The game took more twists and turns than the renowned long and winding road, and in the end Nowlan Park was turned into a cauldron of noise yesterday when Kilkenny fans celebrated wildly an unlikely victory in an 11 goal thriller against defending champions, Dublin in the National Hurling League (5-16 to 6-12), writes John Knox.
Victory maintained Kilkenny’s unbeaten run and left them within touching distance of the semi-finals. A two goal blast from Richie Power and sub Matthew Ruth in the 67th and 70th minute respectively rescued the error prone All-Ireland champions and gave them a win they scarcely deserved.
Dublin, who were down to 14 men after Ryan O’Dwyer was dismissed for a second yellow card offence in the 43rd minute, looked winners all the way when sub Eamon Dillon won a great ball in the air before burying it in the net 20 minutes later.
The Dubs led by 6-12 to 3-15, and they looked booked for their first win. A point from Richie Hogan followed. Then the double barrel blast turned the match on its head, and pulled the carpet from under the visitors.
“We were lucky to get anything out of the game,” admitted Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody. “It was a crazy game in lots of ways, but our lads never gave up and that was the best we could take out of it.
“We don’t want to be conceding six goals. There were a lot of things in the performance we couldn’t be happy with.”
Dublin boss Anthony Daly admitted they were now facing a tough battle against relegation, but felt it was always going to hard to hold out with 14 men.
“That was a freakish sort of game,” was his summary. “If you lost a championship match like that you would be very disappointed. This is the League. We got into a position to win, but we just couldn’t hold out when they came with a late charge.”
Dublin were very busy from the start, and they had the home defence in trouble. Paul Ryan was flying, and he had their entire tally of 1-3 in the bag when a hamstring injury forced him to retire in the 14th minute when the losers were leading by 1-3 to 0-2.
Kilkenny came back and sliced the arrears in half, but then Dublin put points together through the brilliant Danny Sutcliffe (2) and Alan McCrabbe (2) to stay 1-7 to 0-4 clear after 20 minutes.
Back roared the winners. A goal on 30 minutes from the returned Aidan Fogarty inspired them. With a quick hat trick of minors from Eoin Larkin and Richie Power (2) the Cats were right back in it as play drifted into injury time.
Bang, the Dubs goaled again, this time through Conor McCormack to take a 3-8 to 1-9 lead into the break. Things got even better within 20 seconds after the restart when Conor McCormack put David O’Callaghan through for a goal that was executed from an acute angle.
With a nine point advantage, Dublin were flying. Kilkenny kept chasing, but every time they looked like making gains, the conceded a goal. One such occasion was in the 54th minute when Danny Sutcliff danced along the end line and somehow put the ball in the net against three defenders (5-10 to 1-14).
The cheers had barely subsided when Colin Fennelly bagged a big score at the other end. Dublin hit back for points from Liam Rush, a great effort from near midfield, and Maurice O’Brien to keep things ticking over.
When Dillon scored what was a smashing goal to extend the divide to 6-12 to 3-15 in the 63rd minute the game looked to beyond the Cats. The St Patrick’s weekend celebrations on the Noreside were only beginning.
“Every aspect of Dublin’s play was excellent,” Brian Cody felt. “They won’t score that many goals in too many games and still end up losing.”
Scorers: Kikenny – R. Power (1-8, five points frees, one 65); R. Hogan (1-3); A. Fogarty (1-1); C. Fennelly, M. Ruth (1-0 each); E. Larkin (0-3); T.J. Reid (0-1). Dublin – D. Sutcliffe (2-3); P. Ryan (1-3, two points frees); C. McCormack, D. O’Callaghan, E. Dillon (1-0 each); A. McCrabbe (0-4, three frees); L. Rushe, M. O’Brien (0-1 each).
Kilkenny – D. Herity, P. Murphy, J.J. Delaney, N. Hickey, T. Walsh, B. Hogan, R. Doyle, M. Fennelly, M. Rice, T.J. Reid, R. Power, C. Fennelly, R. Hogan, E. Larkin, A. Fogarty. Subs – M. Ruth for Fogarty 52nd min; J. Tyrrell for Delaney 56th min; J. Muhall for C. Fennelly 60th min.
Dublin – A. Nolan, N. Corcoran, P. Schutte, R. Trainer, M. Carton, J.Boland, S. Durkin, J. McCaffrey, S. Lambert, C. McCormack, R. O’Dwyer, D. Sutcliffe, D. O’Callaghan, L. Rushe, P. Ryan. Subs – A. McCrabbe for P. Ryan (inj) 14th min; M. O’Brien for Durkin 48th min; E. Dillon for O’Callaghan 48th min; D. Treacy for Lambert 64th min; S. Stapleton for C. McCormack 67th min.
Referee – B. Kelly (Westmeath).