Kilkenny retain Leinster title against worn-down Dublin

Covid issues and injuries leave Dubs under-strength and ultimately over-powered

Kilkenny’s Adrian Mullen lifts the Bob O’Keeffe Cup. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kilkenny’s Adrian Mullen lifts the Bob O’Keeffe Cup. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Dublin 0-19 Kilkenny 1-25

Kilkenny duly wrapped up their 73rd Leinster hurling title - the 17th of manager Brian Cody’s 23-year tenure - against a game but reduced Dublin team. They were too capable of getting scores and getting them more easily than their eventually worn-down opponents.

Beyond that obvious piece of roll of honour stretching, this was further evidence that Cody’s developing team is improving nicely and now stands two matches away from winning another All-Ireland. They might still be outsiders but no-one is going to want to draw them in the semi-finals.

Tactically, they were also superior with the much-discussed new direction of varying their restarts stretching both the stripped-down Dublin attack with short puck-outs and also the challengers’ defence when going more directly.

Once again the main weapon was TJ Reid, whose free taking was unerring - an immediate advantage given that the usually excellent Donal Burke was fitful with his dead-ball striking. Reid’s penalty in the 62nd minute removed any remaining vague sense of mystery from the outcome to put Kilkenny 10 ahead, 1-22 to 0-15.

Dublin’s Cian Boland and Michael Carey of Kilkenny in action during the Leinster final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Dublin’s Cian Boland and Michael Carey of Kilkenny in action during the Leinster final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

The award was for a foul on Eoin Cody by Jake Malone who was duly dispatched to the sin-bin.

The day could hardly have started more disconcertingly for Dublin. News of a Covid case and consequent self-isolation deprived Mattie Kenny of four players, including two starters, Cian O’Callaghan at corner back and full forward Ronan Hayes.

Once the match started, things went from bad to worse. Within six minutes the challengers trailed by six. Inevitably TJ Reid was to the fore, shooting two frees, opening the Kilkenny account within 15 seconds. John Donnelly added the other.

In the fourth minute, further disaster struck when Eoghan O’Donnell, a surprising inclusion given the hamstring injury he picked up in the semi-final win over Galway, had to depart and was replaced by Seán Moran.

It is to Dublin’s immense credit that they kept afloat in the middle of this particular sea of troubles. It started with their ability to disrupt the Kilkenny forwards under the high ball. They also won a couple of rucks - an unusual achievement given the opponents.

Trailing by four, 0-5 to 0-9, Dublin hit back and by the 32nd minute Chris Crummey had fired over two points to level the match. Somewhat inevitably, Kilkenny finished the stronger and points from Cody, a Reid free and James Maher gave them a 0-12 to 0-9 half-time lead.

More critically, they were just slicker in creating chances and putting them away.

Too often Dublin couldn’t make the ball stick and chances that needed real economy of style and striking went unavailed of however hard they battled.

They met the physical challenge and held their own in tight exchanges but despite the sticky defending and another good display by Conor Burke as sweeper plus galvanic efforts by Liam Rushe and Paddy Smyth, they conceded too many chances and half-chances.

Their purple patch in the second quarter saw real pressure exerted on Kilkenny’s half backs. As usual Danny Sutcliffe led the charge and his couple of points and frees won were at the heart of the comeback.

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid scores a penalty at Croke Park. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho
Kilkenny’s TJ Reid scores a penalty at Croke Park. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

That threat had been identified in advance and Kilkenny started James Maher on the Dublin captain in place of the originally selected Darragh Corcoran. If Maher struggled a little in the first half he got to grips thereafter and outscored his opponent by the end of the match, taking advantage of a couple of excellent dispossessions and striking marvelous long-range points.

The third quarter killed Dublin. They were outscored 0-8 to 0-3 and the margin was simply not going to be threatened without a goal. Their attempts to launch aerial raids on the opposition goal never looked like disrupting Kilkenny’s full-back line in which Huw Lawlor was again imperious and Paddy Deegan also unshakeable.

Burke’s 74th minute free reduced the deficit to single digits, which was a fair - if hardly consoling - recognition of their efforts while under-strength and ultimately over-powered.

KILKENNY: 1. E Murphy; 3. H Lawlor, 4. P Deegan, 2. T Walsh; 20. J Maher (0-3), 6. P Walsh, 7. C Browne; 8. R Reid, 23. R Leahy; 10. J Donnelly (0-1), 11. M Keoghan (0-2), 9. A Mullen (0-2); 12. B Ryan; 13. E Cody (0-2). 14. TJ Reid (1-10, 1-0 penalty, eight frees, one 65), 12. B Ryan.

Subs: 19. M Carey (0-1) for Browne (25 mins), 15. A Murphy (0-2) for Leahy (half-time), 21. C Buckley (0-1) for R Reid (46 mins), 24. W Walsh for Ryan (48 mins), 25. J Bergin (0-2) for Cody (64 mins).

DUBLIN: 1. A Nolan (0-1, free); 2. P Smith, 3. E O’Donnell, 7. J Madden; 17. A Dunphy, 6. L Rushe, 5. D Gray; 8 R McBride (0-1), 9. C Burke; 10. D Sutcliffe (capt; 0-2), 11. D Burke (0-10, eight frees), 12. C Crummey (0-2); 13. C Boland (0-1), 23. M Schutte, 15. C O’Sullivan.

Subs: 18. S Moran for O’Donnell (4 mins). 25. P Crummey for Schutte (half-time), 20. J Malone (0-1) for Moran (52 mins), 22. D Keogh (0-1) for O’Sullivan (54 mins), 26. D Treacy for Boland (70 mins).

Referee: J Murphy (Limerick)

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