It was a magical mystery tour of a game, a St Patrick’s weekend cracker, but don’t ask me to explain how Kilkenny won a clash of champions, National Hurling League and All-Ireland, that had no shape, rhyme or reason.
“It was a freakish sort of game,” offered perplexed Dublin manager, Anthony Daly after a defeat that was undeserved.
“It was a crazy game in lots of ways,” suggested Kilkenny boss, Brain Cody, after the Cats used up about 10 lives stealing a win.
And the fans, well, all 5,571 of them got plenty to cheer about, albeit at different times. For 67 minutes the day was full of joy for the Dubs.
Kilkenny supporters had the last shout, however. They nearly lifted the roof off the stands when sub Matthew Ruth took a peach of a pass from the inventive Richie Hogan to score a scorcher of a winning goal at the city end in injury-time.
The excited reaction of the faithful was unbridled, akin to a group sampling a famous win after a terrible drought, and possibly had its origins based on relief and surprise. Five minutes out and playing poorly, you don’t expect to win.
No even dominant Kilkenny have a right to expect to win in situations like this in which the error count was extraordinary, when so many players were on an off day, when they won so little breaking ball, when they took so many poor options, when, when…..
Top of league
When was the last time Kilkenny conceded six goals? Back in the Leinster final of 1972 against Wexford I am told (6-13 each).
The win left Kilkenny on top of the Allianz League, and if they can cobble together a fourth win against Cork on Sunday they will be assured of a place in the semi-finals.
The thing with Kilkenny was that that they were all over the shop all afternoon. Repeated running repairs, in terms of getting scores to drag themselves back into contention, were repeatedly undone by awful defending.
Dublin’s fifth and sixth goals were typical. In the first instance Danny Sutcliffe, the huge success of the day after scoring 2-3 from play, was allowed steal a ball about 10 metres to the right of the country end goal. He beat one defender to do that, and then as he danced along the end line he put the ball past two more and into the net (5-10 to 1-14).
You had to admire Sutcliffe’s persistence. Equally, you cringed at the defending.
In the 64th minute Dublin’s last goal and score arrived. Liam Rushe lashed in a ball from the shadows of the old stand. Eamon Dillon soared into the air to make a great catch in front of goal and inside the 20-metre line. Somehow all the defenders fell off him and he had a free shot at the target.
Dublin zipped 6-12 to 3-15 in front. Kilkenny were finished……you would have thought.
Not a bit of it. They charged up the field. Richie Hogan, who by this time had found keys that opened some locks in the Dublin defence, popped over a point.
On the game roared, out of control, careering towards the finish. On 67 minutes Tommy Walsh blasted an angled drive from the right half back position towards a point, any point, near the opposing goal. Richie Power claimed possession from the air.
The Dublin defence went AWOL, including ’keeper, Alan Nolan. Power made the empty net dance.
On the Kilkenny eruption rumbled. With the clock seemingly against them, Hogan turned provider for Matthew Ruth, whose vicious angled drive from 20-metres on the right deposited the ball in the top far corner of the net. Prompt mayhem among the home fans!
Dublin had the opposition in trouble from the start. Corner-forward Paul Ryan pulled up with a hamstring after 14 minutes. Already he had claimed 1-3, to get his side 1-3 to 0-2 clear.
Kilkenny just weren’t moving well. The attack was juggled. It didn’t make much difference.
The visitors plundered a second goal in majestic fashion in the 27th minute, Rushe, Joseph Boland and Conor McCormack all involved in an elaborate build-up before the finish was applied by Sutcliffe (2-7 to 0-6). The same player tossed over a point to up the divide to eight.
On 30 minutes Kilkenny snatched a good goal to get back, or so we thought. Aidan Fogarty, who made a good return after a long lay-off through injury, made the best of fine work by Michael Rice and Richie Hogan before charging in from the left and drilling a low ball into the net.
Quick additions, of the minor variety, from Eoin Larkin and Richie Power at the double suggested Kilkenny had put the worst behind them. Not by a long shot!
Win looked on
Seconds into injury time at the end of the half another bad goal was conceded. This time Alan McCrabbe got in a cross from the right against two defenders. The delivery found Conor McCormack all alone 10-metres from goal.
His strike took Dublin 3-8 to 1-9 clear at half-time. Within 20 seconds of the restart David O’Callaghan added another goal to the advantage.
Dublin had attacker Ryan O’Dwyer sent off for a second yellow car offence in the 43rd minute. They were leading by 4-8 to 1-11 at the time. They managed well when down to 14-men. Twenty minutes later Eamon Dillon looked to have won the match when he bagged a goal (6-12 to 3-16).
Kilkenny’s winning effort was extraordinary, nothing less. Who played well? We won’t bother with that this time!
Kilkenny – David Herity, Paul Murphy, J.J. Delaney, Noel Hickey, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Richie Doyle, Michael Fennelly, Michael Rice, T.J. Reid, Richie Power, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan, Eoin Larkin, Aidan Fogarty. Subs – Matthew Ruth for Fogarty 52nd min; Jackie Tyrrell for Delaney 56th min; John Mulhall for Fennelly 60th min.
Dublin – Alan Nolan, Niall Corcoran, Paul Schutte, Ruairi Trainor, Michael Carton, Joseph Boland, Shane Durkin, John McCaffrey, Simon Lambert, Conor McCormack, Ryan O’Dwyer, Danny Sutcliffe, David O’Callaghan, Liam Rushe, Paul Ryan. Subs – Alan McCrabbe for P. Ryan (inj) 14th min; Maurice O’Brien for Durkin 48th min; Eamon Dillon for O’Callaghan 48th min; David Treacy for Lambert 64th min; Shane Stapleton for McCormack 67th min.
Frees – Kilkenny 11 (5 and 6); Dublin 11 (6 and 5).
Wides – Kilkenny 7 (3 and 4); Dublin 8 (4 and 4).
Referee – Barry Kelly (Westmeath).
Attendance – 5,571.