Kilkenny claim Leinster honours as Dublin surrender title meekly

Brian Cody’s side’s slicing and dicing of a fidgety Dublin side was old-school

 

After a Leinster championship of snap and crackle, a final curiously bereft of pop. Kilkenny’s slicing and dicing of a fidgety Dublin side was old-school, a double-scores beating in which the defending champions didn’t manage so much as a point in the closing 25 minutes. Anthony Daly may find it difficult to work out how a title so raucously obtained could be surrendered so meekly.

Dublin were slower to the ball and sloppier with it. Their touch let them down in all sectors, split-second aberrations that allowed Kilkenny to consistently poach possession from them or at least make them jumpy when they had it. Every error had a multiplier effect – poor handling meant less time, which begat poor striking into the forwards, which begat an afternoon when Brian Hogan, Jackie Tyrrell and JJ Delaney all looked about 25 again.

“We got our hand to the ball,” sighed Daly afterwards, “but we were letting it fall. If you let it fall around those lads, you know what usually happens. They tackled fierce tigerishly. We didn’t match that intensity at all today.”

Routine business

Brian Cody

They’d gone two years without lifting the Bob O’Keeffe Cup; at no stage here did it look likely they would go a third. You wouldn’t say they blew Dublin away, at least not until late on. It was more they sort of wafted them off out of their personal space any time they got too close.

It was the first time since 2005 Kilkenny won a Leinster final without scoring a goal. Alan Nolan between the Dublin sticks had a big hand in that, saving well from Colin Fennelly in the first half and John Power in the second. But it told you something about the game he was relatively untroubled otherwise.

Instead, Kilkenny ticked and tacked their way towards a winning total. Richie Hogan’s candidature for hurler of the year got another afternoon’s burnish as he scurried around the middle third breaking up play and launching attacks. He it was who got the scoring started, jinking onto a TJ Reid handpass to put Kilkenny on the board inside the opening minute.

It was clear from early on Dublin’s tactical plan was going to need perfection of execution if they were going to get anywhere. They played a seventh defender for most of the first half with a two-man full-forward line and when a long ball into Dotsy O’Callaghan yielded a penalty on eight minutes, it looked like an idea that might just come off. Conal Keaney pointed the penalty and Dublin had a foothold.

Flawed tactic

All the while, Kilkenny forged on. TJ Reid was steady as tax from placed balls and he had seven points on the board by half-time. Fennelly chipped in with two, Brian Hogan launched one from somewhere on Clonliffe Road just before the break. All Dublin had in replay was a goal from Cronin in the 22nd minute, his scuffed finish past David Herity a decent reward for a sumptuous pass by O’Callaghan.

All of which meant that Kilkenny led by 0-13 to 1-6 at half-time. A four-point lead was no reflection of the game – although it did hint that having rejigged their attack and gone three-on-three in the full-forward line, Dublin might make some shape at the game in the second half. O’Callaghan, Cronin and Sutcliffe had all scored points in the five minute before half-time and because Kilkenny hadn’t scored a goal, the game was still within reach.

But Dublin failed utterly to come out for the second half. Fennelly stroked over the first point after the restart, Pádraig Walsh followed up with two beauties in more or less the next breath. With half an hour to go, Kilkenny were 0-16 to 1-6 ahead and Dublin’s only hope was to try to filch a goal to keep the game a going concern.

No dice. Johnny McCaffrey bore down on goal on 41 minutes only to be crowded out by Murphy. McCrabbe looked to have been played in soon after only for David Herity to come out Manuel Neuer-style and sweeper-keeper the ball to safety. When Herity denied Cronin on 53 minutes by diving at his feet, the day was very obviously done.

Kilkenny strolled home, tagging on the last seven points of the game including three on the bounce from Henry Shefflin. The space he had to knife each one at his ease, however, told you Dublin had given it up as a bad job by then.

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