With the strong wind at their backs Dublin had taken full advantage in the opening half, led 1-16 to 1-6 at the break and were full value for every point of it. Nine minutes into the second half, however, a very different complexion on the scoreboard.
Two Kilkenny goals, a bullet on the run by Colin Fennelly and a Nash-style penalty by TJ Reid, were followed by a Farrell point. The deficit now read 1-16 to 3-7 and Kilkenny were on a roll with a full 26 minutes of wind advantage to come.
Tipperary had crumbled under that pressure and ended up losing by six points. Dublin though held firm, showed immense character to first halt the Kilkenny stampede and then took the fight to them again. From one to 15 Dublin stood tall in the face of the Kilkenny onslaught, keeper Maguire with a few outstanding saves, Kelly and Rushe down the middle, then the outstanding Joey Boland in midfield, and a number of hard-working performers up front; this was a total team effort.
A few outstanding individuals did stand out up front, the gifted Alan McCrabbe (0-6), the wandering Conal Keaney (0-3 and a hand in so much more), but most notably wing-forward Danny Sutcliffe (1-5 from play).
A satisfying win for Dublin then, puts them right back in the mix for a quarter-final place again; for Danny however, frustrating times.
“The big thing with us is we’re hot and cold and that inconsistency isn’t going to do us any favours,” said Sutcliffe. “We knew we’d get a performance against Clare because we had lost the week before [heavy opening-round defeat by Galway]. Inconsistency... the footballers go out and play every week, we’re not doing it, we need to get that sorted.”
Easier said than done though. “We’re trying to perform every week and at the moment were just not doing it. The big thing for us isn’t whether we get the result or not, it’s just get a performance we can be happy with.
“So far we’re just hot and cold and you just have to get that [consistency]. Five games, it’s competitive, the margin for error is small so we just want to get that sorted quickly.”
For Conal, the same hymn-sheet. “Look, when we put our mind to it we can play this game pretty good. But when our attitude isn’t right we can get punished and that happened to us in Galway. So, we’ve learned a lesson from that day and we’re moving on now hopefully.”
That’s two wins and two losses now for Dublin in this ultra-competitive group, two significant wins also, against the All-Ireland champions of the last three years in Clare and Kilkenny.
Even the second loss in the league, last week against Waterford in Walsh Park, wasn’t as bad as it appeared, reckons Conal, and they did learn from it.
“Daly was spot on the mark when he said we worked very hard down there, but we just didn’t get the result and we missed a bit. Today it was nearly the total opposite. I think we only had two wides in the first half, and everything seemed to be going our way. But still, we made hard work of it. I thought we well deserved the ten points at half-time, and we dug it out in the second half.”
The two quick Kilkenny second-half goals came at the right time he said — for Dublin!
“Kilkenny are always going to get goals — you saw against Tipperary, they were ten points down as well and they came back. It was probably a good time for them to get them — for us — because we had plenty of time to come back and get into the game. I think we won the few puck-outs straight after that.”
There was no question then that the Dubs were going to be gobbled up by the Kilkenny machine in the same way as Tipperary.
“Them days are gone, when we dropped the heads. Look, there’s nothing between any of the teams on the day and we’re in the shake-up.
“Another battle again next week — this result means nothing if we go to Tipperary and lose.
“We’re on the road now a couple of weeks which is tough. Home advantage is huge and I think you see the majority of people who play at home win. It’ll be a tough challenge but it’s a challenge we’re up for.”
Scorers for Dublin: D Sutcliffe (1-5), A McCrabbe (0-6, 3fs, 1 s/l, 1 65), J Boland, C Keaney (1f) (0-3 each), J McCaffrey, R O’Dwyer, D O’Callaghan, M Schutte, C Cronin, (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilkenny: J Power (1-1), E Larkin (0-4, 3fs, 1 65), TJ Reid (pen), C Fennelly (1-0 each), P Walsh (0-2), A Fogarty, W Walsh, C Buckley, R Hogan, R Power, JJ Farrell (0-1 each).
DUBLIN: G Maguire; N Corcoran, P Kelly, C O’Callaghan; S Durkin, L Rushe, M Carton; J Boland, J McCaffrey (c); R O’Dwyer, A McCrabbe, D Sutcliffe; D O’Callaghan, C Keaney, C Cronin.
Subs for Dublin: J Doughan for Corcoran (41), M Schutte for McCaffrey (56), N McMorrow for Cronin (63), S McGrath for O’Callaghan (68).
KILKENNY: D Herity; P Murphy, B Hogan, T Keogh; T Walsh, L Ryan (c), J Holden; R Hogan, C Buckley; W Walsh, C Fennelly, E Larkin; JJ Farrell, J Power, A Fogarty.
Subs for Kilkenny: TJ Reid for J Power (inj 35), P Walsh for T Walsh (35), H Shefflin for Fogarty (44), B Kennedy for Ryan (61), R Power for W Walsh (63).
Referee: J Sexton (Cork).