Kilkenny set to bounce back against Dublin
Credit to the Dublin defence last week, but it’s hard to imagine so many Kilkenny players underperforming again
Kilkenny’s Kieran Joyce and Richie Hogan tackle Dublin’s Conal Keaney during last week’s Leinster semi-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
What is more reliable: Dublin’s renewed belief or Kilkenny’s ominous silence?
Probably the latter – but it’s hard to describe the look of intent in Conal Keaney’s eyes after last Sunday’s draw.
“We never really show it on the big day,” said Keaney. “I don’t think we did it today either.”
Those breezing in to witness Dublin’s annual lesson from Kilkenny were jolted to life by the performance.
“Sure, you just don’t get it,” said Anthony Daly.
He’s right. We don’t. We need to see it again.
The Dublin performance certainly made RTÉ’s decision not to broadcast it live seem strange (TV3 nailed their colours to the Munster championship semi-finals last December). With the Irish Derby on TV followed by the prospect of Monaghan versus Cavan, the only way of seeing it from afar is online.
Before last week’s game Michael Fennelly and Henry Shefflin, both draped in black tracksuits and runners, were out zipping a sliotar back and forth while the rest of the Kilkenny panel warmed up.
You couldn’t but be glued to these Goliaths of modern hurling. It was also noticeable that Jackie Tyrrell was doing the serious stretching in the background.
Moments later Shefflin and Fennelly were in the stand, sitting in similar seats that they will keep warm tonight. Colin Fennelly will join his older brother after the captain, as nominated by champions Ballyhale Shamrocks, was the forward to lose out as Brian Cody ruffled up a misfiring attack.
Lester Ryan, having come into the midfield during the league campaign, also makes way as under-21 Cillian Buckley starts a third match in six days with TJ Reid and Aidan Fogarty given their chance.
Ryan suffers as much for the sins of Richie Power and Eoin Larkin. True, he fouled the ball in the 72nd minute to give Joey Boland a shot at confirming the end of Kilkenny’s provincial dominance (Galway having emphatically denied the drive for eight titles in a row last year).
Larkin registered seven frees but missed two crucial attempts just before half-time, leaving it 0-8 apiece, and was also off target from play entering the final throes.
Power was anonymous and replaced after 62 minutes when he should have been most prominent. Richie Hogan lasted the 70 minutes but also faded from view after briefly sparking with two early scores.
TJ Reid starts his first game since having his kneecap smashed last September. Michael Rice’s survives the midweek cull but that early long walk to the line is guaranteed if Kilkenny players fail to recover from last Sunday’s malaise.
Credit to the Dublin defence, but it’s hard to imagine so many of them under-performing again.
Daly’s main defensive concern will be Walter Walsh. A huge man, although he has trimmed the pounds used to good effect in rugby to give a muscular, yet mobile performance that yielded 1-4.
What must give Dublin renewed confidence is how they grew into the game. When the first squeeze came on between 23 and 28 minutes, as Dublin defenders were clearing straight to Kilkenny hands, leading to four points in a row, it looked like the usual story.
But Daly had already reacted by sending on Dotsy O’Callaghan for Paul Ryan. That decision was rewarded with a point and along with Joey Boland’s frees, Dublin levelled it up.
When Kilkenny didn’t kick on after Walsh’s 43rd minute goal, that made it 1-9 to 0-11, another Daly sub, Shane Durkin, clipped a point but more importantly leaders like Keaney and Johnny McCaffrey forced their personalities on proceedings.
A few hurleys should be splintered, with Kilkenny to send Tipperary up to Dublin for a tasty qualifier as Galway await the repeat of last year’s provincial decider. And that’s all happening next weekend.