Robbie Dowling reporting from UPMC Nowlan Park.
It was the result and performance that Kilkenny needed but it was far from the competitive fixture they would have expected beforehand as the hosts put a poor Dublin side to the sword at UPMC Nowlan Park on Sunday.
There was no surprise with the first scorer of the game as the home team’s trusty free-taker Billy Drennan tapped over a simple free from close-range before the first point from play came when Paddy Mullen finished a well-worked move to give Kilkenny an early 0-02 to 0-00.
Kilkenny, shooting into the eye-catching new stand, were willing to take efforts from distance and that allowed them to move into a three-point lead through Padraig Walsh and Billy Ryan.
Described by two-time All-Ireland winner KCLR analyst Michael Walsh as a “toothless attack”, it took seven minutes for Dublin to get their first point of the game when Donal Burke made no mistake with a free that was immediately replied to by Drennan.
The Galmoy forward took advantage of some sloppy defending by the visitors when he split the posts with two efforts from open play that brought with it the loudest cheer of the opening fifteen minutes as Derek Lyng’s impressive looking outfit seamlessly took a 0-07 to 0-01 lead into the second quarter.
Struggling to get to grips with their opponents smart use of the ball and physicality, Micheál Donoghue would have been frustrated with his side’s lack of potency as Burke and Drenann exchanged frees once more but Dublin’s inability to create chances silenced the travelling contingent.
It took until the 21st minute, but Alex Considine finally grabbed the visitors first score from play when they worked the ball into the full-forward line before the Kilmacud Crokes clubman turned and pointed from a different angle.
The Leinster champions continued to pick off their provincial rivals at ease with Drennan getting the freedom of his home turf to the dismay of Dublin’s management team.
There was some respite when half-forward Cian Boland grabbed a much-needed score along with a second from Considine but it was all too easy for the hosts with Paddy Deegan getting his name on the scoresheet as a disappointing first half came towards its conclusion.
Midfielder Chris O’Leary’s effort received a warm round of applause by the away supporters but it was in isolation rather than the beginning of an unlikely comeback with Deegan, Walsh, Cian Kenny and captain Eoin Cody getting far too much space and time to look up and take their scores.
That left the scoreboard reading Kilkenny 0-17 to 0-08 Dublin at the interval with the only surprise being that the gap wasn’t greater heading into the second half.
To the shock of nobody in attendance, Kilkenny did extend their lead when Drennan (2) and Deegan (2) pointed before the O’Loughlin Gaels half-forward turned provider for the opening goal of the game when he shied away from a goal-scoring opportunity of his own so that he could pick out Shamrocks man Eoin Cody who shot low and hard past Eddie Gibbons.
Dublin did not give up to their credit and Burke maintained his sharp free-taking and substitute Paul Crummey finished off a good move to slot past Darren Brennan and make it 1-21 to 1-11 midway through the second half.
Drennan remained consistent with yet more frees floating over the bar and it was a quick free from Billy Ryan that led to Kilkenny’s second goal as the Graigue Ballycallan man looked up and effortlessly found the unmarked Cody who ruthlessly finished to the back of the net to add another goal to his tally.
Dublin, relying too heavily on half-forward Donal Burke who led the charge, could not manage to reduce the deficit and it was further increased when John Donnelly, Cody and Ryan gave Kilkenny a 2-24 to 1-15 advantage as an uneven encounter edged towards it inevitable conclusion.
A final flurry of scores came for Dublin through Burke and Boland and there was one last stain for Dublin as Paddy Smyth received a second yellow card and his marching orders from referee Johnny Murphy.
Next up for the Cats is another home tie with neighbours Waterford on Sunday at 1.45pm as they look to continue their fine form.
KCLR is the only place where you can hear all of Kilkenny’s Allianz National Hurling League, Leinster championship and All-Ireland series games in 2023.