Old order restored as Cats back on throne

Kilkenny 0-24 Dublin 1-9
Coming out of Tullamore a week ago, after the replay win over Galway that set up this Leinster final in Croke Park, a Kilkenny supporter was heard to utter — "The famine is nearly over!" Yesterday, he was surely celebrating.

One year, that’s how long Kilkenny were kept out of Croke Park, beaten in Portlaoise by Dublin in the Leinster semi-final last year, then downed by Cork in Thurles in the All-Ireland quarter-final; two years, that’s when they surrendered ownership of the Leinster title, Dublin going on to win last year, Galway winning in 2012 beating the Cats in the final.

Famine? Yes indeed, because everything is relative, isn’t it? And year after year in this glorious period, Kilkenny have feasted in Leinster, feasted in Croke Park. Yesterday then they weren’t just hungry for this one, they were ravenous, articulated afterwards by veteran Jackie Tyrrell, winning his eighth title yesterday. “We were really focused, anxious to put that right. We hurled well as a team but still have things to work on; we have five weeks to work on that but a great day for Kilkenny, another Leinster title.”

And so Dublin were chewed up, the bones spat out. A skeletal Dublin though, let it be said, too many of their stalwarts mere shadows of the players who had won a first provincial title for the metropolitans in 52 years, hauled ashore yesterday by manager Anthony Daly long before the end.

It was a game for about 10 minutes, at which time it stood 0-2 apiece; thereafter Kilkenny took over, Dublin flattered to be within four points at the break (0-13 to 1-6) thanks to an intelligent goal by youngster Colm Cronin in the 22nd minute, set up by Dotsie O’Callaghan.

The problems for Dublin started up front, an underpowered attack handing the initiative to Kilkenny. From the start, Dublin pulled Danny Sutcliffe from the inside line, left two forwards on Paul Murphy, JJ Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell; that trio simply took it in turns to mop up.

“As a back unit, I thought we all hurled very well,” said Tyrrell. “We all know each other’s game, know where to cover and things like that.”

The ball they delivered had the Dublin defence under the most enormous pressure but in midfield also, Kilkenny were on top, Conor Fogarty and Richie Hogan (man of the match) well on top.

Gradually that pressure was converted to scores, point after point, and where TJ Reid (six), Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan (two each) had done the bulk of the scoring in the first half, and Reid would continue his strike rate in the second half (four points, including three 65s), now it was the turn of the powerful and elusive Padraig Walsh (two beauties) and a ‘new’ guy, one Henry Shefflin.

Introduced as a sub in the 55th minute, Shefflin would rifle over three quick points in succession, the final points of the game, to eventually put Dublin out of their misery.

And misery it was, accepted in typical honest and straight-talking fashion by manager Daly. “No real excuses on the day, don’t know exactly yet why but they were so dominant in so many positions. The old adage of going to the ball, making things happen — we didn’t do enough of that today, dropped simple ball out of our hands, didn’t take the right options and when we did, our first touch was off.”

It wasn’t all bad for Dublin. Dotsie O’Callaghan ploughed a lone but very determined furrow up front all through, Colm Cronin impressed in patches, while at the back, well, keeper Alan Nolan matched David Herity save for save and then some, Peter Kelly — though making a few very dodgy decisions on the ball — caught the eye occasionally, while the half-back trio of Stephen Hiney, Liam Rushe (those two especially) and Michael Carton did their utmost to stem the endless Kilkenny tide surges.

“Heroic,” Daly called them, and he was right, no goal conceded.

For Kilkenny then, another Leinster title, their 69th, the 13th in the Cody era, and their odds for yet another All-Ireland title will surely have shortened after this.

For Dublin? “There’ll be a lot of people writing the epitaph now,” said a grim Anthony Daly; “It’s up to us to respond and give a massive quarter-final performance. There’s no time to be dwelling on it, you were going to be either in the last four or the last six after today.

“This time last year, we beat Kilkenny after a semi-final replay and they picked it up six days later to beat Tipperary. We’ve got to show character now; they’re a great bunch of lads, we didn’t play well today, it wasn’t a good day at the office but there’s another day around the corner, we just have to lift it up.”

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (4f, 0-4 65s); H Shefflin 0-3; C Fennelly 0-3; W Walsh 0-2; P Walsh 0-2; R Hogan 0-2 (1f); B Hogan, A Fogarty, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Dublin: C Cronin 1-1; A McCrabbe 0-3 (3f); D O’Callaghan, C Keaney (peno), D Sutcliffe, C McCormack, P Ryan, 0-1 each.

Subs for Kilkenny: H Shefflin for W Walsh (55); A Fogarty for Power (59); L Ryan (capt) for C Fogarty (69).

Subs for Dublin: C McCormack for O’Dwyer (29); N McMorrow for Boland (42); P Ryan for Sutcliffe (42); D Treacy for Keaney (50); N Corcoran for Schutte (61).

KILKENNY: D Herity; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; J Holden, B Hogan, C Buckley; C Fogarty, R Hogan; P Walsh, C Fennelly, TJ Reid; W Walsh, E Larkin, J Power. Subs for Kilkenny: H Shefflin for W Walsh (55); A Fogarty for Power (59); L Ryan (capt) for C Fogarty (69). DUBLIN: A Nolan; S Durkin, P Kelly, P Schutte; S Hiney, L Rushe, M Carton; J McCaffrey (c), J Boland; R O’Dwyer, D O’Callaghan, C Cronin; C Keaney, A McCrabbe, D Sutcliffe. Subs for Dublin: C McCormack for O’Dwyer (29); N McMorrow for Boland (42); P Ryan for Sutcliffe (42); D Treacy for Keaney (50); N Corcoran for Schutte (61).

Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).


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