IT WAS a day of mixed fortunes for Kilkenny hurling followers in O’ Moore Park on Saturday. The minors luckless day was followed by the seniors total annihilation of Dublin in the Leinster hurling championships, writes Jim Buggy.
Many in the county and most of the hurling world expected two fiercely contested games; the minor was a tight affair but the seniors super charged performance blew away Dublin.
Kilkenny’s tenacity and superior skill level had striking similarities with teams such as the All Blacks in rugby and Spanish football giants Barcelona. They were that good! A long season stretching as far as September could be on the cards.
The crowds gathered early for the minor match between Dublin and Kilkenny. Umbrellas sprung up to give protection against the lingering rain. The signs weren’t great for Kilkenny after a narrow escape against Laois in the last round. Again, Conor Martin was the main man, finishing with eight of the 10 scores registered by the minors.
Michael Donnelly and Chris Bolger in particular put in the hard work and grafting until the final whistle, but sadly, too many of their colleagues were off colour. Nine of the starting team only finished their Leaving Cert exams in the last week, and that could have played a major part in player fatigue.
Very strong Dublin group
People have been saying that this is another disappointing year for the Kilkenny minors. What they don’t seem to realise is that this Dublin group has been very strong all the way through from under-14 level.
If the minor match disappointed, the senior game thrilled, from a Kilkenny point of view at least.
The clash with the Dubs was supposed to be the game that sparked fierce competitiveness in the province again, and it would show that Kilkenny could be pushed to the limit. The final score of 2-21 to 0-9 made a mockery of such forecasts, and reflected Kilkenny’s ruthless and driving nature.
After five minutes the Dublin crowd must have felt that this could be their day. When Danny Sutcliffe pointed to put them three points to one ahead, things looked promising. The bodhran player behind Kilkenny goalie David Herity had his concert time cut short when T.J. Reid finished the ball to the net past goalie, Gary Maguire after a stunning piece of link up play with Richie Power.
Many had been wondering could Kilkenny bring young hurlers through, with fewer than normal under-age titles won in recent years. Saturday’s performance didn’t reflect that.
Richie Doyle played so well at half back it was like having two J.J. Delaneys on the field. Cillian Buckley has been so impressive he has already put himself in the picture for the young hurler of the year award.
By half-time the outcome was inevitable with the Cats leading by 2-10 to 0-6. The Kilkenny hurling was, well, terrific.....the movement, the touch, the support play, the determination. All the bases were covered, and covered well at that.
Fans and officials baffled
Dublin fans and even team officials must have been baffled as they tried to process and digest what they had just witnessed. Their team was all at sea. Kilkenny were single minded in their attitude and approach.
At half-time people had already started to walk out of the grounds. There was going to be no upset. It was business as usual from Kilkenny.
This hammering could be crushing for the Dublin players and management. A lot of their bulked up players looked as if they would be better suited to a rugby more than a hurling field. Anthony Daly’s response after the game reflected honestly his opinion.
Speaking at the post match interview he said: “If we gathered up 20 at the Red Cow this morning and came down we’d hardly have been worse.”
He couldn’t offer an opinion as to why the gulf between the teams was so great. This Kilkenny team won’t fall to any county when they play with such a level of intensity. Already I am looking forward to the Leinster final.