ANY belief that Kilkenny might be about to surrender the bragging rights at under-age level in Leinster to Dublin was emphatically dispelled at Croke Park yesterday.
It’s less than two weeks since the Dublin U21s surprised the Cats in the provincial semi-final at their own Nowlan Park, but their hopes of a double over the black-and-amber looked virtually dead and buried as early as the 17th minute, when the Kilkenny minors led by 1-6 to 0-2, the goal coming from the stick of corner-forward Thomas O’Hanrahan.
Even after only 20 seconds it looked ominous when classy midfielder Kevin Kelly waltzed his way through for the opening point of the contest in which the Cats made it a hat-trick of provincial titles.
Of course, Kilkenny headed into the match buoyed by their 2-13 to 0-9 win over Dublin in the opening round of the Leinster Championship, at Nowlan Park, back on May 1.
From Dublin’s point of view, there was hardly a position on the pitch where they managed parity, never mind carving out an advantage.
As well as their superiority in the individual battles, the Cats were a much more efficient outfit on a collective basis, with at least one player available for an off-load from a teammate under pressure.
Time and again, Dublin players were hooked or blocked as they attempted to strike the sliotar, but Kilkenny had the skill, guile and pace to extricate themselves from pressure situations.
The Dubs also hit aimless balls into congested areas when a teammate was available for a quick transfer, and in the first half alone the ball was lobbed into the arms of Kilkenny goalkeeper Dylan Walsh four times.
"Kilkenny are a very fine side and it was always going to be difficult for us," said Dublin boss John Murphy.
"But we felt that there’s a little more in ourselves, and that we should have done better.
"We should have got a few more scores in the first half, and once we slipped that far behind at half-time (0-4 to 1-11), it was always going to be very difficult to peg back the deficit.
"We were happy enough with our backs, but the ball kept raining in on them because the Kilkenny defence was clearing so much ball. But now we’ve got to get ourselves ready for the All-Ireland quarter-final."
Kilkenny manager Richie Mulrooney said:"It’s very difficult to play a team you’ve played before in this year’s championship but I thought our first half performance was very good even though we should have added to our goals tally.
"However, I wasn’t happy with our second half performance, and we’ll discuss that in the privacy of the dressing-room. Certainly a repeat of that performance wouldn’t be good enough to win an All-Ireland semi-final.
However, Mulrooney was very satisfied with the contribution of centre-forward Ger Aylward who poached five priceless points.
"Ger is a fine hurler, and he’s especially dangerous when he takes a direct approach to goal."
Aylward and John Power, brother of senior star Richie, who bagged eight points, six from placed balls, were the big players up front for Kilkenny.
After turning over ten points adrift, Dublin’s best spell came when they shot three points between the 39th and 42nd minute to reduce their deficit to 0-8 to 1-14.
Scorers for Kilkenny: J Power 0-8 (5f, 1 ‘65’), G Aylward 0-5, K Kelly 0-3, T O’Hanrahan 1-0, E McGrath, O Walsh, C Buckley, P Walsh 0-1 each.
Scorers for Dublin: J Hetherton 0-5 (4f), C Kilkenny 0-2, G Whelan, D Flood, D Forde 0-1 each.
Subs for Kilkenny: P Delaney for Brennan (25) P Vickery for O’Hanrahan (39), D Waugh for P Walsh (52), S Farrell for O Walsh (54).
Subs for Dublin: C Moffat for Quinn (19); A Clabby for Maguire (half-time); C Costello for Heavey (43); B McCarthy for Murphy (43); D Mulligan for Kilkenny (57).
Referee: A Lagrue (Kildare).