- IAN O’RIORDAN at Nowlan Park
Kilkenny 5-16 Dublin 6-12: BANG! ANOTHER pistol shot rings out around Nowlan Park – just when it seems Dublin had provided us with a spectacular reminder of why they are reigning league champions.
As if things haven’t been violent enough already. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Goals win matches, as everyone knows, and Dublin had fired six of them into Kilkenny. Not even Wyatt Earp would have survived a shootout like that.
But Kilkenny had saved two last shots until the end – and no goals are more decisive than the late, late killer one. With 30 seconds left Richie Hogan picked out Matthew Ruth and bang! It was as if Dublin had been shot in the back, having just escaped to victory – leaving then with a second successive one-point defeat, and third defeat of this year’s league.
No one around Nowlan Park could remember the last time Kilkenny hurlers were hit with six goals. Like two old gunslingers these teams shot at each other for 70 minutes: Dublin fought the more aggressively, hitting where it hurts, but Kilkenny just refused to roll over and die.
There was brief pause on the final whistle before the Kilkenny fans in the crowd of 5,571 rose to their feet in thunderous applause. It was as if the more goals Dublin fired, the more they angered Kilkenny, although ultimately Dublin were victims of some daylight robbery. They had outgunned and out-smarted Kilkenny for much of the game, and were eight points clear with just 15 minutes to go.
By then they were already reduced to 14 men – Ryan O’Dwyer’s sending off for a second bookable offence on 43 minutes possibly proving fatal. Kilkenny had chased the game from the start but never lost sight of their target.
“Sure, a crazy game, in lots of ways,” says Kilkenny manager Brian Cody. “Obviously we don’t want to be conceding six goals. We don’t want to be conceding any goals. In fairness to the lads they just never gave up. It was a hell of a battle until the end.”
Anthony Daly was hardly able to believe what he’d seen either: “Some days we can’t get any goals at all. It was a freakish sort of game. Maybe we could have been even further ahead at half time . . . Certainly if we lost a championship match like that it would be devastating. We just have to keep remembering it’s only a league game.” Where to begin?
Paul Ryan set the mood for the afternoon with the first cheeky shot at goal after 10 minutes. Bang! But Ryan hurt himself in the process and retired soon after with a hamstring strain.
Kilkenny shot back with some nice points, then on 27 minutes Danny Sutcliffe dummied past Tommy Walsh and fired in Dublin’s second goal. Bang! Kilkenny responded immediately with a goal from the returned Aidan Fogarty. Alan McCrabbe set up Conor McCormack – and bang! That goal left them 3-8 to 1-9 in front, with a real swagger about their game too.
The second half had barely begun when – bang! – David O’Callaghan fired in Dublin’s fourth goal. Kilkenny were wounded . . and Sutcliffe grabbed his second goal, and Dublin’s fifth, on 55 minutes. Bang! But just moments later Kilkenny fired back again, this one shot in on the rebound from Michael Fennelly. Bang! Six minutes to go and Richie Hogan fired in Kilkenny’s third goal with the force of a double-barrelled shotgun. Bang! Who’s next? Dublin substitute Eamon Dillon, actually, with Dublin’s sixth goal – one rifled past David Herity. Bang!
Three minutes to go. What next? Richie Power in front of an open goal. Bang! Then two minutes later Ruth’s incredible match winner. BANG! What possibly won it for Kilkenny in the end?
“Probably not conceding seven goals . . . ,” said Cody. “ But I think Paul Murphy worked very well as the extra man.”
KILKENNY: D Herity; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, N Hickey; T Walsh, B Hogan, R Doyle, M Fennelly (1-0), M Rice; TJ Reid (0-1), R Power (1-8, five frees, one 65), C Fennelly; R Hogan (1-3), E Larkin (0-3), A Fogarty (1-1). Subs: M Ruth (1-0) for Fogarty (53 mins), J Tyrrell for Delaney (57 mins), J Mulhall for Fennelly (60 mins)
DUBLIN: A Nolan; N Corcoran, P Schutte, R Trainor; M Carton, J Boland, J McCaffrey; S Durkin, S Lambert; C McCormack (1-0), R O’Dwyer, D Suttcliffe (2-3); D O’Callaghan (1-0), L Rushe (0-1), P Ryan (1-3, two frees). Subs: A McCrabbe (0-4, three frees) for Ryan (14 mins, inj), E Dillon (1-0) for O’Callaghan (48) M O’Brien (0-1) for Durkin (48), D Treacy for Lambert (65), S Stapleton for McCormack (68).
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).