You won’t be astonished to learn that here was not one of those matches where the scoreline failed to tell the whole story.
A small coda is required, however. One of the teams played with 14 men for the concluding 45 minutes.
No. It wasn’t the team in two-tone blue.
From which item of information you might draw the following two inferences and, what’s more, be correct on both counts.
Firstly Kilkenny, minus the Ballyhale crew and Padraig Walsh, were pretty good. Better than might reasonably have been expected, certainly. Better than most of their supporters appeared to be anticipating, unquestionably. They even managed to accomplish what they failed to do in both the Leinster final and All Ireland final: they scored a goal. Then they went and scored two more.
Secondly, Dublin were awful. Given their opponents’ list of no-shows it was a fixture to which they surely brought a measure of quiet confidence. Thank goodness for the quiet bit, for any confidence proved badly misplaced.
Mattie Kenny, the losers’ manager, accepted that his side looked sluggish. “Kilkenny’s play was just that bit smarter, their movement was that bit better than ours. In the first half, obviously the goals were big scores for them. I just thought that Dublin looked a bit flat there and a little bit heavy-legged. Just a few per cent off it.”
Was he disappointed with their play when they had the extra man?
“Of course that’s what you’d like to see, but Kilkenny just looked fresher and sharper on the day. They were getting all the breaks. I didn’t get the breakdown of the breaking ball yet, but it looked to me on the sideline that Kilkenny won 70-80% of all breaking ball and that was the platform on which they drove on and won the game.”
By way of extenuation Kenny cited the number of players who’ve only recently returned to training. “People know in Dublin we’ve a number of guys just back in the last week. The Chris Crummeys, the Eoghan O’Donnells, the Sean Morans. Our leaders in the defence, they’re only back for the last week or ten days."
Kenny’s opposite number was predictably happier.
“That was good,” Brian Cody enthused. “That was very positive. We got into the game early and we kept it going well right up to the very end.
Two of Cody’s favourite words made their seasonal appearance. Serious and spirit. To wit: “Dublin are a serious team. They presented a serious challenge to us. We did well, there is no point in saying otherwise. We are very, very happy going away after that performance. We played a lot of the game down a player. The lads showed a lot of maturities, honesty and great spirit."
To the facts. Kilkenny led 2-10 to 0-10 at the interval in front of an attendance of 5,605. The first goal was what the ancients liked to describe as being of the “somewhat fortuitous variety”. Billy Ryan put Walter Walsh in the clear for an attempt at a point that was blocked down by Daire Gray. The sliotar spun high and wide for Ger Aylward to gather on the 14-metre line. The defenders were dilatory about closing him down and Aylward roofed it at the near post.
An error by Cian O’Callaghan allowed Ryan stride through for the second goal. Richie Leahy’s red card followed in the 26th minute following a tackle on Danny Sutcliffe that was as unnecessary as it was high.
With Sutcliffe and Eamon Dillon being seen in fits and starts the visitors made little impression despite their numerical advantage. Their attacks lacked both invention and incisiveness and it took them until the 50th minute to work Eoin Murphy, who got down well to Oisin O’Rorke’s effort from a narrow angle. Eleven minutes from time Alan Nolan made a mess of stopping a shot from Ryan at the other end and the sliotar trickled over the line. That was that.
Scorers for Kilkenny: A Murphy (0-8, 7 fs, 1 65’); G Aylward (1-0); B Ryan (2-0); P Deegan, C Fogarty, W Walsh, N Brassil (0-2 each); M Carey, J Donnelly, M Keoghan, J Maher, B Sheehan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin: O O’Rorke (0-6, 4 fs); S Moran (0-4, 3 fs); E Dillon (0-2); R Hayes (0-2, 1 f); C Crummey, R McBride, T Connolly, D Sutcliffe (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: E Murphy; C Wallace, H Lawlor, C Delaney; M Cody, P Deegan, M Carey; C Fogarty, A Murphy; J Donnelly, W Walsh, R Leahy; B Ryan, G Aylward, N Brassil.
Subs: M Keoghan for Aylward, 45; J Maher for Murphy, 52; T Walsh for Cody, 58; B Sheehan for Ryan, 60; L Scanlon for Brassil, 65.
DUBLIN: A Nolan; P Smyth, E O’Donnell, J Madden; C Crummey, D Gray, C O’Callaghan; F Whitely, R McBride; T Connolly, D Sutcliffe, R Hayes; C Boland, O O’Rorke, E Dillon.
Subs: S Moran for Whitely, 30; J Malone for Madden, ht; M Schutte for Boland, 40; L McMullan for Connolly, 57; J Hetherton for McBride, 65.
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow)