Monday April 04 2011
During the week, Dublin manager Anthony Daly expressed some amusement at how every game his charges played seemed to be billed as a test.
In our eyes the time for a long-term view on Dublin is over, so we look for indicators as to how far they have travelled almost on a weekly basis.
Saturday night then will feel like a milestone, not for the result but for how it was achieved.
In the laboratory process that this league has been for them, the Dubs met all the key requirements of courage, nerve and will to mine a result that looked an improbability 10 minutes from time.
In awful conditions — flashes of lightning lanced the skies above Croke Park as the rain poured incessantly — Dublin’s spirit should have broken when Matthew Ruth pounced for his second goal, a third on the night for Kilkenny in the 57th minute, marking quite an enterprising debut for the James Stephens man.
It gave Kilkenny a three-point cushion, 3-11 to 1-14, and in the context of Dublin’s dominance for all of the first half we doubted that the hosts would have the capacity to respond.
But for the final 17 minutes, 13 in regular time and another four for injuries, something stirred in Dublin again.
Spurred on by their Herculean centre-back Tomas Brady, the regular full-back who found himself sandbagging further out in the absence of Stephen Hiney and Joey Boland, they prevented any further leakage behind them and pressed forward incessantly.
Brady was immense across his half -back line, regularly claiming balls in the air he looked to have no right to lay a hand on.
Progress at the other end was painfully slow, however. Paul Ryan, the stellar Dublin forward on the night, chipped away with a ’65’ and a free but wides were killing them as the tally for two games (19 against Galway six days earlier) rose to 36 over two weekends.
Just when it looked like another narrow defeat laden with regret was theirs, Brady made one last catch and surge, this time delivering to his forward line with a mighty stroke of a boot that Kildare football manager Kieran McGeeney — a Na Fianna colleague — believes would be equally at home on the football team.
Ryan met the delivery and put behind earlier misses to drive over an equaliser as time ran out.
The significance of it we may only determine at some point in the future, but it makes it still possible for Dublin to reach a league final if other results go their way.
For Daly, the night was all about altering the mindset.
“Belief is a huge thing, and I’d have grown up with that DNA,” he said. “When you went out playing with St Flannan’s you expected to win, when you played for the Clare minors, you didn’t expect to win, deep down inside you,” he said.
“We’re trying to change that here and that’s not done easily. But little nights like tonight, where you can battle back and finish strong against Kilkenny, that’s where you learn that we’re not three miles off. If you can believe in yourself enough you can get something from these type of games.
“Championship will be a step up from this again and I think we have the type of athlete who can step up.”
The result should be tempered by Kilkenny’s missing list, Tommy Walsh, J J Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell on top of Henry Shefflin, Richie Power and John Tennyson, arguably five of their top six players.
Dublin had an impressive casualty list too — Alan McCrabbe, David Treacy, Boland, Hiney and Conor McCormack which, in relative terms, may be just as important to them as Shefflin and Co are to Kilkenny.
But Kilkenny are so well equipped to cater for losses. This is why a player like Ruth can celebrate his debut with two goals, opportunist efforts in either half after Dublin goalkeeper Gary Maguire had pulled off spectacular saves.
Dublin could have established a more significant lead in the opening 20 minutes but nine wides, including a couple of goal attempts that hit the side netting, held them back.
There was fury in their pursuit of possession at every juncture and in Liam Rushe, Ryan Dwyer, Conal Keaney they had they had an impressive ball-winning combination.
A 0-5 to 0-2 lead was pegged back on 15 minutes when Ruth first struck but Dublin still had the conviction to go and lead by 1-11 to 1-6 after a well-worked Ryan goal that involved smart play from Dwyer and Daire Plunkett.
But Eddie Brennan was in menacing mood at full-forward. Sensing that he had the measure of Peter Kelly, he caught Paddy Hogan’s delivery on the stroke of half-time and fired home to reduce the deficit to 1-12 to 2-7.
Kilkenny’s best spell was the third quarter when they got level and appeared to stifle Dublin’s spirit.
Michael Fennelly had another towering evening, Brian Hogan got going in the second half, Colin Fennelly once again staked a strong claim for a starting place, Brennan needed a game like that and TJ Reid made quite an impact on his arrival.
But the goalkeeping position is still providing a conundrum with David Herity’s control failure on 23 minutes requiring Noel Hickey to keep out a David O’Callaghan shot for a ’65’.
Cody is satisfied with the league campaign, with the weight of injuries not stifling their ambition to win another league title. “At all times we have to have an absolutely phenomenal ambition that we’re going to be in this position — why shouldn’t we?”
Man of the Match: Thomas Brady (Dublin)
Scorers — Dublin: P Ryan 1-5 (0-1f, 0-1 ’65’), C Keaney 0-5 (3f, 1 ’65’), L Rushe, R Dwyer 0-2 each,S Durkin, J McCaffrey, D Plunkett all 0-1 each. Kilkenny: M Ruth 2-1, R Hogan 0-5 (2f), E Brennan 1-2, M Fennelly 0-2, A Fogarty 0-1.
Dublin — G Maguire 8; N Corcoran 7, P Kelly 6, O Gough 6; R Walsh 6, T Brady 9, S Durkin 7; J McCaffrey 7, S Lambert 6; C Keaney 7, R Dwyer 7, L Rushe 7; D Plunkett 6, D O’Callaghan 7, P Ryan 8. Subs: S Ryan 5 for Lambert (42), P Schutte 5 for Gough (58), P Carton for Plunkett (66).
Kilkenny — D Herity 6; M Kavanagh 6, N Hickey 7, J Dalton 7; P Hogan 7, B Hogan 7, C Fogarty 6; P Murphy 5, E Larkin 7; R Hogan 7, M Fennelly 8, C Fennelly 7; M Ruth 8, E Brennan 7, A Fogarty 6. Subs: T J Reid 8 for Murphy (42), J Mulhall 6 for A Fogarty (52), P J Delaney 6 for C Fogarty (55).
Ref — B Kelly (Westmeath).
– Colm Keys