Cork are back in an All-Ireland final. A hard-fought victory over Kilkenny will see Kieran Kingston's outfit play Limerick for the Liam McCarthy Cup. It is a stage their captain deserves.
This triumph is about a team coming of age, a remarkable impact from the bench and the power of pace in Croke Park. It is also about the enduring brilliance of Patrick Horgan. A 0-13 tally only tells part of the tale. When Cork were misfiring, the Glen Rovers club man carried the fight singlehandedly.
When it clicked, the 33-year old turned conductor, winning ball inside the '45 and unleashing Shane Kingston and Alan Cadogan.
All Patrick Horgan needs is an inch of space and it's a score.
What a player. pic.twitter.com/R7pQXmQAz4
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) August 8, 2021
The peculiarity of his performance lies in the fact that as his team came roaring back, Horgan misfired. He missed a golden opportunity to extend the lead to four in normal time and followed it up with an inaccurate handpass and missed '65 in extra-time.
Yet to focus on this would be to ignore the fact that they would not have ever been in the position to take over had it not been for his sole prowess early on. Five points from play in the first half kept them in it.
"Patrick Horgan eats it up all day long. His touch, it is just a little swivel. It is only half a yard on Huw (Lawlor). In fairness, Huw is doing as much as he possibly can," said Jackie Tyrrell on RTE. The slightest mistake punished, a pain expired defenders know all too well.
Tight, interesting stuff, rarely a classic when Cork and Kk meet. Flip of a coin what happens next. But if Patrick Horgan doesn't win an AI medal, a piece should be shaved from every senior AI medal in Cork and moulded into one. Phenomenal yet again. #corkvkk
— Michael Foley (@MickFoley76) August 8, 2021
At half-time, Kilkenny led by a point. Of Cork's 0-14 total, Horgan was responsible for 0-10.
Then the burden was eased by an awesome impact from the bench. The Rebels' substitutes hit 0-11 in total. Kilkenny's mustered 0-1. It was a remarkable turnaround and a sign of evolution. The last time Cork were on this stage, a lack of depth proved costly and Limerick prevailed.
They went on to secure end a 45-year wait and secure an All-Ireland. Cork now have the chance to end a 16-year wait and win Horgan's first. The opening 35 minutes today was a demonstration of why that is the case, individual excellence without the necessary reinforcements.
We've witnessed that show before. Most recently in 2019, when Horgan hit an outrageous 3-10 against the same opposition and still lost.
That is what is so pleasing about what came after. A sign that the required firepower is there and this team are a step closer. It will still take an almighty shock, but at least Cork and Horgan have a chance to ascend the steps of the Hogan Stand. Few are more worthy.