Dublin's long wait is finally over

Kilkenny's Noel Hickey in pursuit of Dublin's Daire Plunkett during the Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Kilkenny's Noel Hickey in pursuit of Dublin's Daire Plunkett during the Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Sun, May 1, 2011, 01:00

GAA NHL Division 1 Final - Dublin 0-22 Kilkenny 1-7:The long wait is over. The Dublin hurling revolution has stormed Croke Park and raided a first National Hurling League title in 72 years. That they beat Kilkenny, for so long the benchmark of truly competitive hurling, means the rest of the country will undoubtedly have taken heed.

On the occasion of Dublin’s first hurling league final in 65 years – and chasing a first senior national title in 72 years – Croke Park was a sea of blue, and soon singing in Dublin’s favour.

In the end the most surprising thing was Dublin’s near complete dominance. If it is the beginning of a new era it may well be the end of another, as Kilkenny have rarely performed so poorly – or at least been so completely out-played – in a national final.

Dublin’s last, and only second ever league title, was won way back in 1939 (the first, and only other, was won in 1929). But with Anthony Daly bringing his Clare tradition to the team there was a real sense of history about this.

Kilkenny were seeking a 15th league title in all and sixth in 10 years, having won in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009. But they hardly got a sniff of victory this time as manager Brian Cody realised early on that Dublin were the better team on show.

It was a bright and sunny afternoon, but breezy, very breezy – and Kilkenny won the toss, choosing to play into the stiff breeze. The combined attendance of 42,030 (which included a healthy share of the All-Ireland under-21 football final where Galway defeated Cavan) were soon treated to an intense game.

Dublin seized immediate advantage of the wind advantage, with Ryan O’Dwyer striking the opening point after three minutes. Kilkenny’s early attacking play was uncharacteristically slow and nervous, and their opening effort sailed wide. Instead, Dublin struck again with a free from young Paul Ryan, giving them a two-point advantage after six minutes.

TJ Reid’s free opened Kilkenny’s scoring on seven minutes, but still Dublin were holding most of the early possession. However Kilkenny soon closed in on goal with typical intent. A long-range free from Reid appeared to have drifted wide, yet Richie Hogan just about held it in, passed back across to Eddie Brennan, who shot cleanly into the Dublin net on 10 minutes.

David O’Callaghan replied, crucially, with a great point as Kilkenny were just one up, 1-1 to 0-3. On 15 minutes a superb overhead shot from Ryan levelled it, set up this time by Liam Rushe.

Rushe then won a free on the 65-metre line, and up stepped Ryan again, who sweetly put Dublin back in front on 16 minutes. Moments later Ryan struck again, this time from the left side, to extend Dublin’s advantage to two points. The wind was clearly in their favour and the Dubs made the most of it.

At the other end Reid hit Kilkenny’s fourth wide, as they were clearly struggling to play into the stiff wind. All the while Dublin could hardly miss - this time Daire Plunkett striking from a near impossible angle. Again, with no let up, Ryan struck his fifth point and Dublin were four points clear on 21 minutes, 0-8 to 1-1.

Kilkenny had rarely looked more ragged, and struggled even to clear simple ball – conceding another free for Ryan to coolly convert. On 24 minutes Conal Keaney popped for the first time and extended Dublin’s advantage to six points.

Things went from bad to worse for Brian Cody’s side on 25 minutes when Eoin Larkin received a straight red card for an off-the-ball strike on Conor McCormack. It wasn’t particularly nasty, yet Waterford referee Michael Wadding displayed little hesitation in flashing the red card. With 30 minutes gone Kilkenny were still limited to four points before Michael Rice finally landed their fifth.

Dublin ended the half the way they began with O’Dwyer winning the free and Ryan converting from dead straight in front of the posts, his seventh score of the half. That give Dublin a six-point advantage, 0-11 to 1-2, or a mere three scores for Kilkenny.

The whistle for half time didn’t come without controversy. Michael Wadding blew with the announced two minutes of added time elapsed, but just as Conor McCormack was set up with an attack on goal – and indeed he finished into the net. However, it wouldn’t stand and some heated exchanges ensued between players from both teams. John Dalton appeared to single out McCormack and was lucky to stay on the field.

Would Dublin’s six-point advantage be enough to survive the strong wind of the second half? And with 15 men against 14?

Kilkenny were of course without a long list of star absentees; including Tommy Walsh, Richie Power, Michael Fennelly, Aidan Fogarty, and of course cruciate victims Henry Shefflin and John Tennyson. Others such as JJ Delaney, Michael Rice and Jackie Tyrrell too.

After three minutes Reid’s free reduced the deficit to four and for a brief time it was all Kilkenny. Yet against the run of play McCormack scored with Dublin’s first attack of the second half, before a long break in the game while the injured Joey Boland was removed with a shoulder injury.

When play resumed substitute Maurice O’Brien hit a fine score; Reid’s free responded, but then O’Dwyer scored on the run and Dublin were 0-14 to 0-7 in front. They wouldn’t look back.

Reid’s free clawed one back on 56 minutes but it was still Dublin’s advantage in every sense, and Keaney hit another point.

Kilkenny needed a goal, and fast, but instead Reid’s free sailed wide. At the other end Ryan hit his eighth score of the game with Dublin seven points up after 62 minutes.

Dublin were in control in almost every sense. A free from Paddy Hogan was the best Kilkenny could muster as the clock spilled into injury time. Brennad hit a poor wide for Kilkenny and for once it seemed their heads had dropped.

When Keaney picked out McCaffrey with superb vision, Dublin went seven points clear again, and even with six minutes of injury time it was obvious there was no way back for Kilkenny. Instead David Treacy, Keaney, Simon Lambert, Ryan and O’Brien hit five last points without reply for Dublin.

The revolution was complete – leaving team captain John McCaffrey to deliver the victory speech.

DUBLIN: G Maguire; N Cocoran, T Brady, P Kelly; J McCaffrey, J Boland, S Durkin; A McCrabbe, L Rushe; C Keaney, R O’Dwyer, C McCormack; D Plunkett, D O’Callaghan. P Ryan.

Subs: M O’Brien for Boland (44 mins, inj), D O’Dywer for Plunkett (54 mins), D Treacy for McCrabbe (63 mins), S Lambert for Rushe (66 mins), S Ryan for O’Callaghan.

KILKENNY: D Herity; J Dalton, B Hogan, N Hickey; P Hogan, J Tyrrell, JJ Delaney; TJ Reid, M Rice; J Fitzpatrick, M Ruth, E Larkin; C Fennelly, E Brennan, R Hogan.

Subs: M Kavanagh for Delaney (55 mins), J Mulhall for Fennelly (58 mins), P Murphy for Ruth (65 mins).

Referee: Michael Wadding (Waterford)