Cats still alive after finding a new gear
Kilkenny 2-20 Dublin 1-16
A day that rhymed with so much we know by heart about Kilkenny, one confirming that their early-season disorientation has burnt off like a morning mist.
They'd set a few doomsayers acting the fool by opening with two defeats in this National League, but Brian Cody's men are in the quarter-finals now. Most probably stifling yawns too. Rumours of their demise seem set to prove just more of that modern contagion, fake news.
Recent history tells us they're not mad about Parnell Park with its tight confines and a pitch that probably gets more use than it really should. But they held tough here, seeing off a fired-up Dublin team that might be lamenting a degree of self-harm, goalkeeper - Gary Maguire - shown a red card for a wild 31st-minute pull across Liam Blanchfield.
The Kilkenny man was in the process of scoring his side's second goal following a brilliant, defence-splitting inter-change of passes involving TJ Reid and Walter Walsh when Maguire, unwisely, tossed salt into the wound about to open.
His pull on Blanchfield left referee Paud O'Dwyer little alternative but to show red. And it left Dublin having to hurl with just 14 men for the remaining 40 minutes.
"That was difficult," reflected Dublin manager Ger Cunningham afterwards. "But I'm very proud of the lads and the character they showed in the second-half. They took the game to Kilkenny but, eventually, the extra man was going to tell."
He had good reason for that pride too, given the Dubs were still just a goal adrift with 12 minutes of normal time remaining.
Yet, increasingly, the simple weight of numbers was becoming a problem for a defence in which Chris Crummey and Shane Barrett had outstanding games.
They were again without the Cuala contingent, although Cunningham confirmed that the All-Ireland club champions' representatives will be re-assimilated into the squad before next weekend's relegation play-off against Clare.
And that won't, necessarily, be a straightforward thing for Cunningham who has used this league to blood young talent. "They've won a fantastic competition," he said of the Cuala players. "It's time now for them to move on and start integrating back in with us as well. You know, kind of playing with their second team.
"They've two masters to serve really, so it was a big focus for them all year. They're coming down off that high, but I think they'll be looking forward to coming back in with us as well."
Kilkenny were slow to find early rhythm against the hosts' sweeper system and spent most of the first-half playing second fiddle to a Dublin team playing with the aid of a gusting wind.
Yet a wonderful Colin Fennelly run in along the end-line set up Conor Martin for an eighth-minute goal that kept Cody's men in touch. They were getting little change however out of a strong Dublin half-back line in which Crummey was proving an especially forceful marker of TJ Reid.
The Dubs led 0-9 to 1-3 on the half-hour but were suddenly undone by the creation of that brilliant Kilkenny goal accompanied by Maguire's moment of madness.
His dismissal meant Cunningham had to sacrifice a forward (Eoghan Conroy) to send in Conor Dooley as goalkeeping replacement and, with Dublin a point down (0-10 to 2-5) at half-time, the expectation would have been for Kilkenny to pull away in the second-half.
That expectation was all but copper-fastened by quick-fire points from Blanchfield and Conor Fogarty after the resumption only for Dublin to bounce straight back with a 37th-minute Donal Burke goal after a great run and shot from Ryan O'Dwyer.
That score had the effect of an electric charge on the Dubs who brought huge physicality to defence in their efforts to contain Blanchfield, a rampant Martin and the increasingly influential Reid and Walter Walsh.
Crummey was having a huge game at wing-back for Dublin, scoring three points, before apparent cramp forced him into a late stint as an emergency (and clearly handicapped) full-forward.
Young Na Fianna man Burke was having a stormer too against a defence now thieved of Padraig Walsh's re-assuring presence on the edge of the 'square', the Tullaroan man finally substituted after being struck in the jaw by a sixth-minute Eamonn Dillon pile-driver. They also lost Conor O'Shea to what looked a bad hamstring pull.
And their attacking scope was restricted by a slightly out-of-sorts Richie Hogan who, according to his manager, had "a serious back spasm during the week". He was eventually hauled ashore with roughly 20 minutes remaining, replaced by the hard-working Pat Lyng.
It was Lyng who set up Martin for a 56th-minute point that put Kilkenny four points clear and that was the point at which their numerical advantage began to prove too much for the brave Dubs who lost the remainder by 0-5 to 0-2.
The six-point winning margin was enough to secure a quarter-final place for Kilkenny against Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford, a contest that Cody suggested with a knowing smile would be "interesting".
He was, palpably, grateful to be facing into a game with positive implications rather than a relegation play-off.
"It was seriously competitive, non-stop stuff," said Cody. "Obviously, they were down a player for a lot of the game, but it was only in the last six or seven minutes that we started to pull away a small bit."
He sees Dublin as "real serious contenders for whatever is out there" with their Cuala contingent back in harness. As for Kilkenny's league? They've got "a good bit out of it", he told us.
"And we hope to get more!"
Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (6f), C Martin 1-5, L Blanchfield 1-2, C Fogarty, W Walsh and R Hogan 0-1 each. Dublin: D Burke 1-9 (0-7f), C Crummey 0-3, B Quinn, R O'Dwyer, C Boland and N McMorrow 0-1 each.
Kilkenny - E Murphy 8; P Murphy 8, P Walsh 7, C O'Shea 7; C Fogarty 7, J Cleere 8, S Prendergast 7; P Deegan 6, C Buckley 6; C Fennelly 6, W Walsh 7, TJ Reid 8; L Blanchfield 7, R Hogan 6, C Martin 9. Subs: J Holden 7 for P Walsh (h-t), P Lyng 8 for Hogan (52), K Joyce 6 for O'Shea (61).
Dublin - G Maguire 5; F O'Riain Broinn 7, E O'Donnell 7, S Barrett 8; C Crummey 8, L Rushe 6, C MacGabhann 6; B Quinn 7, D Fox 6; E Conroy 6, N McMorrow 6, R O'Dwyer 7; C Boland , D Burke 8, E Dillon 7. Subs: C Dooley 7 for E Conroy (31), F McGibb 6 for Fox (h-t), R McBride 7 for MacGabhann (52), C O'Sullivan 6 for Boland (58), F Whiteley 6 for Quinn (63).
REF - P O'Dwyer (Carlow).