Kilkenny’s eighteen point destruction of a lacklustre Dublin in Portlaoise will have surprised many hurling observers.
Not the fact that Kilkenny won, who are still odds-on favourites to retail the Liam McCarthy Cup, but the resounding nature of the victory which sends out a stark message to those questioning the hunger of this highly successful side.
Dublin had been expected to take the game to the Cats, and were quietly confident of getting to the Leinster Final. They began the game full of promise, and a wonderful Peter Sutcliffe solo point had them ahead in the early stages.
From there on in however Kilkenny exerted total dominance around the pitch, and lead by ten points at the break. Dublin managed just three points in the second half and were indebted to three magnificent saves from Gary Maguire to keep the score down. He could do little to prevent goals from Richie Power and TJ Reid, while Henry Shefflin was back to his brilliant self after his shoulder injury, finishing with a tally of ten points.
After four years in charge, Anthony Daly had been expecting a big year, with the defeat of Kilkenny a number one priority. After reaching last years All-Ireland semi-final, confidence has risen to new levels, and the performance in O’Moore Park will have deflated players and supporters alike. And no one could have been more disappointed than Daly himself.
“Maybe it’s a psychological block. Kilkenny played to their usual high standards. I don’t know what the answers are at the moment. We couldn’t even do the basics” said the shell-shocked Clare man after the game. They will be watching the draw for the qualifiers with keen interest, in what will be a make-or-break game under the stewardship of the double All-Ireland winner.
For Kilkenny, it is business as usual, and they will now face Galway in what will be their 8th Leinster Final in a row. The defence was again the launch-pad for their victory, with JJ Delaney giving a masterful performance at the edge of the square, seeing of the challenges of Liam Rushe and Ryan Dwyer. Midfield was dominant, and up front the forwards were especially clinical. Richie Power was a thorn in the side all day, scoring 1-3 and creating space and opportunities for others. TJ Reid was highly influential on the 40, while Shefflin’s tally took him past 500 points in championship hurling.
Brian Cody was very satisfied with the display, and quick to praise the efforts of the panel. “We played well in the first half against the wind. The attitude of the players was great, and the panel, which we always speak about, again showed its strength”. The current All-Ireland and league champions are just 70 minutes away from collecting their 69th provincial crown.