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Thursday 21 March 2019

Hetherton on form for Dubs

Dublin 2-21 Carlow 1-16

GETTING THE EYE IN: Dublin freetaker John Hetherton, who scored 0-10 last night. Photo: Sportsfile
GETTING THE EYE IN: Dublin freetaker John Hetherton, who scored 0-10 last night. Photo: Sportsfile

And so a fortnight before Christmas, on a saturated Tuesday night in Carlow, Mattie Kenny's tenure as Dublin manager got off to a winning start.

Humble beginnings and all that.

By the time referee Justin Heffernan tossed the ball down onto a skidding, sodden Dr Cullen Park surface, there were around 100 spectators in the stand.

Whatever the reason behind bringing the start of the Walsh Cup back into December, promotional value wasn't it.

But Dublin won all the same - by 2-21 to 1-16 - beating a clearly motivated Carlow team and Kenny, a stickler for evidence of constant progress, will be glad of that fact as he prepares for Sunday's second competitive outing against Offaly in Parnell Park Park (2.0).

HURLEYS FLYING: Carlow’s Seán Whelan loses his hurley as he turns away from Dublin’s Tom Connolly during last night’s Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Round 1 clash at Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow Pic: Sportsfile
HURLEYS FLYING: Carlow’s Seán Whelan loses his hurley as he turns away from Dublin’s Tom Connolly during last night’s Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Round 1 clash at Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow Pic: Sportsfile

Beforehand, as the Dublin bus pulled up to Netwatch Cullen Park, the photographers were there already and waiting for the first shot of Kenny in official Dublin issue on official Dublin business.

Kenny, who has been an intensely driven figure for Cuala for the past four trophy-soaked years, took his intensity and drive to the inter-county stage.

Beforehand, he watched hawkishly as his squad, featuring nine players who played championship hurling for Dublin this year, went through their pre-match routine.

Energy

Those players who have benefited from Kenny's commitment and energy with Cuala have spoken of a manager whose style revolves around incremental improvement and the logic of trying to do everything slightly better than the last time it was done.

Every drill. Every training session. Every match.

There was more than something small to build on last night.

The night called for energy rather than elegance.

And Dublin were gamey. Dublin's first point of the new regime?

Donal Burke, the bright young attacking ace from Na Fianna who missed all of summer 2018 with an injury, who scored with a simple free but ceded such duties to John Hetherton after missing a couple thereafter.

Burke was a revelation in Ger Cunningham's final year and his return to fitness is clearly a boon to Kenny's early work.

The first goal of the Mattie Kenny era?

Eamonn Dillon who, like Burke, missed the important parts of this hurling year.

In a season when Pat Gilroy made real progress in putting the team facing forwards again, Dublin's lack of pace up front was at times painfully apparent.

And Dillon - who had a rare muscle calcification condition - simply ran out of time with his comeback.

He wasn't quite back to his free-running, goal scoring best last night but his presence, like that of Burke, gives Kenny options up front.

Dublin played against the howling wind and driving rain in the first half but the early signs of Kenny's work were apparent.

Mostly, Alan Nolan went mid-range to his half-backs from Dublin's puck outs.

They tried to play the ball short out of defence.

Hetherton, named at corner-forward, moved out in search of high ball and in order to leave room for Burke and Dillon.

The most striking feature of Dublin's play in the half was Fintan McGibb's pace, a facet that opened Carlow up regularly, even if they failed to take advantage.

The creative stylings of Seán Treacy were also visible in the half.

Treacy, younger brother of David and an under-appreciated component of Cuala's double All-Ireland winning team, sampled inter-county life under Cunningham in 2016 and pushed himself into championship contention, but then opted out for the past two years.

His thoughtful use of the ball in such prohibitive conditions was impressive.

Mostly Carlow relied on Martin Kavanagh's frees to keep them going in the first-half and they hit six points without reply after Dillon's goal and before he missed an even better chance for a second.

That Dublin went in two points ahead at the break (1-8 to 0-9) was due mostly to their extra gear in attack and Hetherton's sweet striking.

Influential

In the second, after Carlow briefly went ahead when Ted Joyce scored a goal in the 37th minute, Dublin took over completely.

McGibb, who established himself under Gilroy this year, was even more influential in the second-half than he had been in the first.

He broke the cover to send Dillon in for what looked like a certain goal but after he was hooked, the Setanta man managed to poke the ball past Brian Treacy in the Carlow goal. That ended the game as a contest.

Burke added a trio of stylish points from his his new spot at centre-forward while McGibb - easily the game's outstanding players, finished with 1-2.

Dublin won pulling up and ran their bench,

As first nights out go, it had a bit going for it. The Mattie Kenny era of Dublin hurling has officially begun.

SCORERS - Dublin: J Hetherton 0-10 (7f, 1 '65'), F McGibb 1-2, E Dillon 1-1, D Burke 0-4 (0-1f), C Conway 0-2, S Treacy, S Moran (f) 0-1 each. Carlow: M Kavanagh 0-12 (10f), T Joyce 1-0, R Coady, J Murphy, C Nolan, J Nolan 0-1 each.

DUBLIN: A Nolan; S Barrett, B O'Carroll, L Gannon; T Connolly, S Moran, C Crummey; J Malone, Treacy; F Whitely, C Burke, F McGibb; J Hetherton, D Burke, E Dillon. Subs: C Conway for Dillon (32), R Hayes for Malone (46), C Ryan for Treacy (48), O O'Rorke for Dillon (63), D O'Flynn for McGibb (66), R Smith for Burke (62), D Gray for Hetherton (62).

CARLOW: B Tracey; A Corcoran, P Doyle, M Doyle; E Nolan, D English, R Coady; J Kavanagh, D Byrne; S Whelan, R Smithers, J Murphy; M Kavanagh, T Joyce, C Nolan. Subs: K McDonald for Whelan (ht), J Nolan for C Nolan (47), G Bennett for Coady (53).

REF: J Heffernan (Wexford).

WALSH CUP ROUND 1

 

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