DUBLIN claimed their first minor hurling provincial title since 2007 as they deservedly overcame All-Ireland holders Kilkenny in their Leinster final at a sun-kissed Croke Park yesterday.
The three-point winning margin failed to reflect Dublin’s superiority over the hour and they made life difficult for themselves with the concession of an injury-time goal to Kilkenny substitute James Maher but managed to hold on with Seán McClelland making a timely interception at the death to protect Dublin’s three-point lead. McClelland was one of many heroes on the day with his colleagues across the full-back line all dominating their personal duels and the assurance they showed in their primary duties permeated throughout the team.
It was Kilkenny who opened the scoring in the third minute through Peter Vickery but the Dubs responded immediately through midfielder Glenn Whelan. Six scoreless minutes ensued as both sides, Dublin especially, were guilty of some errant shooting before Paul Winters hit two points in as many minutes, one from play, to open up a twopoint lead for the Dubs by the 10th minute.
Kilkenny had restored parity by the end of the first quarter through scores from Kevin Kelly and Thomas O’Hanrahan but Dublin’s halfback line were beginning to gain the upper hand at this stage and restored their twopoint advantage after points by the increasingly influential Chris Crummey and Cormac Costello’s first of the day. Although Kelly notched a free on 19 minutes, Dublin were very much in the ascendancy at this stage and Emmet Ó Conghaile and Costello pushed Shay Boland’s men further ahead by the 23rd minute.
Ó Conghaile’s pace and movement were causing difficulties for Kilkenny’s full-back line and the Lucan Sarsfields dual player spurned a glorious goal chance five minutes before the break when, after doing all the hard work to escape along the endline, he blazed his close-range shot high over the crossbar. Kilkenny availed of this let-off to hit the next two scores through Richie Reid and an excellent Conor O’Shea point but with time almost elapsed Dublin bounced back for the game’s opening goal.
Its origin lay in a wonderful catch by Ciarán Kilkenny, whose quick lay-off found Aodhán Clabby and when Clabby looked to have lost control, Costello showed his predatory instincts to sweep to the net from eight metres, handing Dublin a five-point (1-8 to 0-6) interval lead. Dublin’s momentum looked to have stalled with the halftime break as Kilkenny slowly began to eradicate their deficit upon the restart with points by Kelly and substitute David Kearns leaving just three points between the sides by the 40th minute.
Crucially, Dublin ended a scoreless period of 13 minutes with an Oisín O’Rorke free. The next two scores went to the Cats through Maher and Vickery but that was as close as Kilkenny got as Dublin pushed on and were rewarded through points by Ó Conghaile and a Jamie Desmond free. In the 53rd minute, O’Rorke scored the point of the game with a sumptuous strike from under the Hogan Stand and a Ciarán Kilkenny free four minutes later extended Dublin’s lead to six points entering the final moments. Reid and Kilkenny exchanged points in the 59th minute with Maher’s late goal breathing new life into the holders but it proved too little, too late as Dublin marched on to an All-Ireland semi-final, with Kilkenny facing a quarter-final later this month.
DUBLIN . . . . . 1-14
SCORERS: C Costello 1-2, E Ó Conghaile 0-3, P Winters (0-1f), O O’Rorke (0-1f), C Kilkenny (0-1f) 0-2, G Whelan, C Crummey, J Desmond (0-1f) 0-1. STARTING 15: C Ryan; E Lowndes, C O’Callaghan, S McClelland; C Crummey, J Desmond, M McCaffrey; G Whelan, C Cronin; C McHugh, C Kilkenny, A Clabby; C Costello, E Ó Conghaile, P Winters. SUBS: O O’Rorke for Winters (half-time), B McCarthy for Cronin (50), D Forde for Whelan and C Boland for McHugh (58). WIDES: 15 (10+5) YELLOW CARDS: C Crummey (37), E Lowndes (38).
KILKENNY . . . 1-11
SCORERS: J Maher 1-1, K Kelly 0-3 (0-2f), P Vickery, R Reid 0-2, T O’Hanrahan, C O’Shea, D Kearns 0-1 each. STARTING 15: A Duggan; J McDowell, C Doyle, E Morrissey; C O’Shea, E McGrath, D Cody; K Walsh, C Bolger; C Martin, K Kelly, P Keneally; P Vickery, T O’Hanrahan, R Reid. SUBS: D Kearns for Keneally (half-time), J Maher for Martin (39), R Moran for O’Shea (49), J Hayes for Vickery (58). WIDES: 10 (5+5) YELLOW CARDS: E McGrath (56)
REFEREE: Justin Heffernan (Wexford). PLAYER OF THE GAME: Chris Crummey
– Rónán Mac Lochlainn, Evening Herald