.

“The game was all about winning at the end of the day and get to the All-Ireland semi-final. I said it the last day here having lost the Leinster final that we’re still really in the same position.

“We couldn’t get the trophy that was going the last day but before the last day’s match we had to win one game to get to the All-Ireland semi-final. Before today, we had to win one game to get to the All-Ireland semi-final. We’ve done that and now we’re in the All-Ireland semi-final and it’s a nice place to be.

“In Croke Park it’s not communication from the sideline or anything like that. it’s players taking on responsibility and doing whatever it takes as they see things unfolding. Their willingness to keep going and keep going. They were the things that essentially swayed it for us today.

“They’re very, very good hurlers for a start but also ferociously intent on improving. They’re top-class fellas and they love hurling. That’s key to the whole thing and they work so hard at their game.”

Hogan’s return to the starting line-up proved a masterstroke by Cody. Still just 30, the four-time All-Star has been badly hampered with a back problem in recent years but he looked back to his best for the 50 minutes he played on Sunday.

“It’s huge what Richie Hogan contributed to the game and a huge ask for him to do it for 70 minutes. Would he do it? Of course, he would but it’s a question of utilising the panel and bringing on fresh legs.”

Richie Hogan celebrates scoring a goal Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Richie Hogan celebrates after scoring a goal. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Patrick Horgan shot an incredible 3-10 for the Rebels and Alan Cadogan clipped over four points, but the rest of Cork’s much-vaunted attacking unit were kept under wraps by the Kilkenny defence.

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“They’re a top class full-forward line, a top class forward line, a top class team obviously. They’re very, very difficult to counteract and all the rest of it. I suppose, like all good teams, it starts at the other end of the field because it’s a whole team thing, a whole 15 thing.

“Without the application of everybody throughout the field it would have been very, very difficult. What I will say that some of our players did have a tough enough time early on in particular but showed real character and real resolve and real honesty and real genuineness not to just drop the head and just to keep going until the very, very end. T

“They’re serious, serious players, obviously we know that. But again, the application of our players right throughout the field and again the team, and obviously the panel and the players coming in off the bench, it’s just a whole heroic effort from everybody.

“They are a top team, there’s no doubt about that. It’s so so difficult to counteract them because when they get going they just flow so very, very well.

“But regardless you have to adapt to whatever is put in front of you and that’s the team that was in front of us today and had to take on the challenge and the players took on the challenge and we got our reward.

“Our reward is that we’re still in the championship and we’ve a huge challenge ahead of us but that’s the way sport should be.” 

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