Four points in arrears with full time looming, Dublin pulled off a real sensation, thanks to the heroics of inspirational substitute Kevin O’Reilly. In a stunning reversal of fortune, which left Kilkenny reeling, O’Reilly first fired home a goal from the penalty spot and then sent over the equalising point from a 40 metre free at the death.
It was a terrific achievement by Dublin to earn a share of the spoils because in the opening sequence Kilkenny, despite the absences of Henry Shefflin and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, had threatened to overwhelm the home side.
Two points apiece from Aidan Fogarty and Willie O’Dwyer, within minutes of the start, got Kilkenny off to a flyer and Dublin looked to be in for a hiding.
But with wing-back Derek O’Reilly turning in an exceptional display, Dublin gradually regained their composure and a goal from right corner-forward John Kelly, who flicked home a high lobbed shot from O’Reilly in the seventh minute, steadied the ship.
Kilkenny, with Eoin Larkin excelling at midfield and exemplary in his free-taking duties, still continued to rule the roost with a superb brand of swift striking and free-flowing hurling. But Dublin refused to be intimidated and their stubborn resilience eventually paid off.
At last succeeding in putting up the shutters at the back, the home side unleashed a great counter-offensive. It took a superlative save from impressive new goalkeeper PJ Ryan to deny Kevin Flynn scoring a second Dublin goal at the end of the first quarter.
But, undeterred, Dublin proceeded to power their way into the proceedings. David Curtin converted two 65s and then midfielder Joey Boland delightfully cut over a sideline ball to level matters in the 25th minute.
Sensing danger, Kilkenny upped the tempo and six points without reply — some sublime scores from Eddie Brennan — steamrolled the Cats into a 0-13 to 1-4 half-time lead.
It was tit-for-tat, with both sides scoring some magnificent long range points after the change of ends. But with Brennan in full flow on the wing, Kilkenny extended their lead to seven points entering the closing quarter.
Kilkenny did not take their foot off the pedal but the stirring deeds of the most tenacious and accomplished Dublin side in quite a while had the holders on the back foot in what was an extraordinary turnabout in the closing stages.
The well temporarily dried up for Brennan, who scored six magical points from play and Larkin, who was on target with five free conversions, as Dublin threw down the gauntlet.
With Kilkenny faltering, Dublin hit back with four points on the trot from Keith Dunne, Kevin O’Reilly, Liam Ryan and O’Reilly again — from a free this time — to bring them within range. But, with Brennan getting his scoring act together again, Kilkenny seemed destined to triumph when they established a four points lead as tempers started to fray.
There was one or two melees, nothing serious however, as Dublin excitingly battled back to deservedly gain what could be a very valuable League point.
Scorers for Dublin: K. O’Reilly (1-3, 0-2 frees), J. Kelly (1-1), D. Curtin (0-3, 0-2 65s; 0-1 free), J. Boland (0-2), J. McCaffrey, K. Dunne, L. Ryan, K. Flynn (0-1 each).
Kilkenny: E. Brennan (0-6), E. Larkin (0-6, 0-5 free), W. O’Dwyer (0-3), A. Fogarty (0-2), E. McCormack (0-2).
DUBLIN: G. Maguire; P. Brennan, S. Hiney, T. Brady; M. Carton, R. Fallon, D. O’Reilly; J. Boland, J. McCaffrey; K. Dunne, D. Qualter, D. Curtin; J. Kelly, P. O’Driscoll, K. Flynn. Subs: K. O’Reilly for Kelly, L. Ryan for Curtin, G. O’Meara for Brennan, E. Moran for Qualter.
KILKENNY: P.J. Ryan; C. Hickey, N. Hickey, J. Tyrell; J.J. Delaney, B. Hogan, T. Walsh, M. Rice, E. Larkin, E. Brennan, W. O’Dwyer, D. Lyng, E. McCormack, M. Comerford, A. Fogarty. Subs: R. Mullally for Rice, M. Murphy for McCormack.
Referee: J. McGrath (Westmeath).