SENIOR HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP RD ROBIN MATCH 1
Kilkenny 1-24 (27)
Dublin 3-16 (25)
If you’d told Pat Gilroy beforehand that his Dublin side would bag three goals against Kilkenny and would pepper the Cats with other chances he’d almost feel assured of victory.
But not for the first time in his glorious managerial career, a Brian Cody Kilkenny team had the character and resilience to tough it out and have the last laugh.
For all of Dublin’s heroics at a sun-kissed and heaving Parnell Park, Liam Blanchfield’s injury time goal gave Kilkenny the lead for only the first time in this griping contest and was the decisive score to give the Cats the breakthrough.
A Dublin side inspired by the hard work of Liam Rushe and Conal Keaney in attack and the efforts of Chris Crummey and Sean Moran at the back had the Dubs on the brink of a famous win – a first in SHC over Kilkenny since 2013.
But Cody’s new-look Kilkenny, for all their huffing and puffing, refused to fold.
Eoin Murphy scored four frees from distance, TJ Reid was lethal from all manner of distances and Walter Walsh threatened while Cillian Buckley plugged gap.
The introduction of Colin Fennelly just before the break and the arrival of Conor Fogarty at half time and later Paul Murphy steadied the ship.
Dublin’s goals from Paul Ryan and Fergal Whitely had them 2-7 to 0-9 up at the break and when Jake Malone added a third in the 45th minute they were 3-9 to 0-13 up.
But the harsh reality for Dublin is that a succession of easy missed chances from frees and play and some botched goal opportunities left them vulnerable.
Kilkenny were nowhere near the form that saw them land the league, but to their credit they never panicked either.
The arrival of Paul Winters, Fiontan McGibb and Tomás Connolly kept the Dubs in the hunt but the loss to a serious looking injury to Conal Keaney had a clear destabilising effect as the team began to tire and Kilkenny sniffed an opening.
The build-up to the Kilkeny goal might have yielded a free out on another occasion, but Kilkenny took their chance with Blanchfield racing inside and cleverly flicking to the net for the killer goal.
Tough for Dublin to take nothing from the game and tougher still they will now have to get themselves up for an away trip to Official Wexford GAA next weekend.
For Kilkenny the win is vital but will not prevent Cody and Co from analysing a performance that was well below their best as they prepare to face Offaly next week.
It was another great game at the start of the new format in the Leinster SHC which is living up to expectations.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-12 (0-8f, 0-2 65), Eoin Murphy 0-4 (0-4f), Liam Blanchfield 1-0, Colin Fennelly 0-3, Walter Walsh 0-2, James Maher 0-2, John Donnelly 0-1.
Scorers for Dublin: Paul Ryan 1-6 (0-5f), Conal Keaney 0-4, Fergal Whitely 1-0, Jake Malone 1-0, Paul Winters 0-03 (0-02f), Tomas Connolly 0-1, Fiontan MacGib 0-1, Chris Crummey 0-1.
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Joey Holden, Padraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan; Conor Delaney, Cillian Buckley, Enda Morrissey; Richie Leahy, James Maher; Martin Keoghan, TJ Reid, John Donnelly; Bill Sheehan, Walter Walsh, Ger Aylward. Subs: Colin Fennelly for Sheehan (33), Conor Fogarty for Keoghan (h/t), Paul Murphy for Morrissey (46), Liam Blanchfield for Leahy (55), Luke Scanlon for Aylward (59).
DUBLIN: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Cian O’Callaghan, Bill O’Carroll; Sean Moran; Chris Crummey, Eoghan O’Donnell, Shane Barrett; Jake Malone, Rian McBride; Danny Sutcliffe, Conal Keaney, Fergal Whitely; Liam Rushe, Paul Ryan. Subs: Fiontan MacGib for Sutcliffe (38-39), Paul Winters for Ryan (46), Tomas Connolly for McBride (53), Ryan O’Dwyer for Keaney (60), Shane Durkin for Malone (66).
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).