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Galway and Cats should thank Dublin

HOW difficult is it to fill the role of pretender to the throne of established aristocrats and topple the standard-bearers in any sport? The answer, on this particular weekend, was "mission impossible" in the headline sporting clashes of tennis, boxing, and hurling.

On Friday, Andy Murray carried the weight of his own hopes and the expectations of all Britain into a Wimbledon men's tennis semi-final against the Spanish great Rafa Nadal.

Broken racquet strings and a broken heart was the outcome as Murray flattered to deceive by taking the first set, but that only provoked Nadal who shredded Murray and reinforced the latter's status as a nearly-man.

Saturday night in Germany, and Wladimir Klitchsko's only regret was that he had not KO'd brash Briton David Haye in their over-hyped heavyweight boxing clash. Haye couldn't back up his trash talk of the previous fortnight and got handed a lesson by the gigantic Ukrainian who was never seriously troubled over the fight's 12 rounds.

And yesterday Kilkenny came out in their Leinster final against Dublin with fire in their bellies and ice in their veins as they took a brutal revenge for their Walsh Cup and Allianz Hurling League final defeats.

The Cats were beaten fair and square in the league final, but once restored to full operating mode with King Henry Shefflin, and teak-tough Tommy Walsh, Richie Power, JJ Delaney et al fit and ready for action, yesterday was a different story.

And while it's fair to say the form book held up as expected, Brian Cody and his men have good reason to be thankful to the Dubs.

Ageing Kilkenny lost their five-in-a-row bid to Tipperary last year, but if they wanted to prove the flame of ambition and desire burned as brightly as ever, where were they to find the motivation?

Dublin fitted the bill perfectly. A 'coming' county into which huge effort has been invested to raise the standard of hurling in the capital, the Dubs needed to make a breakthrough.

Once they had shocked the Cats, the big guns such as Cork and Tipp could only have licked their lips and thought 'if Dublin can do it this year against them, why can't we?'

Well, Kilkenny have put that one to bed. A solid if not epic display firmly put the tin hat on suggestions that the All-Ireland champions in four of the last five campaigns had lost their mojo. Dublin got the backlash, as Kilkenny's blood-lust rose again to summer levels, and the rest have been warned.

Meanwhile, John McIntyre and Galway could also utter a silent prayer of thanks to Anthony Daly's men. Galway were shamed into submission by the Dubs in the Leinster semi-final, but responded by hammering Clare on Saturday night.

The Tribesmen still have to journey on through the qualifiers, but there's more pep in their step now. All of that is no consolation to Dublin. They have breathed life into the league and the Leinster championship, but they went out of Croke Park as also-rans.

Brian Cody and Daly warn that the Dubs can yet have a big say in this championship -- but meanwhile, Kilkenny are only two victories away from another All-Ireland title.

Time for the warning bells to sound across the hurling landscape.

Liam Kelly

Irish Independent