Allianz HL D1A: Kilkenny down 14-man Dublin
Allianz Hurling League Division 1A
KILKENNY 2-20 DUBLIN 1-16
By John Harrington at Parnell Park
Kilkenny had to work very hard to finally see off a hugely determined 14-man Dublin at Parnell Park this afternoon and seal their place in the League Quarter-Finals.
A victory for the Cats seemed certain as soon as Dublin goalkeeper Gary Maguire was red-carded in the first-half for a vain attempt to stop Liam Blanchfield scoring a goal.
But it was only in the closing minutes of the game that they managed to pull away from a gritty home team that tackled themselves to a stand-still.
The main positives for Brian Cody’s team were the performances of two of their less familiar faces.
Corner-forward Conor Martin scored 1-5 from play and did enough to suggest he can further hone this Kilkenny team’s attacking edge, while Jason Cleere at centre-back hurled a lot of ball and is a very encouraging work in progress.
Defeat consigns Dublin to a relegation play-off with Clare, but they should take a lot of encouragement from the heart they showed, and with the Cuala contingent to come back into the reckoning, Ger Cunningham’s young team have room for further improvement.
They made life hard for Kilkenny from the very start of this match with the intensity of their play and the manner in which they cut down the space the Cats usually thrive in.
Dublin’s half-back trio of Chris Crummey, Liam Rushe and Cian MacGabhann were the dominant line on the field for much of that first half, and the Kilkenny forwards struggled to make an impression.
They’re always capable of creating something from nothing with flashes of brilliance though, and Colin Fennelly had a trick up his sleeve to create the first goal of the match after nine minutes.
He left a couple Dublin defenders for dead by tapping the ball up into his hand with a sumptuous flick of his hurley, and raced towards goal before squaring it to Conor Martin to finish from close range.
When Martin followed up with a point from play shortly afterwards, Kilkenny led by 1-2 to 0-3.
For the next 20 minutes though it was Dublin who dominated. Driven forward by that half-back line and the brio of players like Ben Quinn, Niall McMorrow, and Ryan O’Dwyer, they really took the game to the Cats.
Donal Burke was proving accurate from both frees and play, and a classy point from him on the run out by the left- wing edged ublin into the lead, 0-7 to 1-3 by the 25th minute.
They stretched that advantage to three points but then suffered that hammer-blow when they conceded that second-goal and had Gary Maguire red-carded into the bargain.
It was hard not to feel sorry for Dublin, but credit to Kilkenny for a brilliant team-move that created the scenario.
Martin, TJ Reid, and Walter Walsh combined slickly to send Liam Blanchfield through on goal, and he finished the ball emphatically despite taking a belt off Maguire along the way which earned the Dublin goalkeeper his marching orders.
That put a pep in Kilkenny’s step, and when the half-time whistle blew they led by 2-5 to 0-10.
A couple of Kilkenny points from Blanchfield and Fennelly in the very first minute of the second-half looked ominous from a Dublin point of view, but they struck back immediately with a goal.
Ryan O’Dwyer twisted and turned before getting a shot off that Eoin Murphy could only parry into the path of Burke who delivered a ground-stroke to the back of the net.
With Burke leading the line superbly, Dublin continued to give as good as they got as the second-half progressed.
By the 52nd minute they were still in contention, trailing by 2-12 to 1-14, but then TJ Reid knocked over two points and the impressive Martin clipped another for Kilkenny to put some daylight between the teams.
Dublin were beginning to tire, perhaps inevitably, but they continued to defend heroically.
The high-catching, tackling, and distribution of players like Rushe Crummey, and Shane Barrett was a joy to watch, while Ryan O’Dwyer and Niall McMorrow continued to hurl like dervishes in the middle third.
Weight of numbers eventually told, though, and in the closing minutes Kilkenny safely saw out a win they really had to work hard for.
*Scorers for Kilkenny: *TJ Reid 0-10 (5f, 1’65), Conor Martin 1-5, Liam Blanchfield 1-2, Colin Fennelly 0-1, Walter Walsh 0-1, Richie Hogan 0-1
*Scorers for Dublin: *Donal Burke 1-9 (5f, 2 ’65), Chris Crummey 0-3, Niall McMorrow 0-1, Cian Boland 0-1, Ryan O’Dwyer 0-1, Ben Quinn 0-1
*KILKENNY: *Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh, Conor O'Shea; Conor Fogarty, Jason Cleere, Shane Prendergast; Paddy Deegan, Cillian Buckley; Colin Fennelly, Walter Walsh, TJ Reid; Liam Blanchfield, Richie Hogan, Conor Martin. *Subs: *Pat Lyng for Colin Fennelly (blood sub) (19), Colin Fennelly for Pat Lyng (26), Joey Holden for Padraig Walsh (HT), Pat Lyng for Richie Hogan (54), Kieran Joyce for Conor O’Shea (62).
*DUBLIN: *Gary Maguire; Fionn Ó Riann Broin, Eoghan O’Donnell, Shane Barrett; Chris Crummey, Liam Rushe, Cian Mac Gabhann; Domhnall Fox, Ben Quinn; Eoghan Conroy, Niall McMorrow, Ryan O’Dwyer; Cian Boland, Donal Burke, Eamon Dillon. *Subs: *Conor Dooley for Eoghan Conroy (34), Fiontan McGibb for Domhnall Fox (HT), Rian McBride for Cian Mac Gabhann (53), Cian O’Sullivan for Cian Boland (60), Fergal Whitley for Ben Quinn (62)
Ref: Paud O’Dwyer