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Thursday 22 August 2019

Dublin maroon Galway to end dark ages

Keaney's monstrous physicality sets tone for most significant victory since 2013

DAYS LIKE THIS: Dublin players (l-r) Eamonn Dillon, Eoghan O’Donnell and Cian Hendricken savour their win over Galway with fans following the Leinster SHC shock victory at Parnell Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
DAYS LIKE THIS: Dublin players (l-r) Eamonn Dillon, Eoghan O’Donnell and Cian Hendricken savour their win over Galway with fans following the Leinster SHC shock victory at Parnell Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Snapshots from a magic night in Parnell Park. The game is over. Dublin, finally, have their gritty win in a bloody war, easily the most significant hurling victory for the county since the 2013 Leinster final.

The pitch is flooded with blue delirium. The players gravitate towards each other and they are serenaded to the strains of 'Come On You Boys in Blue,' an experience with which they are largely unaccustomed.

In the middle of it, hoisted, is Conal Keaney, all 36-and-a-bit-more of him.

Two years ago, Keaney was co-commentating for Eir at one of Dublin's League matches and admitted he'd "take a call," if Ger Cunningham was inclined to make one to see if his inter-county career might be resuscitated.

Last December, he had shoulder reconstruction surgery.

On Saturday evening, he engaged Galway with all the subtlety Godzilla took to Tokyo.

Three clean puck outs he caught in the first half from the restarts Alan Nolan floated towards the touchline Keaney hugged.

Three points was his personal scoring contribution but it is the memory of the monstrous physicality he brought to Dublin's evening that abides.

Real warrior stuff.

He embraces Chris Crummey, another man whose output on the night is ferocious.

The Dublin captain has spent the previous 77 minutes engaged in the torturous task of restraining the moving mountain that is Johnny Glynn.

Not only that, but Crummey makes like a Kerry footballer and 'hammers the hammer;' twice vacating his post in the second half to surge up the pitch in the knowledge that Glynn has no intent to follow.

His first raid leads to Dublin's penalty just a minute into the second half.

His second gets the goal that changes the narrative of the evening and Dublin's season.

"It just shows you the level of an athlete and player he is," his manager, Mattie Kenny gushes.

"Chris worked hard all evening trying to track him and still had the energy to get up for them two goals."

There are other poignant moments.

Nolan, consigned to the inter-county dump in 2016, scanning the pitch for options in the 65th of a match in which the teams were level an excruciating 18 times and when a player could justifiably be shot for wasting possession.

Then, realising he has wandered into range, launching a point from somewhere around 90 yards out.

The irrepressible 'Trollier' - Eamonn Dillon.

Briefed to turn and take on Galway with every possession, he fades slightly after his early goal set the evening ablaze with possibility but the game finds him again late on as Dublin turn their tendency for late game fade-outs in its head in the most dramatic an impressive way.

And Oisín O'Rorke.

The sprightly Kilmacud Crokes forward had a fine League but seemed to have been drowned by the swell in standard required for the Championship.

With Paul Ryan and David Treacy out injured, Kenny needs a freetaker and O'Rorke scores with all seven placed-balls, adding a couple from play on a night when every starting Dublin forward scored from play.

"I keep saying to the lads, in training, hold up your head," Kenny reflected. "Even if you're not getting games, your chance will come."

Beforehand, the omens weren't great.

Cian O'Callaghan, Ryan and Treacy stood together on the sideline and chatted in their casual wear as the tension rose around them, inadvertently illustrating just what Dublin would be missing.

Within 15 minutes, they were also shorn of their best player this year and arguably hurling's best full-back when Eoghan O'Donnell surrendered to the hamstring injury he carried into the match.

"It just shows you there is more depth in the Dublin squad than maybe people give them credit for," Kenny shrugged.

Shane Barrett switched to full-back with no dilution of Dublin's authority there.

The meaty shoulder that ended Conor Whelan's night was another of those pivotal moments for Dublin.

"It's a little bit of a monkey off their back," observed Kenny for whom the night was tinged with poignancy.

"Moral victories are no good. If we ended up with a draw or Galway winning by a point and lads were saying, 'It was a great game of hurling.'

"They're tired of the moral victories," he added, "and they want to start getting real victories."

Saturday's was as real it gets.

And as the light faded in Parnell Park, it felt for all the world as though Dublin had re-emerged from the dark ages.

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