Cody's top Cats bare teeth to dethrone Daly's Dubs
Kilkenny 0-24 Dublin 1-9 - Leinster SHC final
Kilkenny's hurling planet is back on a familiar alignment.
After being forced to relaunch their All-Ireland ambitions via the back door for the last two seasons, they will arrive in Croke Park for the All-Ireland semi-final on August 10 through the main entrance after an emphatic annexation of Leinster.
Apart from the crazy minutes late in the drawn game with Galway when they conceded three goals, Kilkenny have been a model of efficiency, sorting out each challenge patiently and effectively.
It has yielded a three-way dividend, earning them a 69th Leinster title, hoisting them to the top of fancied list for All-Ireland glory and leaving their diaries free for the remainder of July as they watch other contenders trying to play their way into the big August action.
So are they back at the levels of the peak years of 2006-09 when they won four successive All-Ireland titles?
"Is this not our peak? I don't see any years as peak years. A peak year is when you win an All-Ireland final and regardless of what people think, that is the objective for everyone. We were a long way from it last year. It's a huge challenge and we are just working away diligently," said Brian Cody.
Diligence was certainly a factor yesterday as Kilkenny grafted through a test which ultimately proved a whole lot easier than they would have anticipated.
Their high application levels played a significant role in setting the agenda, but so too did Dublin's dismal power failure.
After winning two and drawing one of their last three championship and league games with Kilkenny, Dublin would have felt that the days of inferiority complexes and under-performing were behind them but, in fact, they returned with a vengeance.
And while the wipeout wasn't quite as complete as two years ago when Kilkenny hurled Dublin into oblivion in the Leinster semi-final, it had some similarities.
Dublin's touch was off right from the start, leading to simple catches being missed, balls being dropped and sloppy deliveries being snatched by Kilkenny men.
The inevitable consequence of that chaotic combination was a punishing afternoon which left Dublin with no obvious positives to take into the All-Ireland quarter-final.
That doesn't mean that all is lost, as Dublin are capable of a whole better than they produced yesterday.
Rediscovering their equilibrium will be the main focus over the next few weeks.
That will require the immediate zapping of yesterday's awful memories, which include returning the lowest score in the Leinster final since Wexford were stuck on 0-12 in 2001, landing just three points in the second half, failing to score from the 48th minute and scoring only 1-1 from open play in the first half hour.
Anthony Daly was at a complete loss to understand why it had all gone so wrong after a build-up that appeared to leave Dublin well primed for the big examination.
"We looked sharp in training but it wasn't there today for some reason. They (Kilkenny) tackled very tigerishly and we didn't match that intensity at all.
"For whatever reason, we didn't click into gear at all today," said Daly. The forwards never really functioned as a cohesive unit and with their markers winning most of the individual battles, Dublin faced a series of problems that they never solved.
The tactic of playing two men in the full-forward line was understandable as Dublin needed extra cover in the half-back area but it didn't work for a variety of reasons.
Conal Keaney, normally so sharp and snappy in possession, didn't get on the ball anywhere nearly as often as Dublin needed and, even when he did, his touch often let him down.
Also, many of Dublin's deliveries into the Kilkenny goal area were poorly directed, allowing Jackie Tyrrell, in particular, the opportunity to gain possession and launch counter attacks with well placed clearances.
Richie Hogan was the dominant influence around midfield and with TJ Reid maintaining his high strike rate from placed balls and open play, Kilkenny kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely.
Dublin had an early goal chance but Keaney opted to fire a penalty over the bar for their opening score. Given the way the game unfolded, it was an opportunity lost as a goal at that stage might have had a hugely uplifting impact.
Dublin did get in for a goal in the 22nd minute when Colm Cronin broke a few tackles before expertly clipping the ball to the net to leave Dublin only a point adrift, 0-7 to 1-3.
That was no way reflective of the balance of power as Kilkenny had done most of the positive hurling, a routine to which they returned in the run-up to half-time, by which stage they led 0-13 to 1-6.
Even Daly admitted that Dublin were fortunate to be only four points behind but having rode their luck, they would have hoped that the half-time reassessment might be the catalyst for a second-half surge.
Obviously, Kilkenny were thinking along the same lines and immediately set about smothering a Dublin revival. Fennelly and Padraig Walsh (0-2) scored three points in the opening four minutes of the second half and while Dublin won the next 10 minutes 0-3 to 0-1, that was as good as it got for them.
Sub Paul Ryan took their total to 1-9 in the 48th minute and it remained there all the way to the finish. It wasn't that Dublin didn't have chances during a period when their momentum rattled Kilkenny but their finishing let them down.
Also, some excellent defensive work, which included preventing two goals with brave blockdowns in the 49th and 52nd minutes, left Kilkenny with a five-point lead heading into the final quarter.
They added a further seven points, three from Henry Shefflin, who arrived in place of Walter Walsh in the 55th minute.
It was all so comfortable for Kilkenny on the run-in, while Dublin were forced to take their punishment.
Daly is confident that the squad has the required resolve to relaunch their season in the All-Ireland quarter-final but first they must work out why they were let down by so many basics yesterday.
Cody believes that Dublin's race is far from run.
"I don't need to tell Dublin what they are capable of doing. They were within a whisker of getting to an All-Ireland final last year and are in a quarter-final now and are capable of beating anybody," he said.
As for Kilkenny, they have returned to comfortable territory, dispersing to their various clubs for a few weeks before the beginning of the next big push.
"It's good to win a Leinster title and go straight into the semi-final. We've a five-week wait for that – there's a lot of hurling to be played in the meantime before we find out who we play. It's a nice place to be," he said.
Scorers: Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (4fs, 4 '65's), H Shefflin, C Fennelly 0-3 each, P Walsh, R Hogan (1f) 0-2 each, J Power, W Walsh, B Hogan, A Fogarty 0-1 each. Dublin: C Cronin 1-1, A McCrabbe 0-3 (3fs), C Keaney (pen), D O'Callaghan, D Sutcliffe, C McCormack, P Ryan 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: D Herity 8; P Murphy 7, JJ Delaney 7, J Tyrrell 8; J Holden 7, B Hogan 8, C Buckley 7; R Hogan 9, C Fogarty 7; W Walsh 6, P Walsh 7, TJ Reid 8; C Fennelly 8, E Larkin 6, J Power 6. Subs: H Shefflin 8 for W Walsh (55), A Fogarty 7 for Power (59), L Ryan for C Fogarty (69).
Dublin: A Nolan 8; S Durkin 7, P Kelly 7, P Schutte 6; S Hiney 7, L Rushe 7, M Carton 7; J Boland 5, J McCaffrey 6; R O'Dwyer 5, D O'Callaghan 6, C Cronin 7; C Keaney 5, A McCrabbe 6, D Sutcliffe 5. Subs: C McCormack 6 for O'Dwyer (29), P Ryan 6 for Sutcliffe (41), N McMorrow 6 for Boland (41), D Treacy 5 for Keaney (50), N Corcoran 6 for Schutte (61).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)
Game at a glance: Dublin v Kilkenny
Man of the match
Richie Hogan (Kilkenny) - The dominant figure around midfield, his limitless energy, clever positioning and hard work took him into high productivity zones from where he orchestrated a lot Kilkenny's advances.
The opening minutes of the second half were crucial. Kilkenny led by four points at the break and added three points in the opening four minutes of the second half to leave Dublin chasing a target they were always unlikely to reach.
Should Dublin have gone for a goal from the early penalty chance? Conal Keaney drove it over the bar when a goal might have provided much-needed inspiration. Goal chances are difficult enough to create without settling for a point when a gilt-edged opportunity presents itself.
More a case of magic moments as both goalkeepers made some excellent saves, which accounts for the unusually low goal return. David Herity and Alan Nolan were a credit to the goal-keeping craft.
Nothing contentious for Barry Kelly to deal with. As ever, there were some borderline calls which could have gone either way but they evened themselves out over the course of the game.
What they said
Brian Cody (Kilkenny manager): "They put us under a lot of pressure for a period in the second half but we defended very strongly. It's good to win a Leinster title and go directly into the All-Ireland semi-finals."
Anthony Daly (Dublin manager): "They were the better team – no question about that. Scoring 1-9 wins you nothing. Our touch was way out – it's hard to figure that out. We just have to get back up on the horse and go again."
Dublin 9 (4 in the first half)
Kilkenny 10 (4)
Dublin 9 (5)
Kilkenny 11 (6)
Dublin 2 (R O'Dwyer 15, P Kelly 68)
Kilkenny have qualified for the All-Ireland semi-final on August 10; Dublin will play a quarter-final on July 27.
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