Costello ensures Dublin get over finish line

WINNING silverware is rarely straightforward and Dublin can certainly attest to that after dragging themselves over the winning line to claim a 13th Leinster MHC title at Croke Park yesterday.

A wides tally of 15 to 10 in the first half alone threatened to undermine all of the young Dubs’ good work at GAA headquarters.

But the power of the collective ultimately earned them a first victory at this level since 2007, even if it wasn’t as convincing as Blues fans trickling in for the senior game would have wished.

Despite all those wides, it looked as if Shay Boland’s side would still secure a comfortable victory as they led by six with normal time virtually up thanks to 1-2 overall from Cormac Costello.

But when Kilkenny sub James Maher sneaked a tame shot past goalkeeper Cormac Ryan to halve Kilkenny’s arrears and, significantly, invest their late revival with real momentum, the sense that there was more drama to come was palpable.

That feeling was well placed as Kilkenny probed menacingly for the equalising goal, playing a ball across the danger area in the game’s last attack for Kevin Kelly to volley but a Dublin defender nicked in and saved the day.

Moments later referee Justin Heffernan called time on an uninspiring game, much to the relief of Dublin who won’t care for one second that it was a dour spectacle.

A year ago Dublin exited Croke Park with shoulders low and burdened by the weight of a heavy 1-20 to 0-10 defeat to Kilkenny for whom, ironically, Kelly was man of the match.

That was the Cats’ third title in a row and they chased a 54th provincial title yesterday.

But, in truth, they never looked like maintaining their stranglehold over the province and never led in the game.

Points from Glenn Whelan and Paul Winters (two) put Dublin into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after 10 minutes.

All that stopped Dublin from opening up a significant gap was their wasteful shooting as they dominated proceedings.

Costello, son of Dublin GAA board chief executive John, enjoyed a strong half and hit two points to help Dublin into a 0-8 to 0-6 lead approaching half time. It was Costello who finally put some daylight between the sides when he netted just before the break with an opportunist strike.

It gave Dublin a 1-8 to 0-6 interval advantage and while it better reflected their early dominance they could have led by double that margin.

Kilkenny’s best chance of an early goal came when Kelly fired a free straight at keeper Ryan while, soon after the restart, wing-forward Conor Martin fired wide.

Kilkenny impressed in the third quarter and outscored Dublin by 0-4 to 0-1 to reduce the arrears to just two points.

Kelly, David Kearns, Maher and Peter Vickery were all on the mark but they couldn’t conjure the goal they needed.

Dublin appeared to put the game to bed by taking over again in the final quarter and the sight of Emmet Ó Conghaile reopening a three-point margin with a fine 46th-minute score settled the young Dubs.

Centre-back Jamie Desmond, Óisin O’Rorke and Ciarán Kilkenny then pointed to leave Dublin six clear at 1-13 to 0-10 and, apparently, home and hosed.

Richie Reid and Dublin wing-forward Kilkenny shared a point apiece to keep that margin between them approaching full-time.

The Cats weren’t finished just yet though, and when Maher took his tally to 1-1 with a 61st-minute goal it was, albeit belatedly, very much game on.

Kilkenny tried their best to carve out an equalising goal but Kelly was unable to volley home that late chance and Dublin escaped to a deserved, if slightly shaky, victory.

Scorers for Dublin: C Costello 1-2; E Ó Conghaile 0-3, C Kilkenny (1f), P Winters (1f), O O’Rorke (1f) 0-2 each; G Whelan, J Desmond (1f), C Crummy 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilkenny: J Maher 1-1; K Kelly 0-3 (2f); P Vickery, R Reid 0-2 each; C O’Shea, T O’Hanrahan, D Kearns 0-1 each.

DUBLIN: C Ryan; E Lowndes, C O’Callaghan, S McClelland; C Crummy, J Desmond, M McCaffrey; G Whelan, C Cronin; C McHugh, C Kilkenny, A Clabby; C Costello, E O Conghaile, P Winters.

Subs: O O’Rorke for Winters ht, B McCarty for Cronin 51, C Boland for Whelan & D Forde for McHugh 58.

KILKENNY: A Duggan; J McDowell, C Doyle, E Morrissey; C O’Shea, E McGrath, D Cody; C Bolger, K Walsh; C Martin, K Kelly, P Keneally; P Vickery, T O’Hanrahan, R Reid.

Subs: D Kearns for Keneally ht, J Maher for Martin 39, R Moran for Walsh 49, J Hayes for Vickery 58.

Referee: J Heffernan (Wexford).

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