Cats have edge despite Dubs improvement

DUBLIN have the perfect opportunity for revenge presented to them when they face off against Kilkenny in tomorrow afternoon’s ESB Leinster MHC final in Croke Park at 2pm.

Dublin were emphatically defeated by Kilkenny in the earlier rounds of this competition in May by a 2-13 to 0-9 margin in Nowlan Park, but have recovered well since then.

They defeated Carlow in a tight battle by 0-22 to 2-14 and then in last weekend’s semi-final tie against Wexford, recovered from a late four-point deficit to narrowly triumph by 1-16 to 1-15.

Dublin’s team has undergone major surgery since they last played Kilkenny with only nine of the team that play that day included for tomorrow’s decider. In defence, Emmet McKenna has helped solidify their challenge since being installed at full-back while the deployment of Danny Sutcliffe, who previously featured in attack, at centre-back has been a masterstroke as he was immense in last weekend’s semi-final win.

Fergal Heavey has been a useful inclusion at midfield where he forms a fine partnership with Naoise Maguire. In attack, John Hetherton has been the most notable newcomer, with the St Vincents player grabbing 1-4 in the victory over Wexford, including a cracking late goal from a 20-yard free that propelled them towards success. Dual star Ciarán Kilkenny, who grabbed 0-8 for the Dublin minor footballers in their Leinster semi-final replay defeat to Kildare last Tuesday night, is another vital attacker in their line-up, while Glenn Whelan and Dean Flood are other able scoretakers.

Kilkenny will still be strong favourites for this clash. After a lengthy break since that May win over Dublin, they recaptured their best form by breezing past Offaly in Tullamore last Sunday by a 2-22 to 1-13 margin.

Their team is packed with strong and impressive performers, illustrated by a powerful defensive spine that includes Willie Phelan, an All-Ireland colleges medal winner with St Kieran’s this year, at full-back and Luke Harney, a member of last year’s Kilkenny minor team that reached the All-Ireland final, at centre-back.

At midfield, Kevin Kelly shone in grabbing four points in the defeat of Offaly, while he is partnered by the impressive Ollie Walsh. The Kilkenny attack contains serious firepower in last year’s minor stars Cillian Buckley and Ger Aylward, and Carrickshock sharpshooter John Power, who fired 1-4 last Sunday in Tullamore.

Both counties have gone with unchanged line-ups for this game from last weekend’s semi-final successes. Dublin have certainly improved since the previous meeting in May and will aim to follow in the footsteps of the county’s U21 side who recently ended Kilkenny’s Leinster championship ambitions. But there is nothing to suggest that this Kilkenny team have regressed since the first round clash and they are favourites to complete a provincial minor three-in-a-row and a 54th Leinster minor hurling crown.

Verdict: Kilkenny

KILKENNY MH: D Walsh; J Corcoran, W Phealn, P O’Carroll; B Kennedy, L Harney, E McGrath; K Kelly, O Walsh; T O’Hanrahan, C Buckley, P Walsh; M Brennan, G Aylward, J Power.

Subs: E Meally, C O’Shea, C O’Neill, R Lennon, D Waugh, R Reid, P Delaney, S Bergin, P Vickery.

DUBLIN MH: E Dillon; C Murphy, E McKenna, S McClelland; C Crummy, D Sutcliffe, B Quinn; N Maguire, F Heavey; G Whelan, A Clabby, D Forde; J Hetherton, C Kilkenny, D Flood.

Subs: C O’Mahony, E Small, B McCarthy, C Moffat, D Kelly, N Ryan, C Costello, M McCaffrey, D Mulligan.


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