Four-goal Kilkenny break Dublin hearts in under-21 hurling

Dublin’s inaccuracy ultimately hurt them against young ruthless cats

Kilkenny 4-12 Dublin 2-16

Kilkenny goals, a familiar lament for so many fallen opponents, caused a significant upset in this Leinster under-21 hurling quarter-final.

Intentional or not, Mark Mansfield scored the vital fourth goal at the death to break Dublin hearts. They only have themselves to blame for not driving through the tape.

This is the last Dublin group to win a provincial title at minor so hopes were high. With an impressive collection of talent, they led for 59 minutes. Somehow they lost.


Supposedly, this Kilkenny crop were not quite ready for harvest but it is they who advance to a semi-final with Carlow. The undercooked black and amber theory never feels like sound mathematics.

Dublin pulled away on two occasions, through the scoring exploits of Seán Treacy in the first half and Cian Boland in the second, only for the young cats to stay close enough to land the late knockout blow.

Dublin’s inaccuracy ultimately hurt them but it was masked for long stretches by the regal defending of captain and senior corner back Cian O’Callaghan. His red and white helmet was visible for multiple timely interventions.

O'Callaghan and the subdued Colm Cronin must go again in Tullamore on Saturday.

Before the collapse, Dublin’s individual ability to win dropping ball in sight of both posts was all that mattered but 12 first half wides, to Kilkenny’s seven, will haunt them. They really should have buried the younger, certainly less physically imposing visitors.

But they left the door ajar and paid dearly.

It's a genuine shame for Dublin hurling considering the manner they began. Paul Winters claimed the first of his 0-5 before Seán Treacy threatened to be the main actor in the evening's play. The brother of senior sharper shooter David, Treacy had a goal after four minutes when Fiotán McGibb pounced on some sloppy Kilkenny defending.

Conor Martin’s accuracy from placed ball was a constant boon for Kilkenny but they slipped into serious arrears, 1-6 to 1-1, as Treacy helped himself to 1-3 in the opening half hour.

Crucially the Cuala player was bottled up after half-time.

A pretty sideline cut from AJ Murphy had Dublin in complete control but Chris Bolger's goal, after shrugging off Paddy Deegan started the revival. Liam Blanchfield, one of last year's stand out minors en route to the All-Ireland, also got a score and Willie Brennan did a decent impression of Richie Hogan from centre forward.

These contributions pulled it back to 1-8 to 1-6 at the turn. That and a fine hook by Diarmuid Cody (son of) on McGibb stopped what seemed a certain green flag.

No wonder what happened next. That lack of killer instinct by Dublin saw Kilkenny go straight for the jugular after the break as Mansfield and Martin scores levelled matters.

Instead of protecting a comfortable lead Dublin found themselves in a bitter dog fight. Some confident shooting from Winters and Boland kept them three points clear but Kilkenny’s urgency grew and with it their confidence soared.

In between James Maher and Ciaran Ryan pillaging goals, Dublin goalkeeper Seán Brennan saw his penalty saved by Darren Brennan after Treacy was dragged to ground. McGibb at least pointed the rebound.

Then came the response that seemed to guarantee a Dublin victory.

After Ryan’s strike, Winters took the puck out and found Boland who pointed. Oisín O’Rorke quickly added another to make it 2-16 to 3-10.

But this three point cushion was reduced by scores from Liam Hickey and Bolger as Kilkenny finished stronger. The second point looked a certain goal only for Seán Brennan's magnificent save.

Then disaster for Dublin. Mansfield hit a low, direct shot from the about 60 metres out. As Brennan kept his eye on it he collided with the post just as his hand met the sliotar. The ball was in the goal. That left them trailing, by two points, for the first time all evening with a minute of normal time to play.

They seemed certain to win until that moment but not for a second thereafter. You never know with Kilkenny. Their refusal to wilt makes this famous come from behind win utterly deserving.

Kilkenny: D Brennan; C Delaney, C Wallace, E Cody (capt); J Cleere, D Cody, P Deegan; C Ryan (1-0), M Mansfield (1-2); J Maher (1-1), W Brennan (0-1), L Blanchfield (0-1); C Bolger (1-0), C Martin (0-5, four frees), L Hickey (0-2, one free). Substitutions: E Morrissey for J Cleere (36 mins) and for D Cody (44 mins), L Scanlon for C Martin(43 mins), T Phelan for L Blanchfield (56 mins).

Dublin: S Brennan; J Madden, C O'Callaghan (capt), S McClelland; E O'Donnell, S Barrett, C Mac Gabhann; P Winters (0-5, two frees), J Malone; C Cronin, F McGibb (0-2), C Boland (1-3); O O'Rorke (0-2), S Treacy (1-3, 0-1 free), AJ Murphy (0-1). Substitutions: R Murphy for C Mac Gabhann (32 mins), E McLaughlin for E O'Donnell (35 mins), C O'Neill for AJ Murphy (43 mins), F Ó Riann Broin for S Treacy (51 mins).

Referee: M Murtagh (Westmeath).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent