Minors looking to the ‘backdoor’ for survival in the championship

Conor Delaney (Kilkenny) gets control of the sliotar with Con O'Callaghan (Dublin) closing in during the Minor Hurling encounter in Nowlan Park.  (Photo: Eoin Hennessy)
Oh my, not only a flop, but one of monumental proportions! And the challenge to get things back on track won’t be easy.

Oh my, not only a flop, but one of monumental proportions! And the challenge to get things back on track won’t be easy.

Only weeks after Kilkenny celebrated history when two teams from the county contested the All-Ireland colleges senior hurling final, no one could have foreseen such a let down in the Leinster minor championship.

“This is not acceptable,” offered surprised, bitterly disappointed and apologetic manager, Pat Hoban, after Dublin knocked Kilkenny offer their perch as Leinster champions.

The slate grey skies shed copious amounts of rains at Nowlan Park on Saturday. It was almost as if nature was shedding tears for a team that promised so much, but delivered so little. In a real life situation, training ground promise amounted to nothing.

Dublin, a good team is must be said, led from start to finish. They were skilful, brave and totally committed. They coughed up just two points from play during the hour.

They were put under a bit of pressure, mainly during the third quarter, but not the sort of intensive and structured pressure that made them look like they might yield. Once the Dubs grabbed their first score of the second half in the 46th minute they regained the initiative and thundered into the semi-finals.

The comforting news for Kilkenny is that there is an escape route back into the championship. They face Carlow in a ‘backdoor game’ on the weekend after next with the winners making the semi-finals, which will be played on May 21.

Hope? Of course! Kilkenny can’t be as bad again.

Centre-back Darren Mullen, a hugely talented and big hearted competitor, was excellent at centre-back and when moved up the field afterwards; Jack Keoghan, another with a warrior like spirit, hurled himself to a standstill and goalie, Darren Brennan, showed lovely touches on a day when the wet sliotar was like a bar of soap. Sean Morrissey was moving well enough at centre-forward at the time he was withdrawn, after an average start.

Besides, few made any impression.

“The reality is we didn’t have them together much as a group,” Mr Hoban continued. “That was very, very disappointing. It didn’t click for us at all. We never got out of traps. The touch, striking, all the basic stuff you would expect, was off. Attitude, work rate, even the will to win fell short.

“Dublin were big and strong, as we knew they would be. Their defence was very good. They wanted it more than our lads did. That is very disappointing.

“I wouldn’t be a major fan of the backdoor system, but I am glad of it now. I know; we all know the players are better than that. Hopefully they can bounce back from this.”

The rain lashed down before the start, which left underfoot conditions slippy. The ball was heavy, and as a result, striking was laboured and average. Conditions were generally poor, but they were as good for one side as the other.

Dublin opened with a blast and led by 1-1 to no score after only four minutes. Flying winger Chris Bennett shot both scores. They were up and running, and they never stopped running for the 60 minutes.

Their defence was wonderful, with Jake Malone, Shane Barrett and Paul O’Dea top class. The few times the ball did get past them, goalie Jonathan Treacy, was excellent, and was never afraid to put his body on the line to make a save.

The breeze assisted losers simply couldn’t cope. Their handling of the ball was poor; likewise their rising and striking; there were took many mistimed tackles and misplaced passes. Chances were missed too - 8 in the first half - and it was almost as if the rain had dampened spirits.

Dublin full-forward, Con O’Callaghan, was the target man. He caused the home side a lot of problems by running off the square, making space for others and in the way he engineered openings. He snapped up the winners second goal in the 26th minute after an effort by Bennett had been saved. Despite desperate efforts to clear the ball, it was left in the danger area and O’Callaghan cracked it home from 12 metres to the left of the country end goal.

That score helped Dublin into an interval lead of 2-3 to 0-1. Kilkenny lone score came from free by Alan Murphy in the 17th minute after a defender was penalised for over carrying the ball. The score at the time was 1-2 to 0-1.

There was a bit more life and zest to Kilkenny’s play after the turn. They closed down the Dubs all over the park, and there was a bit of energy to their play. An early point from Sean Morrissey offered some hope, but that was it during their best period, which was the third quarter.

After midfielder Rian McBride ran on to a pass from Sean Gray before shooting a point for Dublin in the 46th minute, the old order was resumed (2-4 to 0-2). The visitors reeled off four more scores after that to underline their superior.

A sad day for the Cats!

SCORERS: Dublin - Con O’Callaghan (1-2); Chris Bennett (1-1); Matthew Oliver, Rian McBride (0-2 each); Eoghan McHugh (0-1). Kilkenny - Alan Murphy (0-2, one free); Sean Morrissey (0-1).

Kilkenny - Darren Brennan (St Lachtain’s), Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan), Bill McDowell (John Lockes), Conor Delaney (Erin’s Own), Jason Cleere (Bennettsbridge), Darren Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Jack Keoghan (Tullaroan), Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), Darragh Joyce, capt (Rower Inistioge), Alan Murphy (Glenmore), Sean Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), Eoin Kenny (Slieverue), Cian O’Donoghue (Tullogher Rosbercon), John Walsh (Mullinavat), Ronan Corcoran (Ballyhale Shamrocks). Subs: Andrew Gaffney (Dicksboro) for O’Donoghue 18th min; Eoin Walsh (Lisdowney) for Kenny ht; Tadhg O’Dwyer (James Stephens) for Morrissey 43 mins; Conor Carroll (Lisdowney) for Walsh, 51 mins.

Dublin - Jonathan Treacy, Mark McCallion, Shane Barrett, Darragh Butler, Shane Howard, Jake Malone, Paul O’Dea, Rian McBride, Donal Burke, Sean Gray, Eoghan McHugh, Chris Bennett, Eoin O Conghaile, Con O’Callaghan, Matthew Oliver. Subs: Gavin King for Gray, 54 mins; Eoin Dunne for McHugh, 56 mins; Tom Fox for Howard, 57 mins; Ciaran Brady for O’Dea, 59 mins.

Referee - Barry Redmond (Wexford).