KILKENNY produced an impressive performance when dethroning reigning holders Dublin by a four-point margin in the Leinster MHC semi-final at a blustery Parnell Park on Saturday.
The visitors dominated for large parts of the game, with Dublin threatening sporadically in attack through Con O'Callaghan and Chris Bennett.
The hosts will rue two scoreless periods, in particular during the first half when, with the significant breeze at their backs, they failed to raise a flag between the fourth and 21st minute.
Their struggles were largely down to the excellence of the Kilkenny half-back line, with James Maher and Jason Stanley especially impressive, while Niall Mullins and Ciarán Ryan ensured a solid platform in midfield.
Despite a brace of early scores from captain Seán Treacy, Dublin looked sluggish in the opening half and were gradually reeled in with Alan Murphy's prowess from placed balls pushing the visitors two points clear.
Dublin's defence held reasonably firm with Mark Kavanagh and full-back Cian Mac Gabhann impressing but Kilkenny pulled clear thanks to another Murphy free and a fine score by full-forward Daniel O'Connor.
A free by goalkeeper Jonathan Treacy in the 21st minute finally ended Dublin's barren spell and the Na Fianna clubman converted a penalty two minutes later after O'Callaghan had been impeded.
Although Murphy restored Kilkenny's lead in the 26th minute, Dublin finished the half strongly with O'Callaghan denied a blatant penalty before Bennett turned nimbly before producing a precise finish beyond Darren Brennan.
Given the strength of the breeze, Dublin's 2-4 to 0-7 interval advantage looked insufficient and so it proved as Kilkenny levelled by the 40th minute thanks to points by Stanley, Murphy and the increasingly influential Ryan.
Three points in two minutes by Murphy, Kevin Kenny and Liam Blanchfield reflected Kilkenny's dominance with Dublin registering their first score of the half through a Seán Treacy free in the 46th minute. The visitors replied with a point from sub Michael Kenny.
The goal required to revive Dublin's flagging challenge failed to arrive with Kilkenny full-back Darragh Joyce outstanding in the latter stages.
Bennett offered a modicum of hope with a brace of points towards the end but Murphy ensured a provincial final for Kilkenny, converting two late frees to take his personal tally to nine points.