Dublin finally end 50 years of hurt in Nowlan
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIV 1A
IN the tunnel afterwards, a county board official who has seen more bad days than good following the Sky Blue hurlers was asked when was the last time Dublin had come to Nowlan Park and skinned the Cats?
He pondered long and hard, then replied: "Well ... it was a while ago."
The more precise answer? Fifty years ago, in the delayed 1964 Walsh Cup final. Besides, we'd already witnessed more than enough precision on the field.
For three-quarters of this faintly surreal Allianz League Division 1A contest on Noreside, blighted by a flurry of yellow and red cards, some far more controversial than others, Dublin couldn't miss.
David Treacy, who didn't see a minute of last week's trouncing of Tipperary, had already rattled up 11 points - four from play - by the 45th minute.
The Cuala man was ably complemented by the excellent Danny Sutcliffe (0-4), plus Eamon Dillon and Mark Schutte (who both came alive on the restart and finished with 0-3 apiece) ... all after Peter Kelly had led by early example with a brace from centre-back,
Thus, by the 54th minute, when Shane Durkin embroidered his buzzing third-quarter with a sweet point from midfield, the rampant visitors led by 0-24 to 1-7 against a Kilkenny team already crippled by absent All-Ireland winners and long since down to 14 men, following Jonjo Farrell's faintly mysterious first half red.
Dublin were raising white flags with gay abandon just as bedraggled hosts appeared to be raising one of their own. Briefly, we speculated on the possibility of Kilkenny leaking 30 points ... and then they lost a second man to a straight red, substitute Joe Lyng banished within 12 minutes of his arrival.
Could it get any worse for Kilkenny? Well actually, no: it was almost as if the open invitation to obliterate 13 men caused Dublin to down collective hurls and after Lyng's exit they were outscored 2-3 to 0-1.
Richie Hogan buried the first of those goals from a 20m free in the 59th minute.
When Matthew Ruth pounced for his second goal, seven minutes later, Dublin fans were suddenly contemplating the appalling vista of a Groundhog Day repeat of 2012, when their heroes plundered six goals in Nowlan Park only to lose at the death.
This time, though, not even Sutcliffe's late second yellow could spoil the party. Ultimately the Cats ran out of time, whatever about lives, and no one could dispute Dublin's five-point margin.
"I am very happy with a lot of the performances," enthused Ger Cunningham, whose Dublin reign has now started with back-to-back league wins over last year's All-Ireland finalists.
"The last 10 minutes was a bit panicky; they finished with a couple of goals and it was a bit more tight at the end than it should have been. But overall I am very happy," he reiterated.
That said, there are caveats and the Corkman was keen to acknowledge them - namely the red cards that compounded Kilkenny's already understrength make-up.
Backed by a strong wind, his team had raced into a 0-7 to 0-1 lead inside 11 minutes ... yet, five minutes later, a totally avoidable goal (Ruth blocking down Paul Schutte's attempted clearance, then beating 'keeper Alan Nolan in a chase for the loose ball) opened a window of opportunity for Kilkenny. They only trailed by 0-8 to 1-4 when that window was slammed shut again by Farrell's 24th minute sending-off.
Referee Colm Lyons indicated it was for striking with the hurl, but TV replays and the consensus of those watching begged to differ.
Fifteen men duly piled on the punishment to lead by 0-15 to 1-5 at the break, and then Kelly took over the free man role with aplomb. Dublin's patient recycling of possession was a standout feature after half-time, contrasting with Kilkenny's often aimless clearances down Kelly's throat.
"It is something we have been trying to get the lads working on in training," said Cunningham. "Working the ball properly, being comfortable on the ball and distributing it to the best man available. We did that in the first 20 minutes of the second half ... we lost our shape after they had the second man sent off."
Still, not a bad complaint: winning in Kilkenny and scope for improvement.
SCORERS - Dublin: D Treacy 0-11 (4f, 3 '65s'), D Sutcliffe 0-4, E Dillon, M Schutte 0-3 each, P Kelly 0-2, S Lambert, S Durkin 0-1 each. Kilkenny: R Hogan 1-7 (1-5f, 1 '65'), M Ruth 2-0, P Walsh, W Walsh, JJ Farrell, M Kelly 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: A Nolan; C O'Callaghan, M Carton, P Schutte; C Crummey, P Kelly, C Keaney; S Durkin, S Lambert; C Cronin, E Dillon, D Sutcliffe; D Treacy, L Rushe, M Schutte. Subs: C Boland for Cronin (53), P Ryan for Treacy (66).
KILKENNY: E Murphy; T Keogh, P Murphy, J Tyrrell; B Kennedy, K Joyce, C Buckley; G Brennan, L Ryan; P Walsh, W Walsh, M Ruth; M Kelly, JJ Farrell, R Hogan. Subs: J Lyng for Kennedy (43), J Power for Brennan (43).
WIDES: Dublin 9 (6+3); Kilkenny 8 (4+4)
YELLOW: Dublin 6 (Sutcliffe 15, 70, Kelly 29, Rushe 43, Carton 58, Crummey 67); Kilkenny 1 (P Murphy 44).
RED: Dublin 1 (Sutcliffe 2nd yellow 70); Kilkenny 2 (Farrell straight red 24, Lyng straight red 55)
REF: C Lyons (Cork)
MAN OF THE MATCH: David Treacy (Dublin)