Resurgent Dublin pay the price for not putting Kilkenny away
Pat Gilroy’s side let Cats slip from their grasp as Liam Blanchfield’s goal secures victory
Liam Blanchfield celebrates his late goal in Kilkenny’s win over Dublin. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Leinster SHC: Kilkenny 1-24 Dublin 3-16
The clock ticking red, Dublin a point up, a free not given, the crowd on both sides in high dudgeon. Kilkenny sub Liam Blanchfield away in a hack, bearing down on Alan Nolan’s goal, about to suck the last good drop out of Dublin’s day. Cian O’Callaghan chasing after him like a security man trying to catch a shop-lifter, his hurley gone, his only hope to swing a desperate boot. Blanchfield riding the tackle and batting home the only Kilkenny goal of the day, sending Brian Cody balubas on the sideline.
Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t championship.
In the usual run of things, Dublin would have a few weeks to work out how they left this behind them. They may find themselves grateful for the small mercy of only having a matter of days before heading to Wexford Park next Sunday. Of the 76 minutes played here, stoppage time included, Kilkenny led for just four – one at the start and three at the end. In between, Dublin had them run ragged. They just couldn’t put them away.
When Chris Crummy landed a soaring point from all of 70 metres on 63 minutes, it looked for all the world like Dublin had done enough. Crummy’s score pushed Pat Gilroy’s side 3-15 to 0-19 ahead – more than that, it meant Dublin had tacked on three of the previous four points. They weren’t sitting back and protecting their advantage; they were driving on and pushing to win the game.
Yet from there to the end, they contrived to be outscored by 1-5 to 0-1. They lost Conal Keaney to a badly damaged shoulder on the hour mark – “bruised” was Gilroy’s verdict afterwards, raising the hope that he might yet make the Wexford game. Colin Fennelly had joined the fray off the bench just before half-time and his influence was considerable now. Eoin Murphy was potting frees from his own half. Without Blanchfield’s goal, they would surely have gone very close. With it, they unravelled Dublin’s fine afternoon at a stroke.
“Great effort from the team,” said Gilroy. “I couldn’t fault anybody. I think Conal going off very much disrupted us, we were kind of scrambling after that, he was doing a lot of good work, himself and Liam [Rushe] were working very well up the middle and that did affect us in the last 10 minutes.
“There are a lot of things for us to look at in that period, and I think also in the first-half, we missed too many chances. We had a lot of dominance there and just didn’t take advantage of it. We should have been much further ahead. We fought very hard but at the end of the day, it was the score at the final whistle that counts. We have to finish out games and that’s the lesson from this.”
He’s not kidding about the first half. Dublin led by four points at the break - 2-7 to 0-9 - but the margin could feasibly have been twice that. They pucked eight wides and dropped two efforts short in that time; by comparison, Kilkenny only missed with six shots all day.
And still Dublin had them. Rushe was rampant at full-forward, the driving force behind all three Dublin goals and a handful of points behind. It seemed like the ball stuck to him every time it went his way and he had Pádraig Walsh in a bind on the ground and in the air. Regardless of the result, it was a man of the match display.
They had others, too. Keaney rolled back the years with four points from play. Eoghan O’Donnell was heroic on TJ Reid, Seán Moran and Cian O’Callaghan brought their Cuala form to their first Dublin appearances of the year.
But Kilkenny are Kilkenny. Even this Kilkenny, with seven players making their championship debut. As time passed, Cody aged his team from the bench, sending in Fennelly, Conor Fogarty, Paul Murphy and Blanchfield by the 55th minute. Each of them did their bit to get Kilkenny out the gap, even if it was only by the hair on their chinny-chin-chins.
“Obviously Dublin were in the driving seat for long periods,” said Cody. “With 10 minutes to go, five minutes to go, they were looking like winners. When you win a game like that you can say you’re lucky, or you can say there’s tremendous due to the players for their never-say-die spirit and attitude, to keep going. Are Dublin in hard luck? For sure, they put in an outstanding performance but we kept it going and the goal at the end was crucial.
“We had a very inexperienced team out there, we had a lot of fellas in a whole new challenge, their first championship game. There’s huge credit due to them, the way they fought to the bitter end.
“Our dressing-room is quiet in there. It’s absolute relief, of course it is. It almost feels like, ‘Did we win it?’ Yes, we did win it. Am I happy? I’m delighted. Because of the fact that we’re walking away with two points. We could have been walking away with no points. Then there is real pressure on. There’s still pressure on, terrific pressure, and we go to play Offaly next Sunday and it’s going to be so similar to today and easily as difficult.”
Dublin: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Cian O’Callaghan, Bill O’Carroll; Shane Barrett, Sean Moran, Chris Crummey (0-1); Rian McBride, Eoghan O’Donnell; Jake Malone (1-0), Conal Keaney (0-4), Danny Sutcliffe; Fergal Whitely (1-0), Liam Rushe, Paul Ryan (1-6, 0-5 frees). Subs: Fiontán McGibb for Sutcliffe (blood) 38-39 mins; Paul Winters (0-3, 0-2 frees) for Ryan, 46 mins; McGibb (0-1) for Whitely, 47 mins; Tomás Connolly (0-1) for McBride, 53 mins; Ryan O’Dwyer for Keaney, 60 mins; Shane Durkin for Malone, 66 mins
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy (0-4, 0-4 frees); Joey Holden, Pádraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan; Conor Delaney, Cillian Buckley, Enda Morrissey; Richie Leahy, James Maher (0-2); Martin Keoghan, TJ Reid (0-12, 0-9 frees, 0-2 65s), John Donnelly (0-1); Bill Sheehan, Walter Walsh (0-2), Ger Aylward. Subs: Colin Fennelly (0-3) for Sheehan, 33 mins; Conor Fogarty for Keoghan, half-time; Paul Murphy for Morrissey, 46 mins; Liam Blanchfield (1-0) for Leahy, 55 mins; Luke Scanlon for Aylward, 59 mins;
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork)