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Cork claim hurling crown

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Martin Breheny

DUBLIN — Cork’s nine-year absence from hurling’s top table ended amid high drama in last Sunday’s Guinness All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. A stubborn performance, decorated by some outstanding individual performances, enabled Cork to rejoin the elite with a 0-13 to 0-12 victory over Kilkenny before 62,989 fans.

The scoreline suggests a dour, dogged game where defenders were on top and scoring chances were few. That only tells part of the tale. Yes, it was tight and tense, but while neither goalie had much to deal with, there was an endless stream of point chances, most of which sailed wide. Both sides shot 17 wides each in an incredible display of inaccuracy that they later blamed on the bad conditions.

Heavy rain deluged down for much of the first half, making control difficult. That still doesn’t excuse some of the awful wides. Kilkenny were particularly culpable in the opening quarter when they won plenty of possessions but didn’t manage to score until the 20th minute, by which time Cork were three points ahead.

Kilkenny improved in the run-up to halftime and led by 0-5 to 0-4 at the break after 35 minutes of low quality hurling. Cork equalized immediately on the restart, but Kilkenny then enjoyed their best spell, shooting four points to lead 0-10 to 0-6 by the 54th minute. Amazingly, they managed just two more points while resurgent Cork scored seven in the final 15 minutes.

Cork switched Timmy McCarthy from center-forward to midfield and he began to cause chaos among the Kilkenny ranks. Seanie McGrath, Joe Deane and sub Kevin Murray picked up the pace in the Cork attack and gradually the Kilkenny defense wilted.

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Cork drew level in the 62nd minute and pulled two points clear before Henry Shefflin cut the gap to one point with two minutes remaining. Kilkenny tried desperately to force the equalizer but the Cork defense, with Brian Corcoran outstanding at center-back, held their nerve and closed down an attack which had scored a total of 13-49 in their previous three games.

Kilkenny’s attacking difficulties were best illustrated by the fact that D.J. Carey failed to score. Everything went wrong for him and with Brian McEvoy and Charlie Carter also struggling, it was left to Henry Shefflin to mastermind Kilkenny’s attacking plans. He tried diligently but with the Cork defense so consistently defiant, he found all avenues closed.

John Power worked very hard at center-forward but couldn’t shake off the awesome Corcoran, who got consistent support in defense from Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Fergal Ryan and Sean Og O hAilpin, who put himself in line for a unique All-Ireland double as he is also a member of Larry Tompkins’s football squad, which takes on Meath in the title game a week from Sunday.

It was a remarkable achievement by a young Cork team (average age 22.7 years) and by their popular manager, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, who was in triumphant mood afterward.

"People said this team was too young and that it would take another year for them to mature but I said all along that the All-Ireland to win is the one you’re playing in," he said. "There is no pointing thinking of next year."

The Cork players took him at his word, clinching the county’s 28th All-Ireland title, putting them three ahead of their nearest rivals, Kilkenny.

Cork: D. Og Cusack; F. Ryan, D. O’Sullivan, J. Browne; W. Sherlock, B. Corcoran, S. Og O hAilpin; M. Landers (0-1), M. O’Connell; T. McCarthy (0-3), F. McCormack, S. McGrath (0-3); B. O’Connor (0-1), N. Ronan, J. Deane (0-3). Subs: A. Browne (0-1) for Ronan, K. Murray (0-1) for Landers.

Kilkenny: J. McGarry; P. Larkin, C. Brennan, W. O’Connor; M. Kavanagh, P. O’Neill, P. Barry; A. Comerford (0-2), D. Byrne (0-1); D.J. Carey, J. Power (0-1), B. McEvoy (0-1); K. O’Shea, H. Shefflin (0-5), C. Carter (0-2). Subs: P.J. Delaney for Power, N. Moloney for Carter.

Referee: P. O’Connor (Limerick).

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