IT WASN’T pretty, it wasn’t very competitive — in fact, truth be told, this was an ugly beast of an Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final in Croke Park yesterday, a one-sided affair that never got off the ground.
That won’t trouble Dublin, however, nor should it; as their collection of a first national title in over 70 years (they won the 1938/39 National League — as it was then — to go with their All-Ireland title of 38) is an event of significance that goes way beyond the Pale itself. There’s a new kid on the block, and he’s wearing blue.
For some time now, in the years of Kilkenny dominance, Dublin have been threatening a hurling breakthrough but last year it looked like it was gone, a poor season in which they were overtaken by Galway in Leinster, then could only watch as Tipperary soared to the top.
Far from going up the table, and much to the disappointment not just of their own fans but of hurling supporters generally, they wereslipping. Through this year’s league campaign, however, we’ve been seeing a new Dublin, a Dublin that had become dogged, determined and showing a self-belief that hadn’t been evident heretofore.
Two of the catalysts for that change were newcomers to the Dublin scene this year, returning prodigal son Conal Keaney, who joined an increasing number of dual players who have switched allegiance to hurling, and Tipperary’s Ryan O’Dwyer, another who switched allegiance. And those decisions are reaping dividends.
Both were again hugely influential for Dublin yesterday, O’Dwyer with a typically powerful all-action performance, first at centre-forward, then in midfield, while Keaney also showed strongly hitting three points from play including an 80m late effort from wide left, into the wind, to the joy of the boys on the Hill.
Oh, this is a new Dublin, and though this was as poor a Kilkenny team as has taken the field in the Cody era, a team decimated by injury (they lost JJ Delaney yesterday to go with nearly a dozen others already out — they also lost Eoin Larkin, in the 26th minute, to a straight red card for retaliation after he had been fouled and John Dalton might now also be in trouble, for an incident at the half-time whistle), let no-one or nothing take from the win — Dublin are up there with Tipperary as the team to be taken in this year’s championship.
Poor shooting has been a problem for them through this campaign but there were few signs of that yesterday, not in the opening 25 minutes especially.
Dublin led 0-10 to 1-1 at that stage and the points were coming from all angles and from all sources — five players got on the scoresheet with O’Dwyer, Keaney, Dotsy O’Callaghan, Daire Plunkett and free-taker Paul Ryan (six) all pointing. Kilkenny, meanwhile, were struggling.
Free-taker TJ Reid had drilled an early long-range free for them in reply to Dublin’s two opening points, and when Eddie Brennan took advantage of a fine knock-back by Richie Hogan to goal in the 10th minute, it looked like it was going to be business as usual for the Cats in Croke Park.
False promise, however.
One point was all Kilkenny managed for the remainder of the half, and they trailed by six at the break (0-11 to 1-2).
Larkin’s straight red was a body-blow but the writing was already very much on the wall — this was going to be Dublin’s day.
The first 30 minutes of the second half was tit-for-tat, Dublin playing with an extra defender covering across the full-back line (their defence was magnificent anyway, all through), happy just to contain, and in the 60th minute the gap remained six points (0-16 to 1-7).
In the final minutes, however, Dublin exploded, a succession of six points, one better than the next, pulling them well clear.
Worthy league champions, though hopefully it won’t have come at the cost of losing centre-back Joey Boland, who suffered a serious shoulder injury in the 44th minute. But, is there better to come?
Scorers for Dublin: P Ryan 0-9 (5f); C Keaney 0-3; R O’Dwyer 0-2; M O’Brien 0-2; J McCaffrey, C McCormack, D Plunkett, D O’Callaghan, D Treacy, S Lambert 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-5 (5f); E Brennan 1-0; M Rice, P Hogan (1f) 0-1 each.
Subs for Dublin: M O’Brien for Boland (44),D O’Dwyer for Plunkett (54), D Treacy for McCrabbe (63), S Lambert for Rushe (67), S Ryan for O’Callaghan (72). Blood sub: L Ryan for O’Dwyer (15/19).
Subs for Kilkenny: M Kavanagh for Delaney (56), J Mulhall for Fennelly (57), P Murphy (Ruth 65).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford)
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