Kilkenny 1-25 Dublin 0-16: Before the obvious parallels are drawn between this latest Kilkenny championship victory and their previous, let’s consider the facts. Unlike Galway last September, Dublin weren’t ahead at half-time on Saturday. Unlike Galway in the All-Ireland final, Dublin were flying by the seat of their pants yet playing with a wind.
Where Dublin and Galway shared common ground was in getting in Kilkenny’s faces in the first half and reaping rewards. But just as it was nine months ago the only intensity remaining after the resumption was exhibited by the men in black and amber.
Watched by a 10,419 attendance, the opening 35 minutes was the best half of championship hurling this summer. Some needless frees were conceded and indeed the first seven scores of the game came from placed balls but the hurling was frenetic and the crowd approved wholeheartedly.
Kilkenny played their part in showing up in the second half but the Dublin that presented them with difficulties in the first half never reappeared.
Instead, Kilkenny took them for an unanswered haul of 1-8, Jonjo Farrell’s 45th minute goal putting the tin hat on it for the challengers.
Dublin had a puck-out meltdown. Kilkenny, in truth, had been winning the aerial battles from close to the outset but the problem reached epidemic proportions in the third quarter. Conor Dooley was struggling to find his targets; Dublin’s half-forward line offering little or no ball retention. The liberties provided to Kilkenny were inexcusable.
“We felt we were in a good position at half-time,” said Ger Cunningham. “We went out and there was a bit of a breeze there but it wasn’t really a huge factor in the game. Our heads seemed to drop a bit. They got a couple of points ahead of us, we weren’t really looking like threatening for any scores at that stage and then when the goal came it was the nail in the coffin but on the night they were too good for us.”
Backed by the wind, Kilkenny rattled off six points in the opening six minutes of the second half. A Cillian Buckley point before Farrell carved out a goal for himself from a long delivery. Even if it was just one goal, the purple patch was akin to Kilkenny at their zenith in the late 2000s.
“It was a lovely start to the second half, for sure,” reviewed Brian Cody. “But I think the first half was a very important element of the game because there was a very strong breeze out there. We really got into the game strongly.
“We led by four points a couple of minutes before half-time and they got it back to a point which is an indication of how the game can swing. We worked hard, gave ourselves a decent platform and did kick on well in the second half.”
Cody didn’t anticipate it would be anything more than a four-point lead for Kilkenny at half-time. That it was one – 0-12 to 0-11 – was of little concern to him: “I wasn’t worried. The important thing is to be doing the hurling. There is no way we’d be expecting against the breeze like that and come in with a decent lead. The pressure was on to perform. Overall, we were decent.”
Twice Kilkenny held four-point leads in the first half but on each occasion Dublin brought them back to the minimum.
Although Eamon Dillon wasn’t getting much from Paul Murphy, Joey Holden was struggling a little and discipline at both ends was questionable. David O’Callaghan had a goal chance in the 22nd minute but Eoin Murphy covered it well.
There were early indications Dublin’s puck-out wasn’t what it should have been, Michael and Colin Fennelly reaping the benefits of the miscommunication. But what followed in the second half was significantly worse: “You know, we were just trying different things,” explained Cunningham.
“Against a strong wind, we were just trying to get possession of the ball really but obviously they have a very dominant half-back line.
“We lost a few balls, we won a few but they were only breaking balls; they beat us hands down in the air, caught a lot of ball.
“We know they’re good at that, that’s what they’re very good at and that’s where they built their momentum from the in the second-half.
“We were just trying to get possession really, in any shape that you can.
“We don’t have big huge men in the half-forward line so we have to look at different options.”
Cody was matter-of-fact about Kilkenny’s success in the air. “We have a responsibility to deal with the puck-out situation.
“We have no idea coming up here what exactly they’re going to do.
“Every player has to take responsibility. Players did that very well.”
Scorers for Scorers for Kilkenny:
T.J. Reid (0-10, 7 frees, 1 65); J.J. Farrell (1-5); W. Walsh, C. Buckley, M. Fennelly (0-2 each); C. Fennelly, P. Walsh, L. Ryan, C. Fogarty (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin:
D. Treacy (0-11, 10 frees); D. O’Callaghan (0-2); D. Plunkett, E. Dillon, P. Ryan (0-1 each).
E. Murphy; P. Murphy, J. Holden, R. Lennon; P. Walsh, K. Joyce, C. Buckley; C. Fogarty, M. Fennelly; W. Walsh, C. Fennelly, L. Ryan (c); J.J. Farrell, T.J. Reid, E. Larkin.
Subs for Kilkenny:
L. Blanchfield for E. Larkin (51); K. Kelly for L. Ryan (58); D. Cody for M. Fennelly (65).
C. Dooley; E. O’Donnell, C. O’Callaghan, O. Gough; S. Barrett, L. Rushe (c), C. Crummy; D. O’Connell, J. McCaffrey; D. Plunkett, N. McMorrow, R. O’Dwyer; D. O’Callaghan, D. Treacy, E. Dillon.
Subs for Dublin:
P. Ryan for R O’Dwyer (inj h-t); O. O’Rorke for N. McMorrow (45); S. Treacy for S. Barrett (60); C. Bennett for D. O’Callaghan (70).
B. Gavin (Offaly)
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