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rebel yell If there was a gold medal for electrifying combat, Cork's hurlers would join Kellie Harrington on the podium

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Cork's Jack O'Connor celebrates after scoring his side's first goal against Kilkenny

Cork's Jack O'Connor celebrates after scoring his side's first goal against Kilkenny

Cork's Jack O'Connor celebrates after scoring his side's first goal against Kilkenny

THE greatest of all sporting Sundays, a colossal 12 hours of crazy, uplifting escapism, concluded with Cork’s crimson battalions embracing and whooping, triumphant uppercuts of uncontainable joy slicing through the Croke Park skies.

If there was a gold medal for epic, unrestrainable, breathtaking beauty, then this insane, twisting marvel, a near 100-minute symphony of electrifying combat, would join Kellie Harrington on top of the podium.

If One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a film about hurling, it would be an identical twin of the reel that unspooled here: A bonkers, mesmerising gift from the gods.

It would be a struggle to edit even the trailer for this dopamine-rush blockbuster down below half an hour.

A quick chronological snapshot of the more unforgettable scenes in a movie for the ages (and for space reasons, we are editing out at least a dozen worthy incidents).

Cork, as smooth and swift as their Rebel brother Paul O’Donovan sluicing down an avenue of water, delivering a stunning second-half burst (a 20-minute, 13 to 3 whirlwind), to transform a four-point deficit into a commanding six-point advantage.

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Jack O'Connor fires past Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy

Jack O'Connor fires past Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy

Jack O'Connor fires past Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy

Shane Kingston, setting a new benchmark for impact off the bench, summoning surely the most memorable substitute’s cameo the game has known, one that eventually concluded with seven points from play.

A magnificent seven from a gunslinger who happens to be the manager’s son.

Christy Harrington will not be the only Dad feeling a spinetingling surge of paternal pride this evening.

In an eerie reprise of the 2018 epic against Limerick which somehow slipped through their fingers, Cork were six points up with six to play. And again, their world threatened to fall of its axis.

With the hourglass almost empty, the Cats triggered an unlikely counter thrust.

Kilkenny, on the verge of flatlining, somehow tapped into the grit and resilience and bloody-mindedness that is the dominant gene in their DNA.

Beyond the four minutes of added time, Adrian Mullen summoning a goal from wonderland – after Padraig Walsh pounced on Tim O’Mahony’s mistake – to rescue a draw.

Cork – who had squandered at least four goal chances during that dazzling second-half red avalanche – hit the floor as if struck by a bolt of black-and-amber lightning.

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Who could blame them?

Their response spoke of a character, maybe even a sense of destiny, as they face into the ominous task of facing hurling’s alpha male, Limerick, in a fortnight. Somehow, Cork hauled themselves from their knees and kept the dream of a first Liam McCarthy in 16 years alive.

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Eoin Cody of Kilkenny gets into a tangle with Cork's Niall O'Leary

Eoin Cody of Kilkenny gets into a tangle with Cork's Niall O'Leary

Eoin Cody of Kilkenny gets into a tangle with Cork's Niall O'Leary

Alongside the unstoppable Kingston, fellow sub Alan Cadogan slalomed at Kilkenny at breakneck pace; Seamus Harnedy, after a period of relative anonymity, stamped his growing veteran influence on proceedings.

And Jack O’Connor, switched to wing forward, exploded into the contest as if fired from the mouth of a cannon.

As O’Connor sent one sonic boom after another crashing across Croke Park, a quote from the American write Don DeLillo came surging from the back of the memory.

“Speed is the last excitement left. The one thing we haven’t used up, still naked in its potential.”

Here was O’Connor, tearing down the left flank, scorching the Croke Park turf, closing in on goal, Kilkenny defenders flailing as if tasked with chasing a cheetah while their limbs were held in leg braces.

The angle narrowing, but O’Connor, with no more than a cigarette-paper width of the goal in his crosshairs, moving with the conviction of a man who knows his moment has arrived.

Boom! The strike was perfect, the net danced and the noise from the huge Cork crowd shook the great coliseum.

A game which could have had 10 goals instead had its second and this time Cork were not going to remove their jackboot from Kilkenny’s throat.

The second chapter in the greatest sporting day had its decisive incision.

The walk to Croke Park, through the inner-city heartlands of Kellie’s kingdom, set a lovely, upbeat tone for the day.

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Cork's Robbie O'Flynn launches another Rebel attack at Croke Park

Cork's Robbie O'Flynn launches another Rebel attack at Croke Park

Cork's Robbie O'Flynn launches another Rebel attack at Croke Park

A flotilla of Cork fans posed for a picture under Portland Row’s parasol of tricolour bunting, a technicolour dreamcoat cloaking Dublin 1 in vivid shades.

Basking, like the rest of the nation, in the reflected glow of Harrington’s beautiful postcard from Tokyo.

Minutes before throw-in, the GAA paid a video tribute to all of Ireland’s 2021 medallists. The Rebel hordes lifted the roof when the sculpted features of Skibbereen’s water boys, O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, appeared on screen.

And then, accompanied by the same haunting rendition of Foggy Dew to which she had entered the ring in the Orient, Croke Park saluted “our neighbour”, Katie Harrington.

The new Olympic champion had becalmed a Brazilian tigress rejoicing in the forbidding moniker of 'The Beast'.

A similarly terrifying creature awaits today’s last man standing: Limerick lurking on the horizon like an insatiable fire-breathing dragon, ready to unleash again those tongues of flame that consumed Waterford on Saturday night.

The mission for Cork was to win while issuing a rebuke to any notions that they were competing for a silver medal.

The momentum they built here and their sunburst of euphoria at the end suggested they might, against all the odds, be equipped to go for gold.

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