Dublin return from the dead to give Kilkenny a scare in Croke Park thriller
Cats eventually squeezed through but only after a blistering comeback from the Dubs
Kilkenny’s Alan Murphy scores the game winning point during their Leinster SHC victory over Dublin. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Kilkenny 3-20 Dublin 2-22
Some Halloween cracker at Croke Park, a script straight out the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde type of thriller.
In the end, Kilkenny – so far out of sight at half-time that obituaries were being crafted for Dublin’s demise – were a pale shadow of themselves in a second-half when Dublin back from the dead, came to life with a bang and almost snatched the unlikeliest of wins.
As the final whistle finally rescued Kilkenny, the Cats claimed a one point win – having led by 15 at half-time – in a Leinster Senior Hurling Championship semi-final that will go down as one the strangest, craziest of hurling games. October 31st hurling, eh?
Kilkenny totally and utterly dominated the first-half to the extent that the game seemed over, with two goals inside a minute seemingly setting the Cats up for a rout.
The blast of magic blew Dublin away. Two goals in a minute. Both sublime. Both of them had a hand from the wizardry of TJ Reid. First, he pick-pocketed a ball off Dubliner defender Eoghan O’Donnell who hardly knew he’d been lifted before Reid swiftly transferred the sliothar to Colin Fennelly who fed Billy Ryan and it was lying in the back of net with seamless brilliance from one pass to another and then the finish.
That 13th minute goal propelled Kilkenny 1-5 to 0-4 ahead. Within a minute, they bagged a second goal, this time Reid outpacing James Madden and then finishing brilliantly to the net with Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan hearing it whizzing by.
So, only 14 minutes into the game and Kilkenny were out of reach. In every position, Kilkenny were sharper, physically stronger and mentally more aware. They seemed to be on a different planet.
Dublin had started with obvious intent, upping the physical nature since their quarter-final win over Laois a week ago. But this was chalk and cheese. Where they had time on the ball against Laois, there was no time to dillydally or weigh up options. Any misuse of time was punished, exemplified by Kilkenny’s third goal in first-time stoppage time when Colin Fennelly won possession and bore down on goal, Dublin’s frustration showing by O’Donnell wildly pulling across Fennelly’s legs. Fennelly scored nonetheless, O’Donnell rightly had a yellow card flash in his face for his troubles.
So, Kilkenny led 3-13 to 0-7 at the half-time break and increased that advantage when John Donnelly tapped over a point for the second half’s first score in the 43rd minute. What followed, though, was a quite brilliant Dublin fightback as Kilkenny inexplicably floundered.
The introduction of substitutes Eamonn Dillon and Ronan Hayes provided the stimulus for change while Donal Burke’s free-taking was again exemplary as Dublin punished Kilkenny’s fouls. While Reid ran the show in the first-half, his influence faded and Dublin diligently ate into the deficit with Burke the scorer-in-chief. It seemed to be a case of eating away in an attempt to earn respectability but it proved to be more than that as a brilliant Hayes goal in the 58th minute was followed by a Chris Crummey goal that reduced the deficit to four points.
Then a free from Burke, two points from play by Dillion and another long range effort from Gray saw Dublin back on level terms, 2-21 to Kilkenny’s 3-18 as the game entered into added time. Kilkenny relied on Alan Murphy and then a fine effort from Huw Lawlor to regain the lead before Burke made it a one-point game as Dublin came up just short after a herculean second half effort, while Kilkenny were left wondering what on earth had happened . . . and breathing a sigh of relief at escaping into a provincial final.
For Dublin, the back door qualifiers await.
Dublin: A Nolan; P Smyth, E O’Donnell, J Madden; C Burke, D Gray (0-2), C O’Callaghan; S Moran, R McBride; C Boland (0-2), C Crummey (1-1), D Sutcliffe (0-1); D Burke (0-12, 10 frees), D Keogh, L Rushe.
Subs: E Dillon (0-4) for Keogh (halftime), R Hayes (1-0) for Rushe (40 mins), J Malone for Moran (50 mins), M Schutte for Boland (59 mins), F Whiteley for McBride (70 mins).
Kilkenny: E Murphy; C Delaney (0-1), H Lawlor (0-1), C Wallace; P Walsh, P Deegan, R Reid; C Buckley, C Fogarty; J Donnelly (0-2), TJ Reid (1-11, six frees), W Walsh (0-2); B Ryan (1-1), C Fennelly (1-1), E Cody (0-1).
Subs: R Hogan for Ryan (51 mins), M Keoghan for Cody (60 mins), C Browne for Fogarty, A Murphy for Donelly (64 mins), R Leahy for R Reid (69 mins).
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick).