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Cody hails Larkin as Kilkenny find range

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Conor Fogarty, Kilkenny, in action against Danny Sutcliffe, Dublin

Conor Fogarty, Kilkenny, in action against Danny Sutcliffe, Dublin

Conor Fogarty, Kilkenny, in action against Danny Sutcliffe, Dublin

Conor Fogarty, Kilkenny, in action against Danny Sutcliffe, Dublin

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Conor Fogarty, Kilkenny, in action against Danny Sutcliffe, Dublin

Episode one of the mini-series: 'Battle of the Blues and the Cats 2014' ended on a note of promise and intrigue.

Part 1 was titled: 'The Walsh Cup – who dares to care?' and it was performed on the Croke Park stage last Saturday night.

Like all good dramas, it left the viewers eager for more and pondering future outcomes as the 'to be continued...' line rolled up on the end credits.

At this time, only Part 2 is definitely on the calendar, and that is a Division 1 league date on March 15, but hey, if Garth Brooks can do an extra show at Croker, why shouldn't the Dubs and the Cats enact Part 3 in the knock-out stages of the League or a Leinster final?

For now, we must be content with the offerings as performed in the Walsh Cup final.

Despite resting superstar King Henry Shefflin, Kilkenny cared just a shade more than their opponents, and it showed.

They also had the hero of the hour-plus-ten minutes in the form of Eoin Larkin.

Larkin overcame the effects of a close encounter with a hurley on his elbow the previous weekend against Galway, and contributed an impressive 11 points, all but one of them from placed balls, to Kilkenny's match-winning total.

Manager Brian Cody was pleased that Larkin was able to turn out for his county, and very happy with his performance.

"He was very sore for a couple of days. He got a belt on the elbow. It's a very sensitive place for a belt.

"Obviously the first fear was that it could have been fractured. It wasn't, thanks be to God. It was bruising, so he recovered quickly. He played very well," said Cody.

Indeed he did, as did Kilkenny for most of the game bar a Dublin revival in the second half that lasted for almost 18 minutes and yielded 1-5 without reply.

The problem for Anthony Daly's Dubs was that the Cats, with Larkin deadly from various distances and angles from frees, Tommy Walsh and Jackie Tyrell anchoring the defence, and Colin Fennelly on very active service in the middle third, mostly had an edge in the close quarter exchanges.

Daly was disappointed in that aspect of his team's performance.

They never stopped trying, and the arrival in the second half of Danny Sutcliffe and Eamonn Dillon helped boost the attacking efforts of the Blues, but the home side didn't matched the sustained intensity of their opponents.

"We could have drawn it, but we wouldn't have deserved it to be honest.

"They were livelier onto the breaking ball and we seemed to want it to happen for us without making it happen," he said.

Kilkenny had the ability to run up scores in clusters and that helped keep Dublin at bay.

They knocked over six points between the seventh and 17th minutes; scored three in the last three minutes of the first half; got three more points in the first three minutes of the second half; and then notched five points in an eight-minute spell between the 49th and 57th minutes of the second half.

Kilkenny led by 0-12 to 0-8 at half-time, with Mark Schutte the leading Dublin scorer on three points at that stage. Schutte and free-taker Paul Ryan claimed two scores for the Dubs early in the second half before Ryan brought the game to life with a superb goal from a 20-metre free after 44 minutes.

Very quickly Larkin – who else? – raised a white flag from a free and Joe Brennan got a point from play, leaving the score at 0-17 to 1-10 with 25 minutes to go.

Kilkenny then went into one of their scoring cluster periods and with 12 minutes left, had a six-point lead at 0-22 to Dublin's 1-13.

The Dubs had two goal chances over the closing stages that might have been game-changers.

The first fell to Mark Schutte who was through on goal but couldn't get his shot away before being hooked for a '65'.

The other arose when goalie Alan Nolan was called up to 'do an Anthony Nash' and go for goal from a 20-metre free, as Paul Ryan was off the field at that stage.

Nolan didn't take the multi-steps option favoured by Nash and slightly mis-hit the sliotair, so the return was just a point.

His score put the Dubs on 1-17 with four minutes of normal time remaining, and true to form, Larkin (free), and Aidan Fogarty clipped over the points to see the Cats safely claim the Walsh Cup for the 19th time since the competition was first played in 1954.

Scorers – Kilkenny: E Larkin 0-11 (9fs, 65); C Fennelly 0-4; J Brennan 0-3; T Breen; A Fogarty 0-2 each; P Walsh, M Kelly 0-1 each. Dublin: P Ryan 1-4 (1-3fs); M Schutte 0-6; D O'Callaghan 0-2; E Dillon (f), D Sutcliffe, J Boland (65), M Quilty, A Nolan (f), 0-1 each.

Kilkenny – D Herity; T Keogh, M Walsh, J Tyrrell; B Kennedy, T Walsh, D Langton; C Fogarty, P Walsh; J Brennan, C Fennelly, E Larkin; JJ Farrell, M Kelly, T Breen. Subs: A Fogarty for P Walsh (48); P Murphy for D Langton (56); L Ryan for T Breen (67)

Dublin – A Nolan; C O'Callaghan, Peter Kelly, J Doughan; S Hiney, C McCormack, J Boland; S Durkin, J McCaffrey; C Keaney, R O'Dwyer, C Cronin; P Ryan, D O'Callaghan, M Schutte. Subs: D Sutcliffe for J McCaffrey (h-t); S Timlin for J Dougan (h-t); M Quilty for S Durkin (51); E Dillon for P Ryan (51); P Winters for R O'Dwyer (64).

REF – D Hughes (Carlow)

Irish Independent