Hickey relieved as Herity class saves his bacon
KILKENNY ace defender Noel Hickey admitted his blood pressure went up to dangerous levels when he thought he was going to get on the score sheet... at the wrong end of the pitch.
Hickey got his big fright just four minutes from half time when a Shane Durkin shot landed in the Cats' small square and as Hickey lunged at it, the sliotar changed direction and rolled for the goal line.
Just as the Dublin supporters were hailing a green flag, Kilkenny goalie David Herity did a touch of the 'Gordon Banks' by changing direction dramatically and getting his hurley to the ball in time to slap it away.
No need for goal-line technology. It hadn't crossed the line, and Hickey was a very relieved man.
Kilkenny led by 2-7 to 0-6 at that stage, and a goal would be provided the inspiration Dublin badly needed to raise their hopes.
"It just flicked off me, off my helmet, and it wasn't looking good," said Hickey. "David (Herity) got a touch to it which was a relief to me alright.
"Dublin were coming at that stage. We were seven points up at that stage, but that isn't much in a game of hurling and it doesn't take much before you are back at evens.
"A goal there could have spurred them on but we kept them out."
Herity, a Dunnamaggin clubmate of Hickey's, is in his first campaign as first-choice 'keeper, and earned an extra protein shake from the stalwart defender for his prowess in making that key save.
"David is a good 'keeper and he is sharp and quick off the line. Every game will bring him on a bit," said Hickey.
Dublin manager Anthony Daly could only wonder what might have been if that ball had gone into the Kilkenny net, but overall he had no complaints.
"I suppose there were a couple of those chances," he said. "That one, you know, I couldn't see it, but looking up at the screen then and you see it coming off the line.
"And Simon Lambert had another one after half-time, and you say 'that has to go into the goal' but against that our 'keeper Gary Maguire made a couple of great saves near the end.
"Realistically the damage was done early. They were very much tuned-in and the influence of the guys that weren't there in the league final was significant, to be fair to them, and they played big roles.
"We were down a few bodies as well, and it didn't help, but no excuses, they were better than us on the day, they were more powerful. They haven't been beaten too often when they play like that and that was the case today as well."
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody summed up his reaction very simply: "Yes, it was a decent win. A Leinster final, so obviously it was a big game for both teams, and the last time we met Dublin they were seriously comprehensive winners.
"We had a huge battle facing us but we got into the game, we settled early, got a couple of goals and that settled us very well. They were very competitive right to the end of the game. We had a bit of a cushion but they kept coming at us. Overall, very satisfying."
Cody wasn't buying into the notion that this game would offer a chance for revenge against the Dubs for that defeat in the league final, and certainly had no truck with the notion that Kilkenny were a team in decline.
"You can't get revenge for a league final. The game is over and it's won or it's lost, and Dublin were by far deserving winners of the league final.
"Throughout the league they proved themselves to be the best team. Since then they've beaten a very good Galway team and we saw how good Galway are last night, so Dublin are a serious team.
"For us it was about today's game.
"You can never get back the league final but what it does is it gets into the players heads very clearly the quality of the opposition and the enormity of the challenge."
The Cats boss can sit back and wait for the All-Ireland semi-final but there is still work to be done.
"We are not at a level to win an All-Ireland semi-final yet for sure," he said. "We have to look for further improvement to do that."