Classy aristocats punish young pretenders
Kilkenny 4-22 Carlow 1-5 Conor McKeon Leinster MHC Final AN easy win and a 49th minor provincial title for Kilkenny on a day when the aristocrats of Leinster hurling reasserted their class while their unlikely opponents left Croke Park bruised, but wiser.
Carlow failed to scale the heights of their semi-final victory over Offaly, and should take credit for grafting until the final whistle, but Kilkenny punished them hard.
"I'm gutted for the fellas," said manager Tommy Buggy.
"We've worked as hard as any Kilkenny team, Tipperary team or Cork team and for that to happen to them is hard."
Their appearance in yesterday's decider may have been novel, but it was certainly wasn't undeserved. They beat Laois, Westmeath (twice), Wexford and Offaly to earn their berth, but couldn't live with Kilkenny on the day DJ Carey's cousin Richie Hogan scored 2-10.
Mark Bergin dominated in the middle of the field, while Kieran Mooney was masterful at full-back.
Kilkenny were too smart in midfield, too crafty in defence and far too deadly in front of goal, and Buggy, a Kilkenny native, was the first to admit it.
"We've got to take this and learn from it and keep working on it."
It started brightly for the vast belt of vocal Carlow fans in Croke Park, but it quickly became apparent Kilkenny weren't about to show their romantic side.
They rattled off six points in the first nine minutes, although the largest cheer greeted Paudie Keogh when he opened Carlow's account with a free three minutes later.
Carlow only managed one more score in the half, while the Cats notched seven points to open up an 11-point interval lead.
Jonjo Farrell blasted Kilkenny's first goal after 31 minutes and just when Carlow thought it couldn't get any worse, corner-back Derek Byrne received his marching orders for a second yellow card.
"I don't know what happened," admitted Buggy, "why he sent him off is beyond me. But who'd be a ref?
"A goal, then a sending off two minutes later.
"It's hard enough to play Kilkenny in a Leinster final without being down to 14 men and 13 points down.
"But this is Carlow's first provincial final, Kilkenny have just won their 49th, it's not the end of that team, it's the beginning."
Kilkenny manager Damien Brennan, a school teacher in Carlow, echoed Buggy's sentiments, as captain Colin McGrath lifted the Leinster trophy.
"We wanted to show we were the best in Leinster and we did that," he said.
"We're proud of the lads.
"Carlow deserve great credit, I have a soft spot for Carlow, I really appreciate and admire what they've done for hurling," he added.
SCORERS - Kilkenny: R Hogan 2-10 (0-7f), J Farrell 1-2, M Bergin 0-4 (1f, 1'65), N Anthony 1-0, M Walsh 0-3, J Mulhall 0-2, C Fennelly 0-1. Carlow: P Kehoe 1-3 (1-3f), D Cavanagh, C Coughlan 0-1 each.
KILKENNY - C McGrath; P Nolan, K Mooney, PJ Rowe; P Murphy, D Langton, G Fennelly; M Kelly, M Bergin; M Murphy, J Mulhall, J Farrell; M Walsh, R Hogan, C Fennelly. Subs: N Anthony for Murphy (24 mins), A Kearns for Nolan (47), D Walton for Farrell (51), K Grehan for C Fennelly (56), J Fitzpatrick for G Fennelly (59).
CARLOW - K Kehoe; D Byrne, B Nolan, H O'Byrne; B Doyle, D Kavanagh, J Kinsella; R Coady, P Walsh; J Kavanagh, C Coughlan, A Cox; P Kehoe, P Amond, D Murphy. Subs: C Clancy for Walsh (30), J Brennan for Coughlan (53), C Doyle for Murphy (49), D Tuite for Doyle (60).
REF - J Owens (Wexford).