If Anthony Daly dusts down the video of the last time he tangled with Kilkenny in a championship replay, an important lesson will emerge quite quickly.
Kilkenny shot from the blocks in the 2004 All-Ireland quarter-final rematch against Clare and led by six points after 15 minutes. It was a lead which sustained them all the way to the finish, despite Clare’s well-organised and spirited response.
“Kilkenny charged straight into that game and did a fair bit of damage early on. They’ll try to do the same against Dublin. That’s the way they operate,” said Clare’s Niall Gilligan, who played at right corner-forward that day.
Daly, who was in the first year of his management term with his native county in 2004, set Clare up in a compact defensive formation, which worked extremely well in the drawn quarter-final and, with the exception of the opening quarter-hour, again in the replay.
“The big thing for Dublin is not to fall too far behind in the first half. If they can hang on in there, then anything is possible, but if you let Kilkenny get a run on you early on – especially in a replay – they’ll make it count,” said Gilligan.
He believes Dublin have some distinct advantages over Galway (2012) and Clare (2004), the last two teams to face Kilkenny in championship replays.
“Galway had to contend with Henry Shefflin last year and we had to contend with Shefflin and DJ Carey in 2004. Kilkenny wouldn’t even have been in the All-Ireland final replay last year if it wasn’t for Shefflin. He dragged them back in the drawn game,” said Gilligan.
Shefflin’s absence, in particular, seriously reduces Kilkenny’s efficiency, while being without Michael Fennelly is also a drawback.
“Dublin have got to be prepared for a different Kilkenny this time. When you’re going into a replay against Kilkenny, there’s no point thinking that if you play at the same level again you will match them because you won’t. You’ll find they have stepped it up a lot,” said Gilligan.
Kilkenny’s 1-14 total last weekend was unusually low, but Daly won’t be fooled into thinking that a repeat of that defensive performance would necessarily win the game. In 2004, Kilkenny beat Clare by five points after scoring two points less than in the drawn game.
Daly will be hoping that Dublin’s goal drought against Kilkenny from play finally ends in Portlaoise.
Dublin last scored a championship goal from play against Kilkenny in the 1997 Leinster semi-final when Gerry Ennis netted in the first half. Since then, Dublin have scored only one goal (a Paul Ryan free in the 2011 Leinster final) in nine games. They haven’t hit the Kilkenny net from play in 11 hours, seven minutes – surely a record.