Reid brace kills Dublin hopes of ambushing wounded Cats
Kilkenny 2-23 Dublin 1-21
From early in the day the first coaches were making their way from Dublin carrying supporters daring to hope for a rare victory on sacred hurling territory.
The hopes were inflated by Kilkenny's widening injury list, thieving them of an All Star goalkeeper in Eoin Murphy, as well as emerging full-back Conor Delaney, and the man who might have replaced him, Joey Holden. Cillian Buckley, and James Maher were missing too, and while Dublin had their own absentees, the emphasis leaned more on who Kilkenny were missing and how vulnerable they might be.
For half the match, maybe a bit more, that hope still flickered but by the end Kilkenny were convincingly better. For all their losses they still had the majestic TJ Reid, who ended with 2-12, one of the goals from a penalty, the other a beautifully worked score from play after a one-two exchange with Colin Fennelly.
While it was only six years since they last defeated Kilkenny, Dublin went to Nowlan Park last night hoping to launch the latest MacCarthy Cup race with only their second championship win in 77 years over the black and amber. They led at half-time by four points, even if Kilkenny were incensed with some of the officiating and over one moment when Dublin mentor Greg Kennedy, while still on the field, caught a ball from a Reid free intended for Billy Ryan.
The home supporters booed referee Cathal McAllister off the field at half-time and Kilkenny selector James McGarry approached the Cork official after he awarded a controversial second penalty in the final minute of the opening half. Liam Rushe looked to be barging, having won a penalty earlier in the match, but McAllister gave the award and then after consulting with his umpires yellow-carded Paul Murphy.
Dublin defender Sean Moran stepped up to take it but this time he drove the ball high and over the bar, extending his side's lead to five points rather than seven. Kilkenny had two of the next three points, heading in at the interval 1-13 to 0-12 behind.
Moran had scored the game's opening goal after Rushe was deemed to have been fouled in the tenth minute after being set up by Fergal Whitely. Conor Fogarty picked up a yellow card, one of three Kilkenny defenders booked in the first half in a match that was tense and tetchy throughout and rarely found any degree of fluency. Moran put the penalty low past Damien Brennan to open up a 1-3 to 0-3 lead, which they held for the remainder of the half.
Kilkenny went direct to Fennelly, who found it hard to get much room off the Dublin captain Eoghan O'Donnell, and they relied heavily on Reid frees, half their first half total coming from placed balls from the Ballyhale player. Walter Walsh also showed well, making one spectacular catch from a Brennan puck-out immediately after the goal, leading to a third point from play by Alan Murphy, who made a terrific start with three points in the opening 11 minutes before fading. His marker, Tomas Connolly, settled and had one of his own and should have had a second.
A run of four Dublin scores gave them a first-half foothold, leading by six approaching the half-hour. At half-time Richie Leahy came on and soon Richie Hogan was in too. They rejigged, moving Padraig Walsh on Danny Sutcliffe and Huw Lawlor to full-back on Rushe. The changes had the desired effect and they moved up a gear, with Reid's first goal giving them parity in the 47th minute, 1-15 apiece.
From there Dublin faded and a slip by O'Donnelly let in Fennelly in the 58th minute and he was fouled, Reid belting home the penalty to open a five-point lead, soon made six by the excellent Tommy Walsh, one of five Kilkenny debutants.
Dublin need to regroup quickly for a home tie against Wexford next Sunday, while Kilkenny face Carlow. Last year the Cats won in Parnell Park against Dublin thanks to a Liam Blanchfield goal in injury time, leaving it desperately late. This time they finished strongly, not giving Dublin any chance of finding a way back into the game.
In a hard physical battle Kilkenny showed they have lost none of their battling qualities. They are up and running. Dublin now have a challenge to raise morale before Wexford come calling.
Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 2-12 (0-11 fs, 1-0 pen, 0-1 65); A Murphy 0-3; R Leahy, G Aylward 0-2; P Walsh, W Walsh, A Mullen, T Walsh 0-1 Dublin: D Treacy 0-6 (all fs); S Moran 1-2 (1-1 from pens); D Sutcliffe 0-4; F Whitely, C Crummey 0-2; P Ryan, L Rushe, T Connolly, D O'Connell, S Treacy 0-1.
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 (h-t); 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 mins); C Keaney for Ryan (60); C Boland for S Treacy (66); J Malone for D Treacy (72); R Hayes for Rushe (73).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).
Sunday Indo Sport