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All-Ireland SHC semi-final: Kilkenny V Cork (Croke Park)
Wow! What a game this is going to be! No harm to the rest of the runners and riders, but it’s at this stage that the hurling championship really takes off and it’s pairings like this that the nation craves. Kilkenny against Cork in an All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park is the ultimate contest and this one promises to be yet another in a long historical line of thrillers. It’s the great rivalry of the modern era and, to be fair, a game that many didn’t expect to materialise this year following the Rebels’ indifferent start to the championship. However, since the defeat to Tipp and the stuttering display against Dublin, a Rebel County side deemed ‘over the hill’ by most analysts has bounded back in ferociously spirited fashion to floor first Galway and then Clare with two scintillating second-half heists. With backs to the wall, the Rebels have shown the character that epitomises them. And so we get a renewal of the rivalry that defined the turn of the last decade / century / millennium… Kilkenny are the masters. They are the side against which everyone else – including Cork – measures themselves these days. Under Brian Cody, they’ve been threatening a monopoly of late and they have their sights fixed on a third successive Liam McCarthy Cup win. The competition for places is frightening and the sheer depth of quality in the Cats’ squad – would in itself be enough to demoralise many opponents. They haven’t been tested properly since the 2006 decider against Sunday’s opposition. The Cork players have serious miles on their clocks, but they are younger than most people realise. They are cute enough to deliver a 70-minute performance. But Kilkenny have genuinely looked a class apart for the past two/three years and complacency doesn’t seem to enter the equation on Noreside. Hopefully, it’ll be a great match and hurling will once more be the true winner, as it invariably is when Cork play Kilkenny. The neutrals will want a draw; and so will Tipperary and Waterford fans….