Dublin prove they are now real contenders as holders Galway are brushed aside

Run of games has seen Anthony Daly’s side improve at a startling rate

Dublin’s Paul Ryan scores a goal against Galway during yesterday’s Leinster senior hurling final. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Dublin’s Paul Ryan scores a goal against Galway during yesterday’s Leinster senior hurling final. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

This was a fantastic achievement by Dublin and also genuinely exciting for hurling. I’m fully convinced they’re now serious contenders such has been the improvement in their mentality and hurling to complement their phenomenal athleticism.

The big challenge now is the five weeks of inactivity they have after a playing five matches in as many weeks. I’m sure if Anthony Daly had the choice he’d play the All-Ireland semi-final and final over the next two weeks because I’ve no doubt that all of those matches helped raise the performance levels.

Getting the draw in Wexford Park was a key factor and suited them in the end better than if they’d won it. Remember Conal Keaney, a fantastic athlete and hurler and my Man of the Match yesterday, started wing back that evening.

Now they have Stephen Hiney back in the team playing powerfully strong hurling. I don’t think there’s a team – with the possible exception of Kilkenny – who can live with their levels of physicality.

The aspect of Dublin that caused Kilkenny trouble in the semi-final also caused endless difficulties for Galway and that was the ability to win ball, which they did at will. They also galloped over and through Galway, showcasing the superb physicality of the team and especially half-backs Stephen Hiney, Liam Rushe and Michael Carton.

Dublin’s hurling was crisp and their use of the ball brilliant in the way it created space in front of goal, leading to some great scores in the first 25 minutes by Paul Ryan and the outstanding Dotsy O’Callaghan. Galway weren’t able to stay with them.

In the second half, after a nervous spell before the break, Dublin emerged and ultimately destroyed Galway. Ryan’s classy finish for the second goal was devastating.

Although Galway had opportunities and took goals it was significant that after each of them they gave the ball away and Dublin scored. First Andy Smith hit it to Ryan O’Dwyer who got the point and then after David Burke’s goal David Collins gifted possession to Joey Boland who stuck the ball back over the bar. These were key moments.

Joe Canning was a one-man show and took his goal brilliantly but there wasn’t enough support for him and too many mistakes to seriously stretch Dublin. Jonathon Glynn had an excellent goal chance but with players free around him, he missed the chance to up the pressure.

Gary Maguire’s great save from Canning marked the end of Galway’s concerted effort but that was about as energetic as it got and the keynote of their performance was lethargy – summed up by the way Danny Sutcliffe afterwards just galloped away from Shane Kavanagh and Dublin were pulling away by the end.

This has been a great achievement by Anthony Daly and his management. They beat Wexford and Kilkenny and still found themselves facing Galway. If they can negotiate the coming five weeks they can go even farther.

From a Tipperary point of view I was hoping things might be different going into Saturday’s qualifier but the old pattern repeated itself. Kilkenny suffocated the Tipp forwards who were again not capable of winning enough ball – especially in the white heat of Nowlan Park.

By then the Kilkenny backs – Brian Hogan, Kieran Joyce, Jackie Tyrrell and to a lesser extent Tommy Walsh – were repeating the dominance of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final as they drove the team to a well deserved victory

It was a brilliant occasion with unbelievable intensity. The crowd’s reaction when Kilkenny took the field sent a shiver down the back and at that stage I knew it was going to be tough. It was as if Kilkenny supporters felt this was the Alamo for Brian Cody and his team. The players fed off this – what was effectively a standing ovation in appreciation of the manager and players. It was the most amazing reaction to a team I’d ever seen.

By the break the early momentum had shifted away from Tipperary. Larry Corbett’s injury was a major loss for Tipp. He’d been more involved than in most recent matches against Kilkenny and was creating a nervousness about the Kilkenny backs.

Tipp are now looking at serious surgery for the team of 2010, which in reality is now a torn-up docket. Kilkenny have Henry Shefflin on the way back and can improve although Waterford may be tricky opponents on Saturday.