Kilkenny retained their provincial crown with a comprehensive 1-20 to 0-10 victory over a disappointing Dublin in their ESB Leinster Minor Hurling Championship Final at a blustery Croke Park yesterday afternoon.
The 13-point winning margin was a fair reflection of Kilkenny's supremacy over the hour and in truth the game was effectively over as a contest by half-time with the Cats 10 points ahead at the break with Dublin having produced an error-strewn opening period.
Dublin's four-point tally in the first-half was as much a reflection on their own failings up front as it was on Kilkenny's superb back-six, whose full-back line of Jason Corcoran, Willie Phelan and Brian Kennedy were immense throughout.
The Dubs' troubles in attack were mirrored in midfield where Fergal Heavey and Darren Kelly were eclipsed by their direct opponents Kevin Kelly and Ollie Walsh, who scored four points between them in addition to instigating countless scoring opportunities throughout.
It was Kelly who gave early notice of Kilkenny's intentions with a fine individual score in the opening minute and Ger Aylward soon doubled their advantage with Kelly the provider as Dublin produced a nervous start with far too many scoring chances falling short.
It took Glenn Whelan to finally open Dublin's account in the eighth minute but points from the influential Kelly and Padraig Walsh reflected the ease with which Kilkenny could avail of their chances, in direct contrast to Dublin.
A Ciarán Kilkenny point on 14 minutes offered Dublin a glimmer of hope but points from wing-back Eoin McGrath and John Power preceded Kilkenny's opening goal on 18 minutes.
It arrived in fairly innocuous circumstances as a long ball from Luke Harney was misread by full-back Emmet McKenna and from the resultant scramble for possession Thomas O'Hanrahan exacted full punishment with a cracking finish to the roof of Eamonn Dillon's net from 12 metres.
A John Hetherton free settled Dublin briefly but four unanswered points from Power, Kelly, Aylward and Padraig Walsh highlighted the gulf in class and although Kilkenny notched his second point from play in injury time, Ollie Walsh's late score ensured the Noresiders an emphatic 1-11 to 0-4 interval lead.
The second-half saw a slight improvement in Dublin's fortunes with the introduction of Cillian Moffat offering greater solidity to their rearguard while Danny Sutcliffe showed glimpses of his undoubted talent as he attempted in vain to generate an unlikely Dublin comeback.
Four Hetherton frees in the opening seven minutes of the half reflected Dublin's improvement but Power and Aylward continued to threaten at the other end, adding six points between them as Kilkenny cruised for the majority of the half in third gear.
With Seán McClelland beginning to come to grips with the task in hand, Dublin looked far more secure in defence and the Lucan Sarsfield's player produced a superb goal-line clearance on 42 minutes to deny Paddy Delaney a certain goal.
Dublin's cause was also helped by the introduction at corner-back of Brian McCarthy, who equipped himself well with a couple of timely interceptions and his distribution was a marked improvement of Dublin's previously erratic passing from defence.
Any chance of Dublin breathing fresh life into their flagging challenge was finally extinguished when Dean Flood spurned a gilt-edged goal opportunity on 48 minutes as his tame effort was easily cleared off the line by Corcoran.
Two late scores from Hetherton and Flood were the least Dublin deserved for their spirited second-half display but Aylward and Power ensured the Cats finished on a high as they pushed on for a well-merited 13-point victory.