Cats pounce to devour round-robin winners
KILKENNY 3-16 DUBLIN 0-10 SO much for the widely perceived benefits for Dublin hurlers of the round-robin series, and the two tough games against Laois.
In the aftermath of four competitiveoutings, it was generally expected that Dublin would mount some kind of a meaningful challenge in this Guinness Leinster SHC semi-final at Croke Park.
But the painfully one-sided nature of the contest only served to demonstrate that a yawning chasm in class still exists between the Dubs and Kilkenny.
In the corresponding game last year, Kilkenny had 21 points to spare against the Metropolitans.
Yesterday's winning margin was only six points less, and it starkly underlines that Dublin have a long distance to travel before they can hope to join the super-powers of hurling.
In contrast to their opponents, Kilkenny entered the fixture under the disadvantage of making their championship debut.
But from an early stage the canny `Cats' made light of that fact, and they proceded to teach their opponents a hurling lesson in virtually every area of the field.
In fact, it was very much a case of men versus boys, as Brian Cody's crew consistely displayed superior hurling skill, craft, cohesion, teamwork and basic intelligence.
And when Kilkenny were not pressing home their advantage in these aspects of the game, they were assisted by Dublin's frequent propensity to shoot themselves in the foot tbrough commiting a series of costly unforced errors.
Admittedly Kilkenny are one of the most formidable outfits in the country, but that scarcely excuses a Dublin performance that fell far short of what one would expect from a side harbouring any real championship aspirations.
In fact, after four competitive outings, and numerous training sessions, it was difficult to believe that the skill level of so many of the Dublin players could be of such a low standard.
And to compound the situation, in response to Michael O'Grady's requests, quite a sizeable contingent of Dublin fans were present on the Hill to lend vocal support to the team's efforts.
But, after a reasonably encouraging start from the Dubs, they had precious little to cheer about thereafter.
Quite simply, Kilkenny were better at gaining possession, they used the ball much more intelligently, and were very economical in the number of mistakes they made throughout the 70 minutes.
It's an indictment of Dublin's second half performance that they failed to make the scoresheet until the last two minutes, when Sean Duignan, Damien Russell and Tomas McGrane found the target.
But, of course, the writing was virtually on the wall for the Dubs when they trailed by 2-10 to 0-6 at half-time, after conceding the first goal after just 18 minutes.
In defence, Dublin did reasonably well, but their attack found it almost impossible to make any headway against a tight-marking Kilkenny defence, in which championship debutants Sean Meally and Noel Hickey made very favourable impressions at full-back and left corner-back, respectively.
The strapping Eamonn Kennedy was also a truly commanding figure at centre half-back, consistently grabbing the ball in spectacular fashion, and then sidestepping a serie of opponents before launching massive clearances.
As a result, the ball was delivered back to the Dublin defence almost as quickly as they had cleared it, and it was no surprise that the relentless pressure eventually exerted a heavy toil.
However, the Dublin defence suffered a major blow when Stephen Perkins, who arguably had been their best peformer in the opening period, had to retire at half-time due to sustaining a shoulder ligament injury before half-time.
Although scoring only one point, DJ Carey, at full-forward, repeatedly tormented the Dublin defence with his ability to lay on chances for his forward colleagues, most notably the pass for Kilkenny's second goal by Charlie Carter.
Carter, although having an early shot blocked by marker Conor McCann, subsequently wreaked havoc, shooting 1-3, and also pressurising corner-back John Finnegan in booting the ball into his own net for the first goal.
Henry Shefflin, at right half-forward, was also in sparkling form, regularly showing his skill in carrying the ball, and also his excellent markmanship from play and placed balls.
As well as the unfortunate Perkins, right half-back David Sweeney offered defiant resistance in the Dublin defence, even though directly opposed to a very pacey player in Brian McEvoy.
In the second half, when operating at midfield, the Ballyboden St Endas clubman maintained his first half standards.
But blighted his performance a little by some wayward shooting.
SCORERS: Kilkenny C Carter 1-3, H Shefflin 0-6, 3 frees, E Brennan 1-0, S Grehan 0-2, E Kennedy 0-2, 1 free, 1 `65', P Mullally, B McEvoy, DJ Carey 0-1 each; Dublin T McGrane 0-4, 3 frees, D Russell, S Duignan 0-2 each, M Fitzsimons, S Martin 0-1 each.
KILKENNY J McGarry; P Larkin, S Meally, N Hickey; M Kavanagh, E Kennedy, P Barry; P Mullally, D Byrne; H Shefflin, S Grehan, B McEvoy; C Carter, DJ Carey, E Brennan. Subs J Coogan for Brennan 50 mins, J Power for Byrne 50 mins, JP Corcoran for Carter 61 mins, A Cummins for Barry 66 mins.
DUBLIN B McLoughlin; J Finnegan, S Power, C McCann; D Sweeney, S Perkins, L Walsh; M Fitzsimons, S Martin; G Glynn, D McInerney, D Russell; T McGrane, S Duignan, D Henry. Subs G Ennis for Fitzsimons half-time, D Spain for Perkins half-time, D McMullen for Henry 57 mins, L O'Donoghue for McInerney 60 mins.
REF M Wadding (Waterford).