TJ Reid underlines his class to halt Dubs' momentum
Kilkenny 0-23 Dublin 1-14
Published 21/03/2016 | 02:30
After the match some of the young kids down from a host of Dublin clubs on the annual pilgrimage to Nowlan Park spotted TJ Reid on his way to the car park and swarmed around him with mementos to sign from their day.
Location didn't require a jersey number or a guiding helmet colour. They knew their man and pounced quick, Dublin hurlers slipping by but failing to disturb their focus on the prize.
Eventually, as numbers grew, they filed an orderly queue. TJ stayed signing dutifully. This was once the territory of Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh but there's a new king in town and he's wearing the crown rather easily.
A match of no real significance was significant for that at least. Effortlessly, TJ put his mark all over it. He had three points from play clocked up by the 19th minute and five by the end stitched into a haul of 11 overall.
It was his movement as much as his accuracy that stood out though, those soft, careful steps, as if he's treading burning coals, taking him away from trouble so often and creating space for his clinical wrists to do the rest. No-one finds a spare patch of grass quite like him these days.
He could afford to switch off somewhat in the last quarter as Dublin, and particularly his marker Liam Rushe, got a better foothold in a game that they were very much involved in but never really close.
It was strange in many ways. Both sides were already qualified for the quarter-finals so there was more of a relaxed feel to it than what you might have expected.
Even Kilkenny manager Brian Cody had a certain indifference to it, his post-match reflection that "it went its course, we got there and that's it" perhaps summing up the day.
There was extreme profligacy too, Dublin finishing with 16 wides, Kilkenny 14, not the statistics you associate between teams of this calibre. Niall McMorrow and Eamonn Dillon racked up half the tally between them.
Kilkenny got momentum early, Reid's third point helping to establish a six point lead, 0-7 to 0-1, that was never really under threat.
Not even the next score, a 21st-minute goal from David O'Callaghan's late replacement Fionntan Mac Gib after Dillon turned Jackie Tyrrell, who was in for Paul Murphy, could swing it away from where it was heading.
Kilkenny, who enjoyed the benefits of midfield supremacy from Lester Ryan and Diarmuid Cody, backed up by Walsh, Kieran Joyce and Cillian Buckley, nailed the next six points to establish a nine-point lead (0-13 to 1-1) at one stage.
The victory stretched Kilkenny's winning sequence in the campaign to four after they had lost their opening game to Waterford.
If Reid was the central cog, Padraig Walsh wasn't far behind. He's left the tag of 'Tommy's younger brother' well behind him now. Here he thundered into the first half and picked off two points, one bringing to an end a sequence of short passes from a Dublin puck-out that seemed to frustrate both sets of supporters among the 8,871 crowd.
Pressure from Walsh on David Treacy, who had come deep to take a pass, brought it to an end in the 24th minute and the crowd delivered its verdict with an ironic cheer.
There were times when Dublin's use of the short puck-out didn't really seem to have a point expect highlighting their respect for the Kilkenny half-back line.
The other Kilkenny player to take a decent forward step was Walter Walsh, who was busy without ever really getting the return he might have got despite picking off three points. He used his physical advantages as well as he has done.
Dublin had to be disappointed with their first half, especially the amount of times they were turned over with ball in hand.
Curiously it was the third game in five that Kilkenny didn't score a goal and, what's more, they didn't really create an opportunity either.
"Some of the turnovers were poor enough, but you just don't get the time down here," said Dublin manager Ger Cunningham.
"And then we weren't putting the ball to hand. We were putting the ball down on the ground, and it's just giving Kilkenny a chance to take us out in a tackle.
"It's stating the obvious that this is not an easy place to come at the best of times. We're disappointed with the first-half performance to an extent. We let Kilkenny get ahead of us, and at half-time were chasing it really.
"But in fairness to the lads in the second half, they stuck with what we were trying to do and if 'Trollier' (Dillon) got the goal there in the last couple of minutes it was down to a one-score game.
"So you've got to take the positives from the game. We're trying to blood some guys into the team and I thought some of them did really, really well."
Corner-back Eoghan O'Donnell is a starting point in that respect. Tasked with picking up Richie Hogan, he won a lot of battles, but Hogan still came away with three points.
Beside Rushe, Chris Crummy put in a forceful shift, while Shane Barrett on the other wing also had his moments despite Walter Walsh's prominence.
Cody feels Kilkenny have already got massive benefits from the campaign.
"It's a serious league, serious matches every day you go out. Ding-dong stuff," he said.
"The real competitiveness of today's match was a small bit diluted because we were both in the quarter-finals but at the same time, every other game is a serious challenge."
Cody's sparse use of substitutes has been relaxed slightly over the last two games, with three introduced for both, bringing to 10 the number he has used so far, two of which have been for injuries.
With Michael and Colin Fennelly, Paul Murphy, Eoin Larkin and Conor Fogarty, injured last week against Cork, to return their hand will only strengthen.
Cunningham saw positive light from the 16 wides.
"It is disappointing but I take the positive that we were creating chances. If we weren't creating them I'd be more worried. We have to work on our shooting, some days they'll go with you and some days they won't," he said.
"It's a great experience for some of our guys to come down here. They play a different game of hurling - a very, very physical game. The intensity today was way up on anything we've played on so far."
Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-11 (6fs), W Walsh, R Hogan 0-3 each, P Walsh, L Ryan 0-2 each, J Power, K Joyce (f) 0-1 each. Dublin: D Treacy 0-5 (4fs), F Mac Gib 1-1, E Dillon 0-3, N McMorrow 0-2, M Schutte, L Rushe, J McCaffrey 0-1 each.
Kilkenny - R Reid 8; J Tyrrell 6, J Holden 7, B Kennedy 7; P Walsh 8, K Joyce 7, C Buckley 7; L Ryan 7, D Cody 6; W Walsh 8, TJ Reid 9, J Maher 5; JJ Farrell 6, J Power 5; R Hogan 7. Subs: M Malone for Maher (61), S Prendergast for Tyrrell (61), K Kelly for Malone (72).
Dublin - G Maguire 7; E O'Donnell 7, C O'Callaghan 7, O Gough 6; C Crummy 7, L Rushe 7, S Barrett 8; D O'Connell 5, G Whelan 5; C Cronin 6, N McMorrow 7, D Treacy 6; F Mac Gib 7, E Dillon 8, M Schutte 6. Subs: J McCaffrey 7 for Whelan (28), S McGrath 6 for Cronin (46), S Treacy for O'Connell (61)
Ref - J Keenan (Wicklow).