Dubs challenge disappointed

Senior captain Lester Ryan lifts the Bob O'Keefe Cup after his team's win over Dublin in the Leinster Senior Hurling final in Croke Park. Pic by John McIlwaine/Eoin Hennessy Photography
In Sunday’s Leinster final programme that excellent GAA statistician, Leo McGough, told us that it was 644 days since Kilkenny supporters were last in Croke Park for the championship.

In Sunday’s Leinster final programme that excellent GAA statistician, Leo McGough, told us that it was 644 days since Kilkenny supporters were last in Croke Park for the championship.

Was it really that long? The year 2013 was a difficult championship for Kilkenny supporters but we took encouragement from three games in recent weeks as the county prepared to reclaim the Bob O’Keeffe Cup.

During the minor match I wrote the word ‘shambles’ to describe the Dublin performance. I did not expect that same term to be mentioned in the context of the senior game.

‘Shambles’ hardly does justice to a Dublin performance in the senior game that was disjointed on and off the pitch. The frailties in the Dublin rearguard were evident during the first minute. A ball which should have been cleared was fumbled.

T.J. Reid profited, passed to Richie Hogan and that drew the first white flag. In the next two minutes Dublin hit two bad wides from Ryan O’Dwyer and Joey Boland. Those misses were systematic of Dublin’s display.

Unstuck

Although they were out-hurled in every sector, had they managed to convert some easy scoring chances, the Kilkenny lead would not have been so intimidating. The Dublin mentors opted for a two man full-forward line with David O’Callaghan given a roving role around midfield and his own half-back line.

To make that tactic work required a lot of short passing. This is where Dublin came unstuck. The passing needed to be slick and accurate but on too many occasion the harassing from Kilkenny overturned the ball.

When Dublin opted for the long delivery it worked no better with Jackie Tyrrell and J.J. Delaney, in particular, returning ball after ball with gusto. Only once over the 70 minutes was the Kilkenny defence caught napping and that was in the 21st minute when Colm Cronin ran at the defence, evaded a couple of tackles and struck home a fine goal.

This was the only black mark against the Cats defence.

Dublin’s best spell came late in the first half when points from David O’Callaghan and Colm Cronin left a goal between the sides, but this had stretched to four by the interval.

The score of the half was from Brian Hogan, who gained possession from one of numerous Dublin turn-overs, all of which were down to over-elaborating with the ball. Dublin’s second half return of three points sums up a miserable afternoon.

Terrific block

However, they might have got through for a goal in the 14th minute only for Joey Holden to make a terrific block on John McCaffrey, who seemed certain to score. That miss knocked the heart out of Dublin.

They did have another goal scoring chance later, but an alert David Herity averted the danger.

The Dunnamaggin custodian had a fine game, leaving the Kilkenny selectors with much to ponder as they consider who should get the No. 1 jersey.

What was most disappointing from a Dublin perspective was the lack of desire and passion throughout the team. One never expected the Metropolitans to hand over the Bob O’Keefe Cup so tamely.

The Dublin defence put in a decent showing in the second half even if they were stretched on occasions. Aside from a Colin Fennelly effort in the seventh minute, Kilkenny rarely looked like scoring a goal. Goals will be needed the next day, irrespective of the opposition.

Like the seniors, the work ethic of the minor players was excellent and this resulted in many fine scores, including both goals from Liam Blanchfield. Confidence is growing and no county will fancy facing the young Cats in the All-Ireland semi-final on August 10.