Dubs crushed as Cats unleash killer instinct
Kilkenny 1-25 Dublin 0-16
Just as his players found it impossible to sort out the problems which confronted them in the second-half, Dublin manager Ger Cunningham had no ready answers as to why it all went so dismally wrong.
But then it's familiar territory for Kilkenny's opposition who were hit by a second-half tornado, which had shown no signs of whipping up earlier on.
Kilkenny led by a point (0-12 to 0-11) at half-time and while Dublin had played with the wind, there was more to their defiance than that.
Granted, it looked as if Dublin were using more energy than Kilkenny to keep with the pace and tempo of the first-half, but it wasn't a sufficient enough drain on resources to give any indication of a second-half implosion.
momentum "We felt we were in a good position. We were looking for a bit of momentum early in the second-half, get a few scores and asked questions of Kilkenny but instead the opposite happened.
"They built confidence and ours dropped a bit. We struggled to get the ball in the second-half," said Cunningham.
The details of the momentum shift are short and brutal for Dublin.
Kilkenny hit them for five points in the opening five minutes of the second-half and a further 1-3 over the next 10 minutes.
Jonjo Farrell, who finished on 1-5 in a man-of-the-match display, scored 1-2 of the 1-8 in that match- defining period, during which Dublin failed to score.
"Apart from the scores, he worked very well. He was given an opportunity and he took it," said Brian Cody.
The manager was happy too with how Kilkenny drove on after half-time.
"It was a lovely start to the second-half - that's for sure. But I think the first-half was very important because there was a very strong breeze out there. We really got into the game strongly," added Cody.
The 'lovely start' to the second-half took Kiilkenny 12 points clear before David Treacy's free ended the drought in the 51st minute.
Dublin matched Kilkenny from there on, but the champions were cruising into the Leinster final while Dublin were desperately trying to rescue something to take into the qualifiers.
"It's not easy on the night you lose like that to start thinking of three weeks's time but we've got to get over the disappointment, look at how we played and see where we can make improvements," said Cunningham. He acknowledged that Dublin, who missed the injured Mark Schutte, were cleaned out in the third-quarter.
exception Corner-back Eoghan O'Donnell was an exception to the general malaise, turning in a feisty performance that drew praise from Cunningham.
It highlighted the extent of Dublin's difficulties as they needed everyone operating at O'Donnell's level.
"He was one of the few we could say was really outstanding. People who were going well in training didn't perform well tonight for some reason," said Cunningham.
Of course, there's a vast difference between training games back home and tangling with Kilkenny in a Leinster semi-final in O'Moore Park.
Not that Kilkenny ever need artificial incentives to drive them towards maximum efficiency, but the memory of the poor League semi-final performance against Clare was in the background ahead of Saturday's game.
"The championship is still everybody's important date. We knew our first date was against Dublin and we prepared for that. We did perform today at a level that was decent," said Cody.
It was a whole lot more than that as a return of 1-25 shows. Actually, Kilkenny's yield could have been much higher as they shot 11 wides, four from TJ Reid, who is usually the epitome of reliability.
There was much for Kilkenny to take from this game. Paul Murphy's return greatly increased security in a full-back line where Robert Lennon was a pre-match replacement for the injured Jackie Tyrrell.
Padraig Walsh, Kieran Joyce and Cillian Buckley sealed the half-back channels while Lester Ryan and Conor Fogarty were strong and solid at midfield.
And, on any occasion when they needed help, it came from Michael Fennelly, the ultimate Championship performer.
We don't see much of him in the League anymore but he comes into his own in high summer and early autumn.
He worked the middle third with massive industry on Saturday, prior to being withdrawn to an ovation on the hour mark.
Kilkenny supporters know exactly how important he is to the smooth running of an engine that's again cranking up powerfully.
They could even afford to be without Richie Hogan and still hit Dublin for 26 scores.
"Richie is out of the cast now. Not ready yet, but he's getting closer," said Cody.
For Dublin the only option is to look ahead. "We have work to do and we'll get on and do it," said Cunningham.
SCORERS: Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (0-7f, 0-1 '65'), J Farrell 1-5, M Fennelly, W Walsh, C Buckley 0-2 each, C Fennelly, P Walsh, L Ryan, C Fogarty 0-1 each. Dublin: D Treacy 0-11 (0-10f), D O'Callaghan 0-2, D Plunkett, E Dillon, P Ryan 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: E Murphy 8; P Murphy 8, J Holden 6, R Lennon 6; P Walsh 7, K Joyce 7, C Buckley 8; C Fogarty 7, L Ryan 7; W Walsh 7, M Fennelly 8, TJ Reid 7; JJ Farrell 9, C Fennelly 6, E Larkin 5. Subs: L Blanchfield 6 for Larkin (51), K Kelly 6 for Ryan (57), D Cody for M Fennelly (65).
DUBLIN: C Dooley 7;E O'Donnell 8, C O'Callaghan 6, O Gough 5; S Barrett 5, L Rushe 7, C Crummey 6; D O'Connell 5, J McCaffrey 6; D Plunkett 6, N McMorrow 5, R O'Dwyer 6; E Dillon 6, D O'Callaghan 6, D Treacy 7. Subs: P Ryan 6 for O'Dwyer (ht), O O'Rorke 5 for McMorrow (45), N Corcoran 5 for Gough (49), S Treacy 6 for Barrett (57), C Bennett for O'Callaghan (69).
REF: B Gavin (Offaly)