Kilkenny 4-19 Dublin 0-12
The nuetrals came to see if the rumours were true. Had Kilkenny really lost their appetite for an assault on the five-in-a-row? Was their moderate league form a harbinger of further mediocrity in the Championship?
What they delivered in beating Dublin by 4-19 to 0-12 in the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday was more than just a statement of intent. It was a reminder that the Cats are the greatest team of the modern era and they will once again be the team to beat in 2010.
They toyed with Dublin in the first half, keeping them at arm’s length without feeling the need to move out of second gear. They led by five, 1-10 to 0-8, at the break, but when the need arose, Brian Cody’s men showed their ruthless streak to clinically dismiss the Dubs with two goals in the final six minutes.
Fittingly for a team that prides itself on their strength in depth and the democratic nature of their squad structure, it was substitute Martin Fogarty who delivered the killer blows after Eddie Brennan and Richie Power had earlier goaled for the Cats.
Henry Shefflin once again demonstrated that he has lost none of his desire, shooting 12 points and breaking the all-time scoring record in Championship hurling 17 minutes in (he now has an incredible 22-382 in 49 Championship games) , while the Kilkenny defence provided a black and amber brick wall that Dublin tried but failed to penetrate on numerous occasions.
The portents were not good for the Dubs when they conceded a goal inside the first minute. John Dalton’s monster clearance was won by TJ Reid – who beat Tomás Brady to the ball – and the Ballyhale man fed goal machine Eddie Brennan, who blasted to the roof of the net.
Dublin could – and possibly should – have been level two minutes later, when David O’Callaghan streaked through on goal and blazed his shot over the bar when it was obvious that he was looking for greater reward. However, it was a settling score and just what the Dubs needed after such a poor start.
Kilkenny, uncharacteristically, hit four wides in the first quarter, but Shefflin was as accurate as ever in that period, striking five points in the first 20 minutes, including a fine effort from play.
After courting disaster in the opening minute, Anthony Daly’s men gradually reached the tenor of the game. Alan McCrabbe, as is his wont, punished every Kilkenny indiscretion and Dublin ate into the Cats’ lead. Their forwards were struggling to cope with a powerful Kilkenny defence, but they had inspiration further out the field as half-forwards Joey Boland and Maurice O’Brien both found the target from inside their own half.
Dublin’s first real incision into the Kilkenny defence came a half an hour in. O’Callaghan mishit an attempted point and the ball fell for Liam Rushe, who showed a terrific burst of pace to sail past Noel Hickey on the outside, but his flicked shot hit the side netting. It was a lucky escape for the Cats and a real incentive for the Dubs to run at a Kilkenny defence that they looked to have the edge on in terms of pace.
Dublin once again had goalkeeper Gary Maguire to thank for going in at half time with just one goal in the debit column. Shefflin dropped his long-range effort short and Power attempted to double on the ball on the edge of the square, but he missed and Maguire had to be alert to shovel the ball away. It was the second time Maguire had come to his side’s rescue, earlier pulling off a fine double save to deny Power and Shefflin.
Kilkenny, however, could be happy with their first 35 minutes in this year’s Championship and led by five points, 1-10 to 0-8, at the break after team captain TJ Reid fired his second point from play.
Dublin needed to start the second half well, but it was Kilkenny, through Richie Hogan, who moved further ahead. However, Peter Kelly, who was gradually exerting his influence in the half-forward line, filched a pair of fine points from play for the Dubs to reduce the gap to four.
Then the game turned in a two-minute spell. Richie Power turned on the after burners, turned full-back Brady and skipped through on goal, flicking the ball delightfully past Maguire when it looked like he would be hooked.
It was a killer blow for the Dubs, but they were given the chance to make amends a minute later when Kilkenny goalkeeper PJ Ryan brought down Paul Ryan and referee Diarmuid Kirwan pointed to the penalty spot. Ryan himself took the penalty but his shot was brilliantly blocked by JJ Delaney on the line.
Kilkenny’s defence once again looked almost impregnable and Paul Ryan and McCrabbe both had further efforts blocked by the Cats’ goalkeeper, PJ Ryan, on the line. Kilkenny make the art of defending look so easy, but it was their attack, particularly substitute Fogarty, who broke Dublin hearts and had the neutrals’ tongues lolling with two goals in the final ten minutes.
Although already nine points down, the Dubs didn’t deserve what came next. Fogarty swept the ball home after Shefflin had forced yet another save from Maguire in the 64th minute before adding his second with three minutes left after leaving the Dublin defence for dead.
The Cats also necklaced three points on the spin in the final minutes, with Shefflin adding his 13th of the day, to leave the scoreboard with a lopsided look. Dublin deserved more than a 19-point defeat.
Dublin: G Maguire; N Corcoran, T Brady, O Gough; S Hiney, J Boland (0-1), M O’Brien (0-1); J McCaffrey (0-1, 0-1’65), S Durkin; S Lambert, P Kelly (0-2), L Rushe; D O’Callaghan (0-1), L Ryan, A McCrabbe (0-6, 0-6f).
Dublin Subs: M Carton for O’Brien ’45, D O’Dwyer for S Durkin ’45, D Treacy for O’Callaghan ’50, K Flynn for L Ryan ’63.
Kilkenny: PJ Ryan; J Dalton (0-1), N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, JJ Delaney; M Rice (0-1), M Fennelly; M Comerford (0-1), R Hogan (0-1), H Shefflin (0-12, 0-8f, 0-2 ’65); E Brennan (1-1), TJ Reid (0-2), R Power (1-0).
Kilkenny Subs: E Larkin for Hogan ’44, J Mulhall for TJ Reid ’53, A Fogarty (2-0) for Brennan ’53, D Lyng for Power ’64,
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan