Dismal Dublin reap Kilkenny whirlwind

 

Kilkenny 2-21 Dublin 0-9:IF A single moment crystallised this Leinster semi-final it was TJ Reid’s goal for Kilkenny on 18 minutes with the sides level. Up to that point, we had a contest; after it, we were barely left with a hurling championship.

Trying to tattoo a wider significance on to a solitary score is usually folly, but it is almost unavoidable here because so much of what went into Reid’s goal told the tale of the difference between the sides in Portlaoise on Saturday.

From a sideline cut around midfield Shane Durkin swung and scuffed, his only consolation being that he at least swung and scuffed straight to Johnny McCaffrey. But as soon as his midfield partner failed to rise the sliotar first time, Dublin were in trouble.

On first glance, they ought not to have been – in the scratch and scrap for possession, they had four bodies against Kilkenny’s three. But through the thicket of hurleys, it was Reid who managed the lightning-jab alchemy from ground to hand.

Even as he did, he was on his own 65-metre line so Dublin could not have imagined they were teetering on a cliff just yet. But with open country ahead of him, Reid knew the goal was on, even though he was still in his own half. He attacked the space with Ryan O’Dwyer in chase, dishing off a handpass to Richie Power who looped out around him on the Dublin 45.

O’Dwyer stopped running; Reid continued and made directly for the Dublin square. Power feinted right to dummy Tomás Brady, drew Peter Kelly and fed Reid, by now standing on the penalty spot.

Catch, turn, strike, goal.

The whole move took 14 seconds. It involved, by turns, a couple of Dublin mistakes in basic skills, a flash of Kilkenny’s teeth in winning possession, an awareness by the All-Ireland champions of what was on long before their opponents copped it, a Dublin player giving up the ghost before his job was done and a finish delivered as if the All-Ireland itself depended on it.

By half-time, Kilkenny were 2-10 to 0-6 up and the day was done. After Reid’s goal, they outscored Dublin by 1-18 to 0-6. They performed, as Anthony Daly said afterwards, like they always perform. Ruthless in attack, canny and honest in defence.

JJ Delaney, Brian Hogan and Richie Doyle shut everything down in front of their own goal, Cillian Buckley and Paddy Hogan walked into their midfield as if losing Michael Fennelly and Michael Rice meant nothing.

Up front, Richie Power, Richie Hogan and Reid kept the tills ringing. They did not even need to see much from Henry Shefflin on the day he passed 500 points as an intercounty player. Everywhere you looked, it was business as usual. Mesmerising business, however casually their manager chooses to paint it.

“They don’t have to do anything fantastic,” said Brian Cody later. “You go into your position on the field and you do your job for the team. The panel is there – there’s not much point talking about the panel if you don’t take your opportunity when you step into the team. You don’t have to go in and be man of the match or anything, you just have to go in and do your job for the team. Their attitude is excellent.”

For Dublin, it was a potentially crippling afternoon. Relentless though Kilkenny were, this was a return to the bad old days. The wet day made them look like they were playing with sticks made of stone. They failed so often with essential tasks like picking, catching and especially striking that by early in the second half Dublin fans in the crowd were groaning with each mistake. Danny Sutcliffe started well but faded and Gary Maguire held his end up with some brilliant saves in the second half – otherwise you’d be hard pushed to find a Dublin player who turned up.

“We’re just so disappointed with our own performance,” said Daly. “You can take being beaten and you’ll have more bad days than good days unless you’re from Kilkenny in this game during my lifetime. But when you freeze and you can’t complete simple handpasses to loose men three yards away – we couldn’t get those balls to them or when we did they dropped it out of their hands.”

At their best, they would surely have given Kilkenny a game here. But then we said that about Cork in the league final too and Cody’s side have now won two games that should have been games by an aggregate of 30 points.

Eventually, it stops being about the vanquished underperforming.

July is not even here yet and already the hurling world is walking around with shoulders slumped at the inevitability of another Kilkenny All Ireland. Eclipse first, the rest nowhere.

Not their fault, just how it is.

KILKENNY: D Herity; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, R Doyle; C Buckley, P Hogan (0-2), H Shefflin (0-10, eight frees, one 65), TJ Reid (1-2), E Larkin (0-2), C Fennelly, R Power (1-3), R Hogan (0-2). Subs: N Hickey for Delaney (47 mins); A Fogarty for Buckley (54 mins); M Ruth for Fennelly (57 mins); K Joyce for Walsh (62 mins).

DUBLIN: G Maguire; N Corcoran, P Kelly, T Brady; S Hiney, J Boland, M Carton; J McCaffrey, S Durkin; C McCormack, D Sutcliffe (0-1), C Keaney; P Ryan (0-4, three frees), L Rushe, R O’Dwyer (0-1). Subs: D Treacy (0-1) for Keaney (14 mins); R Trainor for Corcoran (28 mins); A McCrabbe (0-1, free) for McCormack (34 mins); R O’Carroll for Durkin (half-time); D O’Callaghan (0-1) for Ryan (49 mins).

Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)

Att: 12,446

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