Wednesday 26 July 2017

Farrell on song as virtuoso Kilkenny maintain status quo

Kilkenny 1-25 Dublin 0-16

Jonjo Farrell punches the air with delight after finding the net against Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Jonjo Farrell punches the air with delight after finding the net against Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Ryan O'Dwyer of Dublin in action against Joey Holden of Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Kilkenny's Jonjo Farrell is stopped by Dublin's Chris Crummy. Photo: Sportsfile
Shane Barrett of Dublin in action against Paul Murphy of Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

The empire may be in decline but there was no sign last night in Portlaoise that Kilkenny's condition is terminal. The Cats secured a place in the Leinster final for the third successive season and for the 16th time in Brian Cody's 18th season in charge.

It is a remarkable record by any standards. Amazingly, the players' hunger, desire and commitment is an ravenous as ever and as long as Cody patrols the sidelines the Cats will be the team to beat in the 2016 series.

Newcomer Jonjo Farrell starred with a 1-5 contribution from play, though he was pushed all the way for the Man of the Match by Paul Murphy while veteran Michael Fennelly put in an excellent shift.

Nine different Kilkenny players scored in what was effectively a rout as the All-Ireland title holders won the second half 1-13 to 0-5.

It was a dreadfully disappointing evening for Dublin who are faced, yet again, with the prospect of reviving their season through the qualifiers.

Kilkenny fielded 12 of their 2015 All-Ireland-winning team; last year's captain Shane Prendergast, Richie Hogan and Ger Aylward were absent through injury.

Uncharacteristically, referee Brian Gavin whistled every infringement in the first quarter which meant that frees were the order of the day. So we had a shoot-out between TJ Reid - who switched to full-forward from the throw-in - and David Treacy.

Reid hit four early frees while Dublin's free-taking specialist David Treacy converted three in the first ten minutes before Michael Fennelly - who started at midfield - hit the game's first score from play after 11 minutes. The tackling and hits were ferocious but so was the standard of hooking and blocking.

Paul Murphy was outstanding for Kilkenny as the champions moved into a 0-7 to 0-3 advantage but backed by the strengthening wind, Dublin kept in touch - mostly through Treacy's frees though Dotsy O'Callaghan hit their first point from play after 13 minutes. Joey Holden looked vulnerable at full-back and he picked up a yellow card at the end of the first quarter but otherwise Kilkenny were winning the majority of the key battles. Every player had to work hard to secure possession but Michael Fennelly began to dictate the shape of the game in the second quarter.

Dublin did create the game's first goal chance when a run from Shane Barrett on the left flank created an opportunity for O'Callaghan but his effort was brilliantly saved by Eoin Murphy, though the veteran attacker ought to have done better.

Kilkenny moved four points clear with Pádraig Walsh scoring a peach a point but against the odds it was Dublin who finished the half the stronger hitting three unanswered points to leave just a point between the sides at the break - Kilkenny 0-12, Dublin 0-11.

Indeed, the underdogs might have had a penalty in injury time when Holden pulled down O'Dwyer - who had moved to full forward - very close if not inside the parallelogram. But the referee ruled that the foul had taken place outside the penalty area.

Dublin's revival owned much to the fact that Johnny McCaffrey moved deep into his own half and won a lot of crucial possession and this enabled Dublin to spray the ball around and crucially Daire Plunkett and Eamon Dillon, who had been largely anonymous up to that point, hit a point each which meant that four Dublin players scored, just two fewer than the Cats.

As is their wont, Kilkenny put their foot on the pedal in the third quarter and just streaked away from Dublin. Reid hit three points - two from frees - with Jonjo Farrell, scoring his third point from play, and Walter Walsh hitting a brace.

Essentially the game was over as a contest within five minutes of the re-start and worse was to follow when Dublin's disastrous puck-out strategy was further exposed when Paul Murphy returned a puck-out with interest and Farrell - on his debut - blasted to the Dublin net in the 46th minute. The rest was utterly academic.

So on a momentous day in Irish sport with Ireland beating New Zealand and South Africa in rugby, it was same old same old in hurling as Kilkenny knocked Dublin out of the championship. Some things never change.

Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (7f, 1 65), J Farrell 1-5, W Walsh, M Fennelly, C Buckley 0-2 each; P Walsh, C Fogarty, C Fennelly, L Ryan 0-1 each. Dublin: D Treacy 0-11 (10f), D O'Callaghan 0-2, D Plunkett, P Ryan, E Dillon 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, R Lennon, P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley; C Fogarty, M Fennelly; W Walsh, C Fennelly, L Ryan; J Farrell, TJ Reid, E Larkin. Subs: L Blanchfield for Larkin (51); K Kelly for Ryan (57), D Cody for Fennelly (64).
Dublin: C Dooley; E O'Donnell, C O'Callaghan, C Gough; S Barrett, L Rushe, C Crummey; D O'Connell, J McCaffrey; D Plunkett, N McMorrow, R O'Dwyer; D O'Callaghan, D Treacy, E Dillon. Subs: P Ryan for O'Dwyer (h-t); O O'Rorke for McMorrow (45), N Corcoran for Gough (49); S Treacy for Barrett (57); C Bennett for O'Callaghan (67).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly)

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