Leinster SHC: Kilkenny battle past Dublin
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Round 1
KILKENNY 2-23 DUBLIN 1-21
By John Harrington at Nowlan Park
The first match of a new hurling championship, but some things never change.
Faced with considerable adversity when they found themselves six points down after 28 minutes, Kilkenny did what they’ve done so often in the past – rolled their sleeves up and got on with the job.
Throw in a couple of canny substitutions from Brian Cody, a classic goal from TJ Reid, and a fired up home support who roared their team on in the second-half, and you have what could be best described as a typical Kilkenny victory.
They won easing up in the end, but for a long time there was nothing comfortable about this match from a Kilkenny point of view.
We’re well used to the sight of them overwhelming teams with their physical intensity in Nowlan Park, but in the first half of this game it was Dublin who set the tone in that regard.
Their powerful half-back trio of Chris Crummey, Shane Barrett, and Sean Moran were the bullies in chief as thundered in to the match from the very start.
They were up against a dangerous looking Kilkenny half-forward line of Walter Walsh, TJ Reid, and Adrian Mullen but they played like men who relished the challenge.
Barrett shadowed Reid relentlessly and the abrasiveness of his marking didn’t endear him to the home support.
Crummey dominated Walsh under the high-ball, no easy feat, while Moran gave debutant Mullen a robust introduction to the realities of senior inter-county hurling.
Whenever Kilkenny tried to run at the Dublin defence they were invariably bounced backwards, and when they elected to go long they were being dominated in the air too.
The platform provided by the Dublin half-backs meant a steady supply of ball was going into their inside forwards and eventually the pressure told in a major way.
Liam Rushe won possession and drove towards goal before being dragged to the ground by a posse of desperate Kilkenny defenders.
Sean Moran stepped up and smashed the resulting penalty to the back of the net to put Dublin 1-3 to 0-3 ahead.
Dublin’s best spell of the half came between the 24th and 28th minutes when they hit four points in quick succession through Danny Sutcliffe, Liam Rushe, Sean Treacy, and Fergal Whiteley.
All of them were quality scores and testified to Dublin’s growing dominance in all sectors of the pitch.
Dublin were six points ahead now but they’ll reflect they didn’t press home their advantage as much as they should have in this period of the game when they were on top.
Paul Ryan had a decent chance for a goal but his shot flew wide, and when Rushe then won a second penalty Treacy was unable to convert it, his mis-hit shot skewing over the bar.
So by the time the half-time whistle blew Kilkenny were just four points behind – 1-13 to 0-12 – which was quite acceptable considering how dominant Dublin had been.
So how does a four-point deficit get turned into a five-point win?
Substitutes Richie Leahy and Richie Hogan improved the Kilkenny attack, but really it was all about an improvement in the team’s all over attitude.
Perhaps Brian Cody had a word or two in the dressing-room, because Kilkenny hurled with a lot more fire and brimstone in the second-half than they had the first.
Their half-forwards took the fight to the Dublin half-backs and eventually came out on top, especially TJ Reid who started winning dirty ball and then produced a moment of pure brilliance when the goaled after 46 minutes.
Once again, he claimed possession in a ruck of bodies before bursting clear and playing a perfectly timed 1-2 with Colin Fennelly before rasping the ball to the back of the net.
Kilkenny were the team with momentum now and 10 minutes later they scored a second-goal when the ever-dangerous Fennelly was pulled down for a penalty that Reid finished emphatically.
Now Kilkenny were 2-17 to 1-17 ahead and they never looked like losing it from there as points flowed from Reid, Leahy, and Ger Aylward.
Dublin wilted before the heat of Kilkenny's constant hassling and harrying, and in the final ten minutes struggled to make any headway against a rugged Cats defence inspired by men like Paul Murphy, Conor Fogarty, and Tommy Walsh.
It took them some time to warm to the task, but in the final reckoning Kilkenny will be hugely satisfied with how they saw off stubborn opposition on a night where they fielded five Championship debutants.
Scorers for Kilkenny: 2-12 (1-0 pen, 11f, 1’65), Alan Murphy 0-3, Ger Aylward 0-2, Richie Leahy 0-2, Adrian Mullen 0-1, Walter Walsh 0-1, Tommy Walsh 0-1, Padraig Walsh 0-1
Scorers for Dublin: David Treacy 0-6 (6f), Sean Moran 1-2 (1-1 pens, 1f), Danny Sutcliffe 0-4, Chris Crummey 0-2, Fergal Whitely 0-2, Sean Treacy 0-1, Darragh O’Connell 0-1, Paul Ryan 0-1, Liam Rushe 0-1, Tomas Connolly 0-1
KILKENNY: Darren Brennan; Paul Murphy, Paddy Deegan, Tommy Walsh; Enda Morrissey, Huw Lawlor, Conor Fogarty; Padraig Walsh, Alan Murphy; Adrian Mullen, Walter Walsh, TJ Reid; Billy Ryan, Colin Fennelly, Ger Aylward. Subs: Richie Leahy for Enda Morrissey (ht), Richie Hogan for Billy Ryan (40)
DUBLIN: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Eoghan O’Donnell, Darragh O’Connell; Sean Moran, Chris Crummey Shane Barrett; Sean Treacy, Tomas Connolly+; David Treacy, Danny Sutcliffe, Fergal Whitely; Paul Ryan, Liam Rushe, Eamon Dillon. Subs: Rian McBride for Tomas Connolly (50), Conal Keaney for Paul Ryan (60), Cian Boland for Sean Treacy (66), Jake Malone for David Treacy (72), Ronan Hayes for Liam Rushe (74)
Ref: Cathal McAllister (Cork)