Kilkenny look tired but not in full bloom crisis just yet
Dublin will push the Cats but I still expect them to edge it
Kilkenny have been missing the drive of Michael Fennelly in midfield. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Nobody gave Dublin a chance in the run up to last Sunday’s draw in Portlaoise. Having been well beaten by Tipperary in the league semi-final they needed a replay to see off Wexford.
Thing is, now they have three serious, championship intensity games under their belt. I think they will improve again this evening. Nor do I envisage the straightforward Kilkenny backlash.
I thought before last Sunday that Dublin would stay with them and perform well enough to restore some pride after the 2012 season.
From the outside the logic behind that Dublin performance might not make sense but from comments afterwards by both players and management it was apparent that they expected this performance from themselves.
Anthony Daly hasn’t overhauled the system but they have been honing it against decent opposition for three consecutive weeks.
The beauty of the Wexford games was that it gave them a chance to work out the kinks in a match environment after that heavy defeat to Tipp.
The draw in Wexford Park was key. They looked under serious pressure at that stage, and unable to rediscover the form that had made them a serious prospect in 2011.
The replay in Parnell Park, and most important of all the victory, brought them back to O’Moore Park 12 months after that horrendous beating by Kilkenny with restored confidence. To have won narrowly in Wexford Park might have masked some problems that were solved by the time Kilkenny came at them last Sunday.
They were 10-point underdogs with the bookies and that, for serious county hurlers, would be interpreted as insulting, especially given that many expected them to overcome Kilkenny a year previously. They knew their reputations were on the line.
So, Dublin were ready for Kilkenny but, seemingly, Kilkenny were not ready for Dublin. Certainly not to the levels of motivation we saw in Nowlan Park for the league final. That was a huge challenge for them.
The fear of watching Tipp collect a trophy in their own backyard lifted the intensity of every player. That, understandably, wasn’t evident in Portlaoise. Maybe the league final, similar to the Dublin performance last year, sapped some of their energy. They were sluggish in the opening exchanges against Offaly and throughout the Dublin game.
The four goals they leaked against Offaly was an obvious concern but it was the general manner of their play that would have had Daly and Richie Stakelum seeing a chance for Dublin.
Kilkenny’s usual dominance was not visible last week, they seemed uncomfortable away from the glare of the main spotlight. They weren’t in a good place and didn’t hurl with their normal assurance. Whether that can be righted within six days I don’t know but flicking a switch mid-championship, while they’ve done it before, is not something that happens easily.