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Fab 5 For The Cats

June 8th, 2024


By John Harrington at Croke Park

A day to forget at headquarters for the Dublin hurlers.

They were cut to ribbons by a rampant Kilkenny team who won a fifth Leinster championship in a row all too easily.

Dublin’s short-passing game broke down completely. Hand-passes were over-cooked, stick-passes misdirected, and voracious Kilkenny players feasted on every spilled ball.

The stripey men deserve credit for putting ball-carriers under severe pressure, but Dublin’s execution was poor even when they had time to pick a pass.

Micheál Donoghue’s young team is much better than they showed here, but the brutal truth is that they failed to rise to the occasion and it won’t be easy to recover mentally for an All-Ireland quarter-final against either Cork or Offaly.

As for Kilkenny, they were seriously impressive. Their defence overwhelmed Dublin’s forwards with their physicality, Cian Kenny and Paddy Deegan ran the show in midfield, and the speed, skill, and finishing of their forwards was of the very highest order.

This was by far their best performance so far this year, and it sets them up really nicely for the All-Ireland semi-final.

Dublin were struck an early morale-sapping blow when Eoin Cody scored the first goal of the match after just four minutes.

Gathering the sliotar from a ruck on the left-hand side of the pitch, he showed his predatory instincts by immediately racing straight towards the Dublin goalposts.

He should have been intercepted earlier than he was, but did brilliantly to create the space for a shot by fooling Dublin defender Conor Donohoe into thinking he was going to pass the ball before turning onto his left and lancing the sliotar to the net.

Kilkenny followed up with two points in a minute from Billy Ryan and John Donnelly and in the blink of an eye were now five points to the good.

With every passing minute, more and more leaks were sprung in the Dublin hull.

They couldn’t handle the movement of Adrian Mullen in particular, with the Ballyhale Shamrocks man looking remarkably sharp for someone who hadn’t played since the first round of the provincial campaign against Antrim.

He scored six points in the first half alone from a variety of angles and his work-rate both with and without the ball was hugely impressive.

Kilkenny players celebrate with the Bob O'Keeffe cup after their side's victory in the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship final match between Dublin and Kilkenny at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile.

The point he scored from the right wing after 23 minutes was typically classy, but it also showcased the lack of pressure that Dublin were putting on the Kilkenny ball-carriers because it was all to easy for him to set his sights and fire it over.

A minute later Kilkenny scored their second goal and already you sensed this game was as good as over.

From a Dublin point of view it was a disastrous one to concede as goalkeeper Sean Brennan dropped a long delivery into his square and TJ Reid reacted quickest to flick the ball to the net to put his team 2-10 to 0-5 ahead.

Mullen then slung over another beauty from the left before a couple of Donal Burke frees staunched Dublin’s wounds briefly.

Kilkenny were relentless from there to the half-time whistle, with three more Mullen points helping them into a 2-18 to 0-9 lead by the break.

Dublin brought on Daire Gray, Darragh Power, and Mark Grogan at the start of the second half and they did bring some much needed energy to their team.

Thanks mainly to the free-taking of Donal Burke Dublin managed to cut the deficit 12 points by the 52nd minute, but then Kilkenny took control of the contest again.

Points flowed over the bar from John Donnelly, Eoin Cody, Cian Kenny, and the ubiquitous Mullen before Reid struck their third goal of the match.

It was a calamitous one from a Dublin point of view. Sean Brennan hit a short puck-out to Paddy Smyth but the Dublin corner-back had his back turned to the ball and Mullen quickly snaffled it up and squared to Reid who lashed it to the back of the net.

Now leading by 3-24 to 0-14, Kilkenny could afford to coast home from there.

At least Dublin kept fighting until the finish, with Conor Burke and Donal Burke especially defiant in this regard.

The latter created Dublin’s goal after 68 minutes when he did brilliantly to catch a high ball, wriggle into space, and then hand-pass to Mark Grogan who finished from close range.

It was a rare shaft of light on an otherwise dark and depressing day for Dublin hurling.

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 2-6 (3f), Adrian Mullen 0-7, Eoin Cody 1-1, Cian Kenny 0-4, John Donnelly 0-3, Martin Keoghan 0-3, Billy Ryan, David Blanchfield, Tom Phelan, Walter Walsh all 0-1

Scorers for Dublin: Donal Burke 0-9 (8f), Mark Grogan 1-0, Conor Burke 0-3, Dara Purcell 0-2, Darragh Power, John Bellew, Paddy Smyth, Danny Sutcliffe, Chris Crummey, all 0-1

KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield, Richie Reid, Mikey Carey; Cian Kenny, Paddy Deegan; Adrian Mullen, TJ Reid, John Donnelly; Martin Keoghan, Billy Ryan, Eoin Cody. Subs: Shane Murphy for Mikey Carey (30), Tom Phelan for Billy Ryan (46), Jordan Molloy for Huw Lawlor, Walter Walsh for Adrian Mullen, Conor Fogarty for Cian Kenny (all 64)

DUBLIN: Seán Brennan; John Bellew, Eoghan O’Donnell, Paddy Smyth; Chris Crummey, Conor Donohoe, Paddy Doyle; Brian Hayes, Conor Burke; Danny Sutcliffe, Donal Burke, Sean Currie; Fergal Whiteley, Dara Purcell, Ronan Hayes. Subs: Daire Gray for Paddy Doyle, Darragh Power for Sean Currie, Mark Grogan for Fergal Whiteley (all ht), Colin Currie for Ronan Hayes (54), James Madden for Brian Hayes (62)

Ref: Thomas Walsh (Waterford)

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