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‘It’s going to the last day again’ for Mattie Kenny’s Dubs after collapse against Cats

Kilkenny 3-15 Dublin 0-17

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James Madden of Dublin has his hurl pulled by Adrian Mullen of Kilkenny during their Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 4 match. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

James Madden of Dublin has his hurl pulled by Adrian Mullen of Kilkenny during their Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 4 match. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

James Madden of Dublin has his hurl pulled by Adrian Mullen of Kilkenny during their Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 4 match. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

A “decent display for sure,” said Brian Cody, who is not one for the superlatives. Having watched his side overwhelm Dublin in Parnell Park on Saturday, the Kilkenny manager hailed his team’s indefatigable work-rate in a mightily impressive performance that threatens to leave a crater in Dublin morale; after a promising first half, the home side completely wilted.

Kilkenny were ferociously competitive and muscular, and they pulled a surprise move playing Cian Kenny on the inside forward line, one of four late changes to the team. Kenny finished with four points, while another late inclusion, Mossy Keoghan, pilfered 2-1.

“He’s smart, he gave us a brilliant start, really just some top-class scores,” said Cody of Kenny, more recognised as a midfielder. But Dublin also perished on Kilkenny’s defensive rock, with Huw Lawlor missing through injury and Conor Delaney stepping in and defusing the threat of Ronan Hayes.

Fergal Whitely did his utmost to try to spark something in the Dublin front line, but he was badgered by Mikey Butler – fast becoming a Kilkenny favourite – with his tenacious, snappish marking. Butler was outstanding. Tommy Walsh had a fine game in the other corner too.

“Look, again, I thought our backs were outstanding to be fair about it,” said Cody, who has that added appreciation having been a back himself in his day.

Richie Reid came into the side at centre back and Kilkenny had their match-ups well considered, with Paddy Deegan on the wing helping to subdue Danny Sutcliffe’s influence.

In the middle of the field, Alan Murphy and Adrian Mullen were outstanding, contributing eight points from play, with Mullen claiming five and giving a striking exhibition. It was his delivery in the 28th minute that prised the opening for Keoghan’s first goal. At the time the sides were level, 0-9 to 0-9, having been tied six times in a madly entertaining contest.

But that goal had an ominous ring, with echoes of past encounters when Kilkenny net-shakers broke Dublin resolve. By the interval, the goal divided them, 1-11 to 0-11, and after that Kilkenny exerted their superiority, with a high-scoring return and giving very little away at the back. In the second half they outscored the home side 2-14 to 0-6. There is no way you can dress that up for Dublin as anything other than a collapse.

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“Tonight’s game is over, we have to look ahead and we’re playing Wexford next weekend,” said Cody, drawing a sudden halt to the tributes.

The group is extremely congested, with only Galway assured of an ongoing interest beyond the round-robin. But with Wexford having dropped a point against Westmeath on Saturday, the form is very much with Kilkenny as they head into the decisive day, facing Wexford in Nowlan Park.

TJ Reid started centre forward and contributed 1-7 to Kilkenny’s scoring feast, his goal coming in the 55th minute, following a second from Keoghan, set up by Reid, eight minutes before. Keoghan spun and shot low to the net, catching Dublin by surprise. Dublin couldn’t pose any goal threat, with a second-half attempt by Rian McBride placed a good height for Eoin Murphy’s save and a later shot from James Madden flashing wide when the game was beyond them. Their best came in the opening half, with fine scores from Whitely, Conor Burke and Daire Gray.

History has prepared us for days like this, with Dublin having won only one championship match against Kilkenny in 80 years. But the impact of this loss on a team which appeared to have some prospects could be lasting. They go to Salthill this Saturday still in the reckoning but the psychological damage of this hurling lesson could be vast.

“The first half was really competitive and a good game but I think the goals kind of really killed us,” said Mattie Kenny, in his fourth season as Dublin manager. “They got a softish goal in the first half and then in the second half that second goal gave them that six- or seven-point cushion and they drove on from that. Then they scored the third goal. The goals kind of buried us.”

But they remain in the competition and must raise spirits somehow. “There’s four teams left in it now I think,” said Kenny. “All four . . . some teams are trying to qualify for the Leinster final, some teams are trying to qualify to stay in the competition. It’s all going down to the last day again.”

Scorers – Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-7 (5 fs); M Keoghan 2-1; A Mullen 0-5; C Kenny 0-4; A Murphy 0-3; E Cody 0-2; B Ryan, J Donnelly, C Buckley 0-1 each. Dublin: D Burke 0-9 (7 fs); C Burke 0-2; F Whitely, R McBride, C Crummey, D Gray, M Schutte, E Dillon 0-1 each.

Kilkenny – E Murphy 7; M Butler 9, C Delaney 8, T Walsh 8; M Carey 7, R Reid 7, P Deegan 7; A Mullen 9, A Murphy 8; W Walsh 6, TJ Reid 7, P Walsh 6; C Kenny 8, M Keoghan 8, E Cody. Subs: J Donnelly 7 for W Walsh (ht); B Ryan 7 for P Walsh (48); C Fogarty for A Murphy (59); C Buckley for Mullen (65); D Blanchfield for Butler (67).

Dublin – S Brennan 6; J Madden 6, E O’Donnell 6, C O’Callaghan 6; D Ryan 7, P Smyth 7, D Gray 7; C Burke 8, C Crummey 7; D Sutcliffe 6, R McBride 7, D Burke 7; F Whitely 7, R Hayes 6, A Mellett 6. Subs: M Schutte 7 for Mellett (32); E Dillon 7 for Hayes (55); A Dunphy for Gray (59); J Bellew for O’Donnell (63); D Keogh for McBride (65).

Referee – T Walsh (Waterford)


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