Landslide win and landmark title for dauntless Dublin


ALLIANZ NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE FINAL Dublin 0-22 Kilkenny 1-7:THE SUN shone down on Hill 16 yesterday, as Dublin’s altered universe took shape. An Allianz National League was delivered but not by the footballers. For the first time in 72 years, the county is the proud possessor of a hurling league title and that’s not all that made this an extraordinary afternoon for the game – and not just in the capital.

Dublin won by a landslide and there was no obscuring the immense significance of the achievement for all the favourites’ injury problems and the dismissal of Eoin Larkin, for striking Conor McCormack, as early as the 26th minute. Dublin surged through a stoppage time extended to six minutes by Joey Boland’s shoulder injury and hit the final six points of the final with all the abandon of the newly liberated.

Manager Anthony Daly has infused Dublin with the qualities of composure, confidence and dauntlessness, which has exploited to the full the technical quality of the players coming through. Yesterday was the team’s best performance of the year and came on the biggest day so far.

A lively start saw points from Ryan O’Dywer and a free from Paul Ryan, two players who would have a major impact on the day. O’Dwyer has added a great deal to the team since transferring from Tipp and again his appetite for hard work and confrontation, in the positive sense of contesting every ball, was vital, the more so after his move to midfield.

Ryan was immaculate from the placed ball in the first half and, if the forceful wind caused him difficulties after half-time, he added two points in the second half for a total of nine, four from play.

Yet in the 10th minute came the sort of strike that Kilkenny have perfected over the years, a slightly chaotic opening finished with aplomb for a goal that took away Dublin’s lead and must have undermined their early confidence.

TJ Reid’s free tailed to the left but was kept in play by Richie Hogan who smuggled it across the square – and courted trouble by hitting out after with the arm – for Eddie Brennan to make the vital contact for 1-1 to 0-2.

The response was encouraging for Dublin supporters: eight unanswered points. Kilkenny managed only one further score before half-time, a point by Michael Rice. And there were some quality scores from the winners, O’Callaghan finishing an excellent move, Ryan – persecuting John Dalton and prompting a sideline rebuke from Brian Cody – and Daire Plunkett pointing from the right and Keaney getting on the scoreboard.

With the wind to come Kilkenny weren’t lost on a six-point, 1-2 to 0-11, deficit even a man down. It might have been worse had Dalton been brought to book for striking Conor McCormack with the hurl and kicking out at him after the latter had been denied a goal due to referee Michael Wadding’s blowing for the break when the Dublin wing forward was in the process of scoring – something that will doubtless engage the attention of the CCCC.

Boland had been playing well on his return after injury when he badly hurt his shoulder 10 minutes into the second half. Liam Rushe, also back from injury and an energetic and dynamic presence at centrefield, switched to number six until he too had to retire before the end. Disrupted by Boland’s injury, the third quarter featured only two scores – one each – and Kilkenny were failing to develop any wind-assisted momentum.

They did have better territory statistics but the scores weren’t flowing. Peter Kelly played intelligently as Dublin’s extra man and Daly’s team continued to defend with assurance. Niall Corcoran and Tomás Brady cleared their lines with top-class efficiency and Shane Durkin hit some characteristically excellent clearances.

For Kilkenny, Eddie Brennan came out in search of ball as they switched around the furniture. Michael Rice had been moved to the forwards but direction was missing. Paddy Hogan was probably their best player and ended up at centrefield after a strong second half at wing back.

Henry Shefflin’s rehabilitation is going steadily and his return will be welcomed with relief. Yesterday Kilkenny used three free -takers without getting near the sort of accuracy their spiritual leader routinely delivers.

Reid’s frees kept Kilkenny within a six-point reach until the final 10 minutes. Then the floodgates opened. Keaney’s smart crossfield ball set up captain John McCaffrey, who smoothly adapted to his defensive role after a campaign at centrefield, for a point.

Replacement David Treacy, back from a cruciate injury, hit a brilliant score from the right. Keaney drove one from his 65 and Simon Lambert, Ryan and Maurice O’Brien stretched the lead into a rout – Kilkenny’s heaviest in a national final since the 1964 All-Ireland mauling by Tipp.

DUBLIN: 1 G Maguire; 2 N Corcoran, 3 T Brady, 5 P Kelly; 8 J McCaffrey (0-1), 6 J Boland, 7 S Durkin; 9 L Rushe, 19 A McCrabbe; 12 C McCormack (0-1), 11 R O’Dwyer (0-2), 10 C Keaney (0-3); 13 D Plunkett (0-1), 14 D O’Callaghan (0-1), 15 P Ryan (0-9, 0-5 frees). Subs: 20 M O’Brien (0-2) for Boland (45 mins), 23 D O’Dwyer for Plunkett (55 mins), 27 D Treacy (0-1) for McCrabbe (63 mins), 26 S Lambert (0-1) for Rushe (67 mins), 22 S Ryan for O’Callaghan (72 mins). Yellow card: Plunkett (32 mins).

KILKENNY: 1 D Herity; 2 J Dalton, 3 B Hogan, 4 N Hickey; 5 P Hogan (0-1, free), 6 J Tyrrell, 7 JJ Delaney; 8 TJ Reid (0-5, all frees), 9 M Rice (0-1); 10 J Fitzpatrick, 11 M Ruth, 12 E Larkin; 13 C Fennelly, 14 E Brennan (1-0), 15 R Hogan. Subs: 17 M Kavanagh for Delaney (56 mins), 22 J Mulhall for Fennelly (58 mins), 18 P Murphy for Ruth (65 mins). Yellow cards: Tyrrell (23 mins), Brennan (49 mins), R Hogan (72 mins). Red card: Larkin (26 mins).

Referee: M Wadding(Waterford).