NO matter what way you look at it, you can come up with only one conclusion after our first glimpse of Kilkenny atCroke Park yesterday and it’s that they seem even stronger than last year.
The reintroduction of Noel Hickey to the full-back line had an obvious knock-on effect, with the restoration of JJ Delaney to the half-back line alongside Brian Hogan and Tommy Walshand it was in that area that they completely dominated and sucked the life out of Dublin.
Kilkenny went five points up at the break, something Anthony Daly would have been quietly happy with, given that they would be playing with the aid of the breeze in the second half. However, on the restart the Cats kicked into a different gear and there was only going to be one winner after that.
When they emptied the bench, they looked even sharper.Aidan Fogarty hit two goals on his introduction and Eoin Larkin showed glimpses of his best form. All the while, Henry Shefflin went about his business and became the top scorer in the history of the championship in a typically understated way.
Dublin were shown that they still have a bit to go before they can dine at the top table regularly but there’s not many teams in the country that would have lived with the Cats at times during the second half. And in fairness to Daly, he set up his team a little differently than last year’s Leinster final, where they dropped an extra man into defence. This time, they played a slightly more orthodox system and they paid the price, but it’s all part of their education and they should put on a decent showing in the qualifiers.
Kilkenny’s defence looks to be their greatest strength. John Dalton has battled hard to get into the side at corner-back for a number of seasons and looks set to stay there. Hickey, if he stays fit, is a superb addition while Jackie Tyrrell‘s record speaks for itself. The half-back line is well protected byMichael Fennelly and Michael Rice and on yesterday’s evidence, they will be hot favourites to record a historic five All-Ireland titles in a row
……....CYRIL FARRELL – IRISH INDEPENDENT
WHAT DID we learn from a day of hurling semi-finals in Leinster and Munster? Very little as Kilkenny cleaned Dublin out of it at a canter, Offaly refused to bend to Galway (during a World Cup the GAA love draws and they are getting them) while Cork underwhelmed in defeating an unknown Limerick.
Kilkenny were just stretching their legs. Eddie Brennan had a goal after one minute. Tommy Walsh was named man of the match. It finished 4-19 to 0-12. Clinical, they were not.
“We didn’t have a game for a long, long time and it showed at times,” said Brian Cody. “The scoreboard didn’t reflect the nature of the game by a long shot. We got an early goal and Richie Power’s goal was the real clincher. They had opportunities right throughout the game so we’re just happy to win the game but we’ll need a huge improvement for the Leinster final. We made a lot of mistakes but the spirit and the endeavour was good.”
Then Cody told everyone the eventual winner from Galway and Offaly will be better prepared. “Match-wise,” he added.
And Dublin? “Everybody respects the quality of Dublin, certainly I do, and I think there is no way there is anything remotely like 19 points between Kilkenny and Dublin. Dublin on any given day could beat us, it’s that simple.”
The scoreboard never lies. There is 19 points between them. Any given day is a rarity. Anthony Daly’s progress as Dublin hurling manager appears to have stalled. JJ Delaney and Walsh will do that to a team.
“Liam Ryan was doing Trojan work breaking ball but we just didn’t get on to the breaks,” said Daly. “Whoever we tried at wing forward was not getting on top with the two boys. It’s probably a lack of maturity. We talked about it, we put Liam Ryan in there for that reason. In fairness he did break a lot of ball but we didn’t get on to the breaks. Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney are fair operators and have been.”
…….… GAVIN CUMISKEY – IRISH TIMES
………………”It is very hard to be positive after it,” admitted Dublin manager Anthony Daly, normally such an upbeat individual but struggling here to put any kind of gloss on things. “But sure what do we do? We have three weeks to a qualifier and we have got to get ready. We’ll get them back in Tuesday night and keep going, that’s all we can do.”
Dublin, at least, now know where they stand in relation to Kilkenny – everyone else will just have to wait their turn. I doubt that anyone will be looking forward to it with kind of relish.
“Where can ye improve?” Kilkenny manager Brian Cody was asked. “I’d say right throughout the field,” was his uncompromising reply. “We probably had a lot of wides that we shouldn’t have had and we’ll have to brush up on the handball a bit as well.”
This, after a day when he had the luxury of introducing the likes of Eoin Larkin, Derek Lyng, the aforementioned Aidan Fogarty and impressive debutant John Mulhall, while keeping the likes of Michael Kavanagh and James Ryall on the bench and Cha Fitzpatrick still to recover from injury.
Ominous, isn’t it?
…… DIARMUID O FLYNN, IRISH EXAMINER
THE scoreboard may be cruel, it may be slightly misleading, but it doesn’t lie.
Dublin’s small-ball revolution has taken a backward step over the past 12 months and Anthony Daly now faces a massive challenge to get the team back into forward gear for the qualifiers.
Meanwhile, the drive-for-five is up and running, while Henry Shefflin is now, officially, the most prolific hurler in Championship history.
Can anyone stop those stripey assassins between now and September? Not Galway, if you’re to judge from their stuttering stalemate with Offaly in yesterday’s second Leinster SHC semi-final.
And certainly not Dublin, should their paths happen to cross again. Last July, back in the Leinster final big-time, Daly’s men pushed Kilkenny for most of the 70 minutes and ran out commendable losers, on the wrong end of a two-goal defeat.
By yesterday evening, the gap between All-Ireland kingpins and Sky Blue pretenders had stretched to a 19-point chasm.
Did they deserve such a trimming? Probably not: Dublin were ‘only’ nine points adrift around the hour-mark, but Johnny McCaffrey’s ‘65’ was their last score and Kilkenny blitzed them for an unanswered 2-4 from the 62nd minute.
Those last two goals came from a substitute, Aidan Fogarty, whose scoring haul proved more than the entire Dublin team managed from play over the whole game – a meagre five points.
The Sky Blue attack hit just three points from play. The team managed a paltry four points when backed by the second-half elements.
For whatever reason (second season syndrome, per chance?) the Dublin forwards have generally struggled this year to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and this weakness was written large over yesterday’s display.
Ditto with their failure to win sufficient primary ball in the half-forward line: this is not a new complaint, but the weakness tends to be amplified when facing two such renowned masters under the puckout as Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney.
In mitigation, Dublin went searching out goals in the last 20 minutes, only for substitute Paul Ryan to be denied a potential deadball hat-trick, as Delaney and keeper PJ Ryan got in the way of one penalty and two close-range frees.
“It is very hard to be positive after it, but, sure, what do we do?” mused Daly. “We have three weeks to a qualifier and we have got to get ready. We’ll get them (the squad) back in Tuesday night and keep going, that’s all we can do.”
The Clareman’s dismay was tempered by the belief that Dublin weren’t as bad as the 4-19 to 0-12 scoreline suggests. “I wouldn’t be that despondent either,” he reasoned. “I just think we are not that bad – we are not 19 points off the level. But sometimes when it goes away from you near the end, the likes of Kilkenny will keep driving it on and adding on the scores. They could have had more; in fairness to Gary (Maguire) he was outstanding.
We had our couple of goal chances as well but didn’t take them.” On that score, Daly found sympathetic support from Kilkenny boss Brian Cody, who insisted: “There is no team going to be queuing up to meet Dublin in the qualifiers … everybody respects the quality of Dublin, certainly I do, and I think there is no way there is anything remotely like 19 points between Kilkenny and Dublin.”
However, Cody’s next point – “Dublin on any given day could beat us, it’s that simple” – seemed overly charitable in the context both of yesterday’s eventual drubbing and of Kilkenny’s marathon run of Championship victories.
It’s true that Dublin had their goalscoring opportunities – via Paul Ryan in the second half and earlier Liam Rushe, who left Noel Hickey in his wake on the half-hour mark only to shoot into the side-netting. On the flip side, though, Dublin’s best player was goalkeeper Gary Maguire, who made one excellent double-save to deny Richie Power and Shefflin after 16 minutes, and followed this up with a string of second-half blocks.
Then you have the wide count – 17 for an unusually errant Kilkenny, just five for the losers. The biggest problem for Dublin was that they couldn’t get sufficient possession in the first place. Walsh swept up an ocean of ball in either half, while Delaney lorded the skies from left half-back. Couple this with a strangely ineffective display from their midfield duo of McCaffrey and Shane Durkin, and you have a recipe for a heavy defeat.
“Whoever we tried at wing-forward was not getting on top with the two boys,” Daly conceded. “It’s probably a lack of maturity, like. We talked about it; we put Liam Ryan in there (at centreforward) for that reason. In fairness, he did break a lot of ball but we didn’t get on to the breaks. Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney are fair operators.”
Fabulous even. And the same applies to Shefflin, who wasted no time in landing the four points required to take him above fellow Kilkenny deity Eddie Keher in the SHC scoring pantheon. More precisely, it took Shefflin 16 minutes and 43 seconds for him to surpass Keher’s 33-year-old record and bring him to the magical 440-point mark. By close of play, King Henry had tallied 12 points, bringing him to a new benchmark of 22 goals and 382 points.
Cody was later asked if he had anything to say about Shefflin’s scoring heroics over the past 11-and-a-bit seasons.
“To be honest, I’m more concerned about what he’s going to do for the rest of this year,” he replied. “Henry doesn’t need me to talk about him. Henry’s past is as it is, and from today on is my concern with Henry.”
Next question – where do Kilkenny need to improve? “I’d say right throughout the field,” was Cody’s predictable response.
“We probably had a lot of wides that we shouldn’t have had, and we’ll have to brush up on the handball a bit as well (a reference to the three occasions where Kilkenny defenders were called up by referee Diarmuid Kirwan for illegal ‘thrown’ passes).”
Dublin’s problems are more fundamental, although, in fairness, they recovered well from the initial body blow of conceding a goal to Eddie Brennan after barely 40 seconds. Their two men from the Mobhi Road, Tomás Brady and Joey Boland, formed a solid defensive spine and, at half-time, the 1-10 to 0-8 deficit didn’t look too disastrous given they had the freshening wind to come.
“We were in it for a long time but we didn’t hurl ourselves,” Daly lamented, citing Dublin’s sloppy first-half mistakes. “It was hard to believe we were only down five at half-time. We went in at half-time and said ‘if we had hurled…’”
Sadly, they hurled even less in the second half. Peter Kelly stirred himself with a brace from play, but then Power pressed on the after-burners and left Brady in his slipstream to score Kilkenny’s second goal on 49 minutes.
The gap was out to nine. All over bar some late twisting of the knife by those merciless Noresiders.