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So close for Jekyll and Hyde Dubs

Leinster SHC: Kilkenny 3-20 Dublin 2-22

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Donal Burke of Dublin (left) and Paddy Deegan of Kilkenny after the Leinster SHC semi-final at Croke Park

Donal Burke of Dublin (left) and Paddy Deegan of Kilkenny after the Leinster SHC semi-final at Croke Park

SPORTSFILE

Donal Burke of Dublin (left) and Paddy Deegan of Kilkenny after the Leinster SHC semi-final at Croke Park

All That You Can't Leave Behind has just been rereleased to mark its 20th anniversary. We can't say if Mattie Kenny is a U2 fan, but he can surely appreciate the message behind that album title.

Did Dublin leave this beyond-crazy Leinster semi-final behind them? Or did Kilkenny simply go on gardening leave in the second half?

How do you separate reality from illusion? Were Kilkenny that good in the first half or Dublin that gruesomely bad? Ditto, in reverse, for the second?

We suspect even the all-seeing Brian Cody cannot be entirely sure which Black-and-Amber version to believe ahead of their Leinster final on Saturday week. But he knows Kilkenny won't get away with hurling up a 35-minute storm against a resurgent Galway if they are so becalmed thereafter.

For Dublin, the need for answers facing into the qualifier snake-pit is even more pressing.

There was much to admire in a comeback that was the very dictionary definition of incredible. Over the course of 23 surreal minutes, starting with Cian Boland's second point of the evening and culminating in Daire Gray's 71st minute equaliser, they outscored TJ Reid (aka Kilkenny) by 2-13 to 0-3.

Fright night

A 16-point cakewalk had morphed into the ultimate Halloween fright night for last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists.

But sub Alan Murphy reached for the injury-time smelling salts, then Huw Lawlor burst out of defence to double their lead. And even though Donal Burke gave Dublin a glimmer with his tenth placed ball in a 12-point haul, the freetaker then fell tantalising short from just outside his own '45'.

"These things are hard to explain straight away," Cody admitted. "They won way more dirty ball and we didn't do that as much as we had been doing. We dominated possession in the first half obviously and they dominated possession in the second half. Games like that take on a life of their own and we didn't do enough to arrest it.

"Obviously our full-back goes up the field and scores a great point in the end and seemed to show what we should have been doing more of."

For Dublin, Kenny admitted that their rousing second half "still doesn't mask" the fact they "just weren't at the pace of it" during an opening period which ended with them staring over the abyss, 3-13 to 0-7 adrift.

"It wasn't left behind in the second half - it was probably left behind in the first half. Some of the mistakes we made in the first half were punished hugely by Kilkenny, and that's what they do.

"But, in fairness to the guys, they regrouped at half-time and they went out and put in a really, really good performance in the second half. The fight they showed, the character they showed - I think we were 15 points down and it wasn't a very pleasant situation to be in."

The flip side is that Kilkenny were so, well, Kilkennyesque before the break. They were led, as always, by TJ Reid who set the 'Artful Dodger' agenda with a moment of pickpocketing brilliance in the lead-up to Billy Ryan's 13th minute goal. Less than 60 seconds later came the double-whammy, Reid outfoxing Alan Nolan with an improvised batted finish.

Two goals became three in stoppage-time, skipper Colin Fennelly leaving three despairing Dubs for dust in the process. In between, Kilkenny had feasted on Dublin's collective disarray. Even when they moved Conor Burke to sweeper after that initial two-goal blast, they initially struggled to lay a glove on their voracious opponents.

At the other end, making his first start of the year, Liam Rushe struggled to replicate his previous wrecking-ball contributions around the Kilkenny square. Mind you, the service was erratic at best.

On the resumption, Dublin's comeback was a slow burner to begin with: they didn't score for ten minutes before Eamonn Dillon announced his arrival off the bench with the first of four points from play. 'Trollier' also won three of the frees converted by Burke, who found his range brilliantly after a hit-and-miss first half.

They still required the oxygen of goals, which duly arrived on 57 minutes (a smart catch, run and finish by another sub, Ronan Hayes) and then eight minutes later (Chris Crummey with a first-time volley after Burke's piledriver was parried into the air by Eoin Murphy).

Four more Dublin points in the midst of some jittery Kilkenny wides brought parity, but it was not to be.

Lessons for the losers? Having shot 1-5 off the bench in two outings, surely Dillon cannot be held back any longer? Kenny praised his super-sub while suggesting "you need the likes of Trollier right there at the death"; countering that, they looked dead and buried before his introduction.

As for Kilkenny, Cody insisted his players "don't need to be told" any home truths, adding: "They're obviously not up there jumping around with joy."

We reckon he might tell them anyway.


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