Depleted Kilkenny overcome half-time deficit and controversy to get the better of the Dubs
KILKENNY 2-23 DUBLIN 1-21
NOT for the first time, TJ Reid delivered a dagger to Dublin hurling hearts in a Nowlan Park thriller this evening.
At half-time in this absorbing Leinster SHC round-robin opener, the visitors led their injury-depleted hosts by four points. They looked well positioned to record their first championship victory over the Cats on Kilkenny soil since 1942.
Yet by the full-time whistle, everything had changed and Kilkenny were cruising to a five-point victory.
The reasons for the transformation were manifold – several crucial positional switches by Brian Cody and a huge upsurge in Black-and-Amber intensity were critical to the turnaround.
But one player, above all others, was pivotal.
Reid, the Kilkenny skipper and talisman, finished his night’s work with 2-12. Apart from two missed frees, his placed ball acumen was thrillingly on the money … but his two goals were the real game-breakers.
Dublin were hanging onto a three-point lead when Reid raised his first green flag in the 47th minute, playing a slick one-two with Ballyhale Shamrocks clubmate Colin Fennelly and then giving Alan Nolan no chance when through, one on one with the Dublin ‘keeper.
Twice thereafter, Dublin edged a point back in front (via a David Treacy free and an inspiratonal Chris Crummey score) only to be pegged back by a Reid ‘65 and then an Adrian Mullen point from the touchline.
Then, on 57 minutes, the score that cracked Dublin’s resistance: bearing down on goal, Fennelly was impeded by Seán Moran and then held up by Nolan before firing the loose ball home.
Referee Cathal McAllister had already blown for a penalty, though, booking Moran. A reprieve for the Dubs? No chance, as Reid clinically dispatched his second goal.
Now a goal clear, Kilkenny had all the momentum and they outscored Mattie Kenny’s men by 0-6 to 0-4 down the home straight.
It had been a different story before throw-in, with home supporters in the 9,495 attendance fretting over Kilkenny’s readiness for another sustained assault on Leinster.
Injuries obviously played a part in the upheaval, but the uncertainty over Kilkenny’s current status was reflected in the five championship debutants named by Cody: goalkeeper Darren Brennan, Tommy Walsh and Huw Lawlor in defence, Alan Murphy at midfield and Adrian Mullen in the half-forward line.
With Daire Gray and Oisin O’Rorke making late withdrawals and replaced by Tomás Connolly and Paul Ryan, Dublin started with a more experienced look – indeed, Seán Treacy was the only player making his first SHC start.
And after nip-and-tuck opening, it quickly became apparent that Dublin were the ones hurling at a higher pitch of intensity.
Perhaps the key momentum shift came after nine minutes when Fergal Whitely cut in from the right flank and offloaded to Liam Rushe, who was dragged to earth by Conor Fogarty, who was booked.
Seán Moran advanced from half-back to bury the resultant tenth minute penalty, giving Dublin a three-point cushion.
They would lead for the remainder of the half, even stretching their advantage to six points at one stage.
The foundation was laid by a dominant half-back line, with Shane Barrett winning his feisty duel with TJ Reid. This helped to provide the platform for Dublin to strike from myriad attacking positions, with both midfielders and four of their forwards all scoring from play before the half-time bell, which sounded with the visitors deservedly ahead by four, 1-13 to 0-12.
The half was not without its controversy either, with the Kilkenny sideline and crowd enraged after TJ Reid’s attempted short free – seemingly intended for Billy Ryan - was intercepted on the pitch by Dublin mentor Greg Kennedy.
The free was ordered to be retaken and Reid pointed, but home supporters were incensed.
Their mood further darkened when referee Cathal McAllister awarded Dublin a second penalty, Rushe again adjudged to have been fouled, this time by Paul Murphy who was also yellow-carded. But this time Moran’s 35th minute penalty veered over.
Twenty-twenty hindsight would suggest that Dublin needed a second goal to have any chance of repelling the inevitable Kilkenny onslaught.
SCORERS - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 2-12 (1-0 pen, 11f, 1 ‘65’), A Murphy 0-3, G Aylward, R Leahy 0-2 each, W Walsh, P Walsh, A Mullen, T Walsh 0-1 each. Dublin: D Treacy 0-6f, S Moran 1-2 (1-1 pen, 1f), D Sutcliffe 0-4, F Whitely, C Crummey 0-2 each, D O’Connell, P Ryan, T Connolly, L Rushe, S Treacy 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: D Brennan; P Murphy, P Deegan, T Walsh; E Morrissey, H Lawlor, C Fogarty; P Walsh, A Murphy; A Mullen, W Walsh, TJ Reid; B Ryan, C Fennelly, G Aylward. Subs: R Leahy for Morrissey (ht), R Hogan for Ryan (40).
DUBLIN: A Nolan; D O’Connell, E O’Donnell, P Smyth; S Barrett, C Crummey, S Moran; S Treacy, T Connolly; F Whitely, D Sutcliffe, D Treacy; P Ryan, L Rushe, E Dillon. Subs: R McBride for Connolly (51), C Keaney for Ryan (61), C Boland for S Treacy (66), J Malone for D Treacy (72), R Hayes for Rushe (74).
REF: C McAllister (Cork)