KILKENNY 1-14 DUBLIN 0-17
The ball evades both JJ Delaney and Ryan O’Dwyer as they give it their all at O’Moore Park yesterday
Dublin’s 71-year wait for a championship victory over Kilkenny goes on despite their brave effort to overcome mountainous odds earning them a second chance.
If Dublin were told in advance that they would leave O’Moore Park with a draw, they would have jumped at such a positive outcome.
However, since it was Kilkenny who were forced to snatch the equalising point, Anthony Daly and his battling adventurers were left with a sense of what might have been.
Joey Boland’s ninth point, scored in the second minute of stoppage time after Lester Ryan had been penalised for over-carrying, gave Dublin a lead which looked as if it might be enough to earn them a sensational victory but there was still more drama to come before the final whistle.
Kilkenny haven’t reached the lofty heights they currently occupy without knowing how to negotiate the tightest bends and, in a final flourish, they played substitute TJ Reid into a striking position and he duly fired over the equaliser.
The sense of relief etched on the faces of the Kilkenny players and management afterwards said it all about a game which, on the overall balance, Dublin should have won. They shot 10 wides while playing with the strong wind in the first half and also missed a few good chances in the second half.
Dublin’s first half waste looked as if it would seriously undermine them in the second period, once Kilkenny deployed the wind as an extra weapon.
However, as has been proven so often in the past, the elements are only a plus when players are operating at their maximum efficiency, which was not the case with Kilkenny during the second half.
Walter Walsh, who scored 1-4 from open play, was about the only forward who was playing anywhere close to his optimum and, as the Dublin defence, superbly structured around the impressive Peter Kelly and Paul Schutte, grew in confidence, Kilkenny were made to look unusually ordinary.
The second half started at 0-8 each and the sides were level on no fewer than six occasions from there on, with neither side leading by more than two points at any stage.
Kilkenny appeared to have made a vital break in the 43rd minute when Walsh whipped in the game’s only goal to put them a point clear.
Normally, that would have heralded the start of a Kilkenny surge but, on this occasion, Dublin’s dogged persistence presented the favourites with an unexpected suite of challenges.
Kilkenny’s goal came from a breakaway after a Dublin effort for a point had dropped short into Eoin Murphy’s hands and he dispatched a long clearance deep into enemy territory. In effect, it was a four-point turnaround in a matter of seconds, a setback which, in different circumstances, might have deflated Dublin.
However, they were in such a defiant mood yesterday that they ignored every negative and worked as hard as they could to regain equilibrium. They had to begin that process quite early when Kilkenny scored three points in the opening 10 minutes.
Dublin’s normally reliable free-taker, Paul Ryan missed from around 55 metres and a few minutes later failed to connect properly when presented with an excellent goal opportunity.
Dublin’s first score didn’t arrive until the 13th minute, a depressingly long time for their supporters who may have feared that they were about to witness a defeat of similar proportions to last year when Kilkenny won by 18 points.
However, Dublin enjoyed a good spell after finally getting on the scoreboard and led for the first time when Boland, who took over the free-taking duties after Ryan’s withdrawal in the 19th minute, pointed from long range.
Once again, though, Kilkenny retaliated with four unanswered points, creating the clear impression that they were playing well within themselves and would cut loose once they got the wind behind them in the second half.
Not so. It was noticeable from early on in the second half that Dublin were more than capable of matching Kilkenny in all the key facets.
Kilkenny are usually so good at winning individual battles and translating that superiority in a major collective drive but it didn’t happen yesterday.
It was point for point through much of the second half and headed into the final five minutes on level terms before Boland put Dublin ahead after Conal Keaney was fouled. Eoin Larkin equalised from a free before stoppage time delivered a point each.
The big question now is: who will learn the more from yesterday’s game? Dublin’s confidence levels will soar after coming so close to unseating the 1/20 favourites but, as Galway discovered in last year’s All-Ireland final, Kilkenny tend to increase power significantly in replays.
Jackie Tyrrell may be fit for the replay but Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly, who enjoyed a pre-match puckaround, will again be absent while there are also serious doubts over right corner-back Paul Murphy who was taken to hospital for an examination of an ankle injury sustained in the second half.
Brian Cody will, no doubt, have some harsh words for his troops in training this week as it really was an uncharacteristically pedestrian second-half performance.
Dublin, in contrast, raised their game against the wind, carrying the ball intelligently out of defence and directing accurate passes to an attack where substitutes David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan and Mark Schutte did well.
Dublin’s big regret will be that they didn’t make better use of their first-half opportunities. At the very minimum they should have been five points ahead at the interval, a lead which would have set Kilkenny a difficult target.
Instead, it was all square and apparently set up for Kilkenny to squeeze the resistance from Dublin.
Cody stressed afterwards that there was no question of Kilkenny believing the hard work was done at half-time but nonetheless it must have been difficult for a group that beat Dublin so comfortably last year to believe that the resistance would be so dogged in the second half.
Ultimately, it was that intense defiance which gave Dublin a great opportunity to cause a major shock, only for Kilkenny to calmly rescue themselves in the final seconds.
Scorers – Kilkenny: E Larkin 0-7 (7fs), W Walsh 1-4, R Hogan 0-2, TJ Reid 0-1. Dublin: J Boland 0-9 (7fs), D Sutcliffe, P Ryan (f), D O’Callaghan, J McCaffrey, S Durkin, C Keaney, P Schutte, M Schutte 0-1 each.
Kilkenny – E Murphy 7; P Murphy 7, JJ Delaney 7, C Fogarty 6; T Walsh 7, B Hogan 7, K Joyce 7; L Ryan 6, M Rice 5; C Buckley 6, R Power 5, E Larkin 7; W Walsh 9, R Hogan 7, C Fennelly 5. Subs: P Hogan 6 for P Murphy (34), TJ Reid 7 for Rice (h-t), A Fogarty 6 for Fennelly (59), M Ruth for Power (63).
Dublin – G Maguire 7; P Schutte 8, P Kelly 8, N Corcoran 7; S Hiney 7, L Rushe 6, M Carton 6; J McCaffrey 6, J Boland 8; C Keaney 6, R O’Dwyer 6, D Sutcliffe 5; C McCormack 5, D Treacy 5, P Ryan 5. Subs: D O’Callaghan 8 for Ryan (34), M Schutte 7 for McCormack (h-t), S Durkin 7 for Sutcliffe (45), S Lambert 5 for Treacy (57), E Dillon for Hiney (63).
REF – J Ryan (Tipperary)