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5 Talking Points - Cork v Kilkenny, All-Ireland SHC quarter-final

Shefflin’s sending-off, Horgan’s scoring contribution and a milestone win for this Cork side.

CORK 0-19 KILKENNY 0-14

1. Henry Shefflin’s sending-off

Kilkenny have grown accustomed to being without Henry Shefflin during 2013 but to be robbed of him due to a red card rather than injury was a severe blow yesterday. Barry Kelly’s decision was a source of fury for Kilkenny fans.

They cannot complain about the second yellow card for a high tackle on Jamie Coughlan but the first booking for a foul on Lorcan McLoughlin was more debatable. What was definite was that just like the Munster hurling final, a sending-off just before the interval had a dramatic effect in shaping the outcome of the game.

The difference on this occasion is that Cork benefited to gain an extra man rather than being hit with the loss of a key figure. And they employed that spare man sensibly with Conor O’Sullivan demonstrating why he was most suitable with his intelligent covering and neat stickwork throughout the second-half.

On a day when Kilkenny were struggling to hit form as it was, having to play with 14 men after the break was too severe a handicap. It capped a tough year for Shefflin.

It would be sad to think that was the final inter-county act in the career of the greatest hurler of his generation. Staying fit over the winter will be a key aim if he is to return in 2014.

2. Kilkenny attack frustrated by Cork defence

Aside from the Shefflin dismissal, Kilkenny’s forwards got little change out of the Cork rearguard all afternoon. Kilkenny’s freetaking was surprisingly poor and coupled with their inability to wreak havoc from open play, their aspirations of success were badly damaged.

In the extra-time win over Waterford, both Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan spearheaded their drive for glory but both were peripheral figures yesterday and failed to score. Indeed Kilkenny’s starting forwards only managed two points from play between them and that level of return cost them when contrasted with the ten points from play that the starting Cork attack registered.

Much of that was down to the standards of the Cork defence. Shane O’Neill was exceptional, Tom Kenny’s career renaissance continues and William Egan was forceful on the left wing.

For long stages of the Munster final, Cork were resilient at the back but Limerick had the substitute attackers who did the damage late on. Kilkenny didn’t have those options yesterday to change the course of the game.

3. The scoring contribution of Patrick Horgan

A key reason why Cork could afford to be optimistic before yesterday’s game was the availability of Patrick Horgan. The overturning of his suspension was a massive boost for the team. Having to cope without him after Paudie O’Sullivan is already consigned to the sidelines through injury, would likely have been too great a hurdle for Cork to overcome.

Horgan delivered in style and proved what a loss he was in the Munster final. Three years ago, Horgan was one of the few Cork players who enjoyed a profitable afternoon as he fired 0-6 in their 12-point loss to Kilkenny in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Yesterday’s performance was enhanced as he smashed over 0-11 with his freetaking exemplary – on an afternoon when plenty big names struggled with placed ball duties in Thurles – and his points from play significant, particularly the score in the 48th minute that steadied their challenge.

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4. No green flags raised by the umpires

For Cork hurling fans, not seeing their team hit the net is hardly a novel experience. The 2003-2006 team that figured on big days in August and September were never renowned as a team who struck goals. Cork have not managed to raise a green flag in their three championship games to date and the sense is they will need to discover that knack in Croke Park if their campaign is to continue.

But by not conceding at the other end yesterday, they went a long way towards securing victory. Anthony Nash’s double penalty save was memorable and copperfastened his claims towards getting another Allstar this year.

If Cork had shipped a goal during that rocky start to the second-half, it would have raised Kilkenny’s spirits considerably. But they shut them out and the contrast with the 2012 league decider where they conceded three early goals was striking.

The game was reflective of an established pattern affecting Kilkenny in the championship this season. They hit 98 points in their five championship games this summer but only struck two goals.

One of those was a Richie Power penalty against Waterford, meaning Walter Walsh’s goal against Dublin in the drawn game was the only effort from play. Unlike previous campaigns, Kilkenny could not kill teams off with strikes to the net.

5.  A milestone win for this Cork team

In the two years of his second coming at the helm of Cork, Jimmy Barry-Murphy has overseen wins that were important in their own way. The league semi-final success against Tipperary in April 2012, the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Waterford last year, the opening day league win against Tipperary last February and the Munster semi-final victory against Clare in June.

But a knockout championship win carries greater weight and achieving that against the greatest team of the past decade increases the value all the more. Yesterday’s victory was arguably Cork’s biggest since the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford considering the absence of a backdoor avenue for the defeated.

Bouncing back from the Munster final loss in the space of a fortnight was impressive. Building on it in a fortnight’s time is the next step they will need to take.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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