Kilkenny are the Leinster champions yet again following a comfortable defeat of Dublin in a sun-drenched Croke Park on Saturday evening.
Brian Cody’s men came straight out of the traps when Ballyhale Shamrocks forwards Eoin Cody and TJ Reid linked up for Reid’s first score of the game on the Dublin ’65 in front of the Cusack stand. Reid followed that score up with a free on the same side of the pitch within his own half before Thomastown’s John Donnelly pointed from close -range to give Kilkenny an early three-point lead.
Dublin full-back Eoin O’Donnell was forced off within three minutes with a hamstring injury that he had been suffering with in the build-up to this game. Cuala’s Seán Moran replaced O’Donnell. Kilkenny asserted their dominance as Reid got his third score of the game from a free following a foul on John Donnelly.
Dublin opened their account when Dónal Burke picked up a loose ball close to the halfway line and split the posts with a well-struck shot. A flurry of handpasses eventually ended with Danny Sutcliffe pointing as Mattie Kenny’s side grew into the game. Reid converted another free close to Alan Nolan’s goal to leave the scoreboard reading Dublin 0-02 to 0-05 Kilkenny after ten minutes.
Leading by example
Dublin captain Sutcliffe doubled his tally as their implementation of a short passing game paid dividends. Kilkenny captain Adrian Mullen replied to his counterparts score with a fine point in front of the management teams after he had earlier missed the target with two disappointing efforts for a man of his unquestionable calibre and skillset. Centre forward Dónal Burke split the posts from a free after two earlier misses to leave two between the sides at the first half water break, Dublin 0-04 to 0-06 Kilkenny.
2015 hurler of the year Reid dispatched of another free immediately after the break, but that score was cancelled out when Burke got his second score from play on the right-hand touchline 45 metres out from goal. The Ballyhale Shamrocks axis worked again for Kilkenny, but this time Cody laid off for Mullen who expertly pointed. Tullaroan forward Keoghan got his maiden point of the encounter soon after. That score was swiftly followed by a point from play from St. Oliver Plunkett’s Cian Boland as Kilkenny led 0-06 to 0-09 after twenty-five minutes.
The 18,000 crowd were subdued due to the lack of intensity that would be expected of a game of this magnitude. There were sloppy misses from both sets of forwards including another poor free from Na Fianna clubman and Dublin free taker Burke. Dublin got the next score through another placed ball, this time a long-distance free from goalkeeper Alan Nolan. Kilkenny’s lead was reduced to a single point when wing forward Chris Crummey pointed in front of the Cusack stand and the lead was wiped out when Crummey scored an almost identical point from the opposite side, 0-09 to 0-09.
Brian Cody’s side regained their lead thanks to two points from Eoin Cody and James Maher and they once again went three ahead just before half time when Reid tapped over another free. Kilkenny took that lead into the interval, 0-09 to 0-12.
The opening exchanges of the second half saw both teams get involved in a minor skirmish that highlighted how much was at stake for each side. Kilkenny talisman Reid kept up his 100% free taking record when he got the opening score of the half from a free taken under the shadow of the Hogan stand. Burke pointed a free of his own after the impressive Danny Sutcliffe was fouled by late inclusion James Maher.
That free was followed up by a simple point from midfielder Rian McBride. Dublin consistently failed to build on their small spurts of momentum as more ill-discipline allowed Reid another invitation to score a free which he duly accepted. James Maher extended Kilkenny’s lead to four points ten minutes into the second half, 0-11 to 0-15.
Dublin responded with a free as Maher fouled Sutcliffe for the second time in a matter of minutes. Ballyhale Shamrocks sharp-shooter Reid increased his individual tally to ten points with a ’65 and a free in front of the Dublin goal as Kilkenny went five ahead with twenty minutes remaining, 0-12 to 0-17.
Kilkenny constantly seemed to maintain their efficiency levels without being spectacular as their opponent’s struggled to gain control of the game. Martin Keoghan split the posts right in front of his manager Brian Cody and Alan Murphy intercepted the resulting puckout as Dublin found themselves seven points behind at the water break.
Corner forward Murphy scored immediately after the break as Kilkenny’s superior finishing was the difference between the two sides throughout the clash. A Burke free fifteen minutes from time felt like a consolation score when substitute Cillian Buckley and James Maher both added to what was increasingly looking like an insurmountable Kilkenny lead. Dublin’s refusal to change their style allowed Kilkenny the space and time to easily find a man wearing the black and amber without serious pressure being applied from Mattie Kenny’s charges.
Done and Dusted
The game was all but over when TJ Reid sent Alan Nolan the wrong way from a penalty after Cuala’s Jake Malone was sin binned for deliberately dragging down Alan Murphy. Dónal Burke and James Bergin exchanged points from play with five minutes remaining. Davy Keogh left nine between the sides with his first point of the game, 0-17 to 1-23.
A game that never sparked into life finished at a walking pace. That did not stop Michael Carey getting on the scoresheet and Burke adding to his tally with a free straight in front of Hill 16. James Bergin’s second point off the bench brought the scoring to the end for Kilkenny. One last Burke free was nothing but a meaningless point for Dublin as a Leinster final that failed to spark into life came to its inevitable conclusion with Kilkenny winning by 0-19 to 1-25.
Kilkenny claim their 73rd Leinster crown, seventeen of which have come under the stewardship of Brian Cody. They march on to an All-Ireland semi-final. Dublin face into a quarter-final where an increase in performance levels will be required if they are to prolong their summer.