Cats 70 minutes away from League final

Kilkenny 3-11 (20pts) Dublin 1-17 (20pts)

Kilkenny 3-11 (20pts) Dublin 1-17 (20pts)

Scorers: Kilkenny – Matthew Ruth (2-1); Eddie Brennan (1-2); Richie Hogan (0-5, three frees); Michael Fennelly (0-2); Aidan Fogarty (0-1). Dublin – Paul Ryan (1-5, point free, point 65); Conal Keaney (0-5, three frees, one 65); Ryan O’Dwyer, Liam Rushe (0-2 each); Shane Durkin, John McCaffrey, Daire Plunkett (0-1 each).

KILKENNY’S own Nowlan Park on Sunday week can be the gateway and time of entry into the National Hurling League final. The county’s first appearance in the decider since the dramatic win over Tipperary in 2009 is a mere 70 minutes away, writes John Knox.

Possible Leinster championship opponents, Offaly will be the visitors to the ’Park in what is a make-or-break tie for the home side in the last preliminary round series of matches. A win or draw for the Cats would put them into the decider and earn them a shot at winning their 15th title.

“That game has to be won,” was the unequivocal summary from Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody on the upcoming challenge in the wake of Saturday’s testing, exciting and sometimes baffling draw with Dublin in Croke Park.

“The ambition is to win. This League is really competitive. There is one more game to be fought and a place in the League final to be earned.

“We want to be in the League final, and we want to win it. What else would we be playing in the competition for,” asked Mr Cody.

Dublin County Board’s initiative of playing home hurling and football League ties together in Croker ended on a high on Saturday when their camán wielders came back from the dead to share the spoils with the Cats while their footballers scored a big win over All-Ireland finalists, Down.

The hurling tie didn’t only kick start proceedings it blasted them into action, after a fiercely competitive clash in conditions that were dreadful at the finish. Dublin earned a deserved draw with a great point under pressure from a defiant Paul Ryan in the 74th minute.

Kilkenny were the length of time it took to shoot that score and deliver a puck-out from a place in the final……mere seconds. Had they won and taken maximum points, which would have been somewhat against the run of play, they would have slipped into the final.

“It is hard to know if we should be pleased or displeased,” suggested Dublin manager, Anthony Daly afterwards. The shooting of 17 wides, to go with 19 the previous week, left them with something serious to think about.

“Early on we appeared to be able to create chances. We hit the bar and hit the post. Maybe we are not taking the right options, but with six or seven minutes to go I would have taken a draw. The game looked gone from us then.