NICKY ENGLISH HURLING ANALYST: The winning margin didn’t flatter Anthony Daly’s men and this final signals a major shift in the balance of power
SO, NOW, we know for sure: Dublin hurlers are the real deal! The easy thing to say about yesterday’s win by Dublin is that this was a great day for hurling, and that’s absolutely true. But this is more, much more than that. This is maybe the start of a changing of the guard in Leinster hurling and we can now add Dublin’s name to the list of genuine championship candidates.
This National League win by Dublin isn’t just a one-off. No, they’ve well and truly arrived. This was a good win for hurling and to do it against Kilkenny, and in the entirely professional manner in which they went about doing so, bodes well for Dublin as Anthony Daly and his team move with momentum from the league into the demands of the championship. Dublin were thoroughly deserving winners and ultimately the winning margin didn’t flatter them.
The fear before the game was that Dublin would not be able to take their chances. Well, that fear was to prove groundless because Dublin dominated all through and were much the hungrier team. Dublin’s hunger was evidenced by their pucking around in small groups when the outstanding Joey Boland was down injured during the second half.
Dublin really wanted this one more. For sure, they looked a little nervy early on. They had a number of wides and Peter Kelly’s missed line ball was symptomatic of that edginess. But Kelly went on to have a fantastic game and their overall response to Eddie Brennan’s goal for Kilkenny was to land fine points from Dotsy O’Callaghan, Paul Ryan and Daire Plunkett. Even though it was Kilkenny who got the goal, it was Dublin who kicked on. They really wanted it more, were physically stronger and were in much better shape than Kilkenny.
Eoin Larkin’s sending-off was an untypical action but the red card was deserved. I don’t know how he thought he was going to get away with it. Kilkenny were struggling up to that point but from then on were put under unreal pressure. His action was probably an indication of how rattled Kilkenny were, because even though they weren’t far behind they knew they weren’t firing at all.
It was unusual for Larkin to do what he did but it showed Kilkenny were under pressure and there were other incidents in the game that weren’t very honourable from a Kilkenny perspective and confirmed how much pressure they were under. I’m sure John Dalton will be hearing more about that incident before half-time and there were a couple more Kilkenny players that sailed close to the wind at times.
At half-time, Kilkenny were lucky not to be even further behind because the referee’s whistle came with Dublin on the attack for a “goal” that would have sealed Kilkenny’s fate even earlier. But, to be honest, all day I just couldn’t see Kilkenny winning it.
Kilkenny will be extremely disappointed with this display. From where they started against Tipperary in their first league match, which showed they were up for this league, Kilkenny have deteriorated. I know they’ve had their share of injury problems and have been missing some outstanding players, but Brian Cody will have to be worried. They looked sluggish in the league against Dublin a few weeks back but I had expected them to improve. For me, Colin Fennelly is one of their fastest and best athletes and, if you take him as the barometer, he didn’t look to have any energy and was ultimately replaced.
From an early stage, Kilkenny were absolutely dominated physically, which is unusual, and didn’t seem to have a lot of energy or, more worryingly from a Kilkenny point of view, a lot of hunger. Going back to the point about the Dubs’ pucking around during Boland’s injury, Kilkenny didn’t even think of doing likewise.
In the second half, Dublin crowded them at every opportunity and, although not pressing home the advantage, were still well on top.
Dublin had a lot of fine performers right through the team, but I thought Ryan O’Dwyer was outstanding. He was physically combative when at centre-forward. At times, he can overdo things and overplay the ball without taking scores. There can be no such criticism levelled at him this time. He was outstanding, took his chances when they came and, when he moved out the field after Boland’s injury, he dominated. Michael Rice was probably Kilkenny’s best player on the day and O’Dwyer totally dominated him.
I don’t think Dublin realised really how much on top they were until the game ran into injury time and the chains came off and we had some simply outstanding points. One after Conal Keaney’s crossfield pass to Johnny McCaffrey and another from Keaney himself, that he cut back into the wind from under the Hogan Stand, underlined the benefit to hurling of him coming back to the game.
There were also outstanding scores from Paul Ryan and David Treacy, who was one of those to underline the strength in depth in this Dublin team when he came on.
This was a fine professional performance from a Dublin perspective and confirmed what a good job Anthony Daly and his team have done. Dublin certainly have improved. The impression created in the early stages of the league was that Dublin had moved up a level. The manner of this win confirms that improvement and it is definitely not a once-off. They have some tough hurdles ahead but this is a team on the up and one that can cause trouble in the championship.
Dublin are now a force to be reckoned with and the impression remains that the balance of power is shifting.
Article Source: IrishTimes.com