Dublin hurlers send champions Kilkenny packing in Portlaoise
Leinster SHC Semi-final replay: Dublin 1-16 Kilkenny 0-16
What does it take to finish off a wounded Kilkenny? A consistent run of hurling matches without the litany of injuries of previous campaigns was all Dublin needed. Well, that and some killer instinct, supplied by superb individual performances from Liam Rushe through to Danny Sutcliffe, Conal Keaney and David O’Callaghan.
But every one of them hurled well on Saturday night to produce a 21-point reversal from last year’s 2-21 to 0-9 massacre in the same O’Moore Park that leaves them one game away from a first Leinster title since 1961.
In reality, if Paul Ryan’s free-taking hadn’t been so out of tune it would have been a comfortable victory.
It was the natural first touch of O’Callaghan and Ryan that squeezed Dublin into a commanding lead and only Kilkenny’s sheer belligerence made it a tight finish.
By that stage Brian Cody had emptied his entire bench, notably withdrawing a sluggish looking Jackie Tyrrell, TJ Reid and Walter Walsh, who had excelled with 1-4 in last week’s draw.
Dublin defenders gave the Kilkenny attack nothing.
Best of all was Rushe as Dublin ended a 71-year winless streak in championship against Kilkenny.
So often the hero in hurling can be found at centre back. Rushe’s combination of bravery and dexterity was astonishing to witness.
Afterwards, he tried to stop Dubliners in the 10,532 crowd from carrying him off the field.
They wouldn’t be denied.
The 23 year old has never been so dominant for Dublin. And what a time to do it. Any debate about the number on his back can be permanently shelved.
“To come to the same venue where we were massacred by Kilkenny last year means there’s a bit of romance to it as well,” said Rushe.
One certainty is Kilkenny’s monopoly of Leinster is over, having also been comprehensively beaten by Galway in last’s year’s provincial final.
This was no fluke. It was down to both tactical and intuitive hurling. Daly left Johnny McCaffrey minding the defence as he pulled David Treacy from the full-forward line.
So much goes through Sutcliffe and Keaney, who had a smashing duel with Conor Joyce, with their physicality making it impossible for Kilkenny defenders to settle into a rhythm.
O’Callaghan was unplayable in the first half, putting Conor Fogarty through the horrors to gather four points from play, in a performance reminiscent of what he produced across Tallaght pitches as a juvenile.
Fear being a marvellous motivator, several who under-performed in the 0-17 to 1-14 draw were shaken into life. At either end of the field, Rushe and Tommy Walsh made themselves known under the most testing of dropping balls but in the hectic opening passages Kilkenny looked a side in desperate need of Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly.
Cody wasn’t long wielding the Shepherd’s hook as Dublin galloped into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead after 20 minutes, with Cillian Buckley followed off by Michael Rice as a very aggressive Lester Ryan, who ripped the helmet off Sutcliffe for a yellow card, and Colin Fennelly made decent impacts.
Still, Dublin led 0-11 to 0-7 at the turn.
They really should have kicked on when Sutcliffe raised a green flag in the 53rd minute. The roving wing forward shot low with venom, having been first to Ryan’s spectacular clearance off the Kilkenny line after substitute Mark Schutte gifted O’Callaghan a sight of goal.
Eoin Larkin frees kept Kilkenny in touching distance and when referee Barry Kelly harshly adjudged Rushe had fouled a marauding Richie Power, Larkin brought matters back to just two points with three minutes to play.
But it all fell apart for Kilkenny. Power was sent off for a second yellow card, fouling Kelly when the fullback caught a vital dropping ball. Six days previously it hopped from his grasp.
Power’s actions were born of pure frustration. He was the only shining light on a dark night for Cody and Kilkenny.
Dublin cleared their lines and more uncharacteristic Kilkenny indiscipline meant, fittingly, O’Callaghan was allowed close matters out with a pretty free.
DUBLIN: 1 G Maguire; 2 N Corcoran, 3 P Kelly, 4 P Schutte; 5 S Hiney, 6 L Rushe, 7 M Carton; 8 J McCaffrey (capt), 9 J Boland; 10 C Keaney (0-1), 11 R O’Dwyer, 12 D Sutcliffe (1-0); 23 D O’Callaghan (0-4), 14 D Treacy, 15 P Ryan (0-8, 0-6 frees). Subs: 13 C McCormack for O’Dwyer (half-time), 18 S Durkan (0-1) for Boland (46 mins), 25 M Schutte (0-1) for Treacy (48 mins), 17 E Dillon (0-1, free) for Ryan (64), 20 S Lambert for McCaffrey (68 ).
KILKENNY: 1 E Murphy; 2 C Fogarty, 3 JJ Delaney, 4 J Tyrrell; 5 T Walsh, 6 B Hogan, 7 K Joyce; 18 Cillian Buckley, 9 R Power (0-3); 13 W Walsh, 17 M Rice, 12 E Larkin (0-11, 0-9 frees and 0-2 65s); 14 A Fogarty, 10 R Hogan, 15 TJ Reid (0-1). Subs: 8 L Ryan for Buckley (21 mins), 11 C Fennelly (0-1) for Rice (25 mins), 20 M Ruth for Walsh (60 mins), 21 P Walsh for Tyrrell (64 mins), 24 G Aylward for Reid (65 mins).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).