Hurling & Camogie

Lethal Kilkenny have Dublin dead and buried by half-time

The Cats were able to ease off in the second half and coast to another provincial title

Kilkenny hurlers
Kilkenny players celebrate after their resounding Leinster hurling final win over Dublin at Croke Park on Saturday. Picture: Seamus Loughran (seamus loughran)

Leinster SHC final Dublin 1-18 Kilkenny  3-28

A GOOD few Kilkenny players moved up the pecking order in the race for Allstar honours on Saturday evening, but consideration must also be given to their sports psychologist, PRO, liaison officer, or whichever figure managed to convince the players that they were the subject of external criticism in the lead-up to this Leinster final.

Paddy Deegan told RTE after the game that “I don’t think we were given the respect in the last few weeks, even coming into this match, we weren’t given respect. That probably adds a bit of chip to the shoulder”.

Whether such slights were real or imaginary, Kilkenny hurled as if they were brutally wronged for the first 35 minutes of this decider, dispatching the Dubs in the most efficient, clinical fashion possible.

There was no Munster-style blood and thunder, or subjecting Dublin to the blunt force trauma of brutal intensity and fire. Instead they subjected Michael O’Donoghue’s side to death by lethal injection, except if it took 30 minutes instead of 30 seconds for the treatment to take effect.

After a TJ Reid free opened the scoring, a splendid equaliser from Chris Crummey suggested that Dublin were up for the fight.

It was a false dawn. Eoin Cody darted in to fire in the game’s first goal, 1-5 was on the Kilkenny side of the scoreboard after seven minutes, and when Deegan sent a long, low percentage shot wide of the posts, it stood out because it was so out of character for the team in a period in which their hurling was utterly clinical.

John Donnelly and Martin Keoghan weighed in with impressive points while Cian Kenny seemed to pop up everywhere he was needed, but the ease with which Adrian Mullen just fired over one score after another showed that Kilkenny will be a completely different team with the Ballyhale man back in harness.

Dublin didn’t help their cause with some poor touches and some dreadful scoring attempts, and by the time Dara Purcell gave the Hill something to shout about with an elegant point on the run in the 20th minute, they were in deep trouble.

Four minutes later Seán Brennan spilled a long free, TJ Reid pounced to whip in the 33rd goal of his long and storied Championship career, and the lead was double figures.

Donal Burke hit the target with a couple of frees, one of which saw Dublin shout for a penalty and black card as David Blanchfield brought him down from behind as he bore down on goal, but at the other end, the scores kept coming.

A David Blanchfield block on a Dublin handpass gave Mullen his sixth of the game just before half-time, and with their work done, Kilkenny were a shadow of themselves in the second half, allowing Dublin to work their way back into the game and salvage something cosmetic from a dismal evening.

Reid still had time to add a second goal, ruthlessly blasting past Brennan after the Dublin goalkeeper tried to play a short puckout to Paddy Smyth, but the Dublin captain didn’t read the script and had his back turned, allowing Mullen to float in a simple pass to his club colleague.

Points from Blanchfield, Walter Walsh and Reid were among the highlights in the last 20 minutes, as was Donal Burke’s excellent catch under pressure to set up Grogan for the Dublin goal, but these were moments that caught the eye in a half that otherwise, was hard to watch.

Not that we mean any disrespect, of course. Lest any players are reading.