BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
All-Ireland Series place bagged as Dubs beaten
Leinster SHC Round 4:
UPMC Nowlan Park
Kilkenny ensure smooth progress to the All-Ireland series with a battling win over Dublin in UPMC Nowlan Park last Saturday. At the final whistle there was 6 points between the sides and Derek Lyng & Co. will know that improvements will be required in all areas as the championship progresses.
The standout headline from the game was TJ Reid briefly moving ahead of Patrick Horgan in the championship scoring stakes. The Shamrocks Ballyhale man is quite simply phenomenal, one of the very best in hurling history, but like this Cats team, TJ is all about the here and now.
Dublin were typically difficult opponents and made the home side work hard for their victory and this will have pleased their manager Micheál Donoghue, as he prepares to take on Henry’s Galway in Parnell this weekend. Our boys will make the trip to Chadwicks Wexford Park knowing that if they avoid defeat, a Leinster final appearance and another battle with Mr. Shefflin awaits.
There was one change to the starting XV that hit 5-31 against the Saffrons last time out, with O’Loughlin’s Paddy Deegan coming in for Glenmore’s Alan Murphy in the engine room while Dublin had Paul Crummey and Sean Currie in for the injured Ronan Hayes and the dangerous Alex Considine.
The Cats opened the scoring in the first minute thanks to a free from TJ Reid and his nemesis on the Dublin side Donal Burke levelled matters a few minutes later, also from the placed ball. Na Fianna’s Sean Currie then did well to turnover the ball and move it to his No.10 Danny Sutcliffe and the St Judes man fired over a lovely point to give the visitors the lead. The opening exchanges were lively, with both sides bringing plenty of fire to the contest.
The lively Sutcliffe was being as direct as possible when he was in possession and this approach lead the St Judes man winning a free off O’Loughlin’s Huw Lawlor and the accurate Donal Burke popped over the placed ball. The same duo combined a minute later, this time Sutcliffe appeared to lose a boot before Galway whistler Liam Gordon awarded the men in blue a free. Again, Na Fianna’s Burke stood over the placed ball and split the posts to give his side a 3-point lead with 11 minutes gone in UPMC Nowlan Park.
The home side needed a score to settle them down and one came a minute later from Mossy Keoghan. The Tullaroan man was inside the full-back line, was a goal on? The sensible decision was to take the point and Mossy did that from quite a tight angle. Another point followed within 60 seconds. This time it was a peach of a score from David Blanchfield. The Bennettsbridge man is improving with every outing and is beginning to make one of the wing-back jerseys his own.
Less than a minute later the sides were briefly level, O’Loughlin’s Paddy Deegan striking over a fine point. Donal Burke showed that it isn’t just the placed ball that makes him a talent when he fired over a fine point from play. Two further scores from Micheál Donoghue’s men followed. Erins Isle’s Conor Donohoe came forward from his defensive position to extend the visitors lead before St Oliver Plunkett’s Cian Boland hit the third score on the bounce to restore their 3-point lead. Boland’s point was the pick of the bunch, Sutcliffe plucked the sliotar out of the air and fired a cross-field pass to the Boland who wrong-footed his man before striking over from distance.
TJ Reid then struck back for the home side, this time a placed ball from his own ‘65 before Kilmacud Crokes Mark Grogan popped one over from close range. Tom Phelan then pointed for the black and amber when again, a major may have been possible.
The next two scores would be the history-making ones. Kilkenny were awarded a free close to the left sideline and TJ struck it beautifully between the posts. Reid was now level with Patrick Horgan in all-time championship scoring stats. Just 2 minutes later an easier placed ball opportunity saw TJ briefly become the highest scoring player in the history of the Championship with 30-509. Words will not do this man justice. In typical TJ fashion he got a third on the bounce as Kilkenny took the lead for the first time in since the opening minute.
Captain Eoin Cody was relatively quiet but then rifled over a lovely point before Graigue Ballycallan’s Billy Ryan did likewise as the Cats moved into a 3-point lead. Derek Lyng’s charges had definitely raised the tempo and their hunger and this was evident when they turned over the Dubs and TJ slotted over the free. Midfielder Mark Grogan fired over his second of the game for the first Dublin score in a while, but the final score of an intriguing first half came from Cats corner back Mikey Butler. The halftime scoreboard read Kilkenny 0-13, Dublin 0-9.
Dublin started the second half with the intent and purpose that saw them cause Lyng’s men problems in the opening period. Donal Burke tagged on another free before Whitehall Colmcille’s Daire Gray fired over. Burke then made it a 1-point game when he scored a classy point from the left sideline. Game on. Conahy Shamrocks Tom Phelan then registered his sides first score of the second period and his second of the game before TJ added another dead ball, his 7th point of the day before Mossy Keoghan dispatched a fine individual effort to push the home sides lead to four.
Danny Sutcliffe was then fouled and Burke punished the indiscretion, but Tom Phelan then got his 3rd score to keep the visitors at arm’s length. From the puckout, Sutcliffe won possession before being fouled again. Only one outcome, another placed ball score from Donal Burke. His Na Fianna club mate Sean Currie then fired over a fine score from play, but the home side responded with a free from TJ after Mossy was halted illegally.
Walter Walsh was then introduced in place of Billy Ryan as Derek Lyng sought to freshen things up. Things were getting a little tasty at times, a championship edge to proceedings in Nowlan Park. TJ picked up a yellow as referee Liam Gordon sought to calm things down. Burke swung over another free before Paddy Deegan rifled over a cracking point to keep the home side up by three. Three minutes later Richie Reid surged forward and landed a superb score and the Cats built on this with another free from TJ. Eoin Cody then notched his second point and in the blink of an eye, Kilkenny were 6 points to the good.
Cian Kenny, Padraig Walsh and Cillian Buckley had all entered the fray, the latter replacing Richie Reid who appeared in a little bit of discomfort as he hobbled off. Kilkenny appeared to have the measure of this gutsy Dublin team and this was confirmed with the next two scores, both from Shamrocks Ballyhale men, Adrian Mullen and TJ Reid. A 10th point of the day or Donal Burke followed as the Na Fianna man popped over another free. Galmoy’s Billy Drennan then replaced man of the moment TJ Reid as those in attendance showed their appreciation for the great man.
A flurry of points followed as the game entered additional time. Billy Drennan reminded the crowd that he was back with a lovely score, while the impressive Danny Sutcliffe fired over. Adrian Mullen then registered a second score of the game before Dublin full-back Eoghan O’Donnell pointed for a rare score. Two more scores were taken before the long whistle, one for each side, Dara Purcell for the visitors and a third of the day for the hard-working Paddy Deegan to leave the Cats six points clear on a final scoreline of Kilkenny 0-27, Dublin 0-21.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (10fs), Paddy Deegan, Tom Phelan 0-3 each, Adrian Mullen, Martin Keoghan, Eoin Cody 0-2 each, Mikey Butler, David Blanchfield, Richie Reid, Billy Ryan, and Billy Drennan (f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Dublin: Donal Burke 0-10 (8fs), Danny Sutcliffe, Mark Grogan, Dara Purcell 0-2 each, Eoghan O’Donnell, Conor Donohoe, Daire Gray, Cian Boland, Sean Currie 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield, Richie Reid, Darragh Corcoran; Adrian Mullen, Paddy Deegan; Tom Phelan, John Donnelly, Billy Ryan; Martin Keoghan, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody.
Subs: Walter Walsh for Ryan, 53 mins; Cian Kenny for Phelan, 57 mins; Padraig Walsh for Corcoran, 61 mins; Cillian Buckley for R Reid, 64 mins; Billy Drennan for TJ Reid, 70 mins.
Dublin: Sean Brennan; Paddy Doyle, Eoghan O’Donnell, Paddy Smyth; Conor Donohoe, Conor Burke, Daire Gray; Mark Grogan, Chris O’Leary; Danny Sutcliffe, Donal Burke, Cian Boland; Sean Currie, Cian O’Sullivan, Paul Crummey.
Subs: James Madden for Gray, 46 mins; Alex Considine for Crummey, 48 mins; John Bellew for Grogan, 60 mins; Dara Purcell for Donohoe, 63 mins; Darragh Power for O’Sullivan, 67 mins.
Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)
>> SHERRY SAYS…
A great game of hurling from these two sides. Dublin and Kilkenny served up a championship treat for the supporters in UPMC Nowlan Park. It was a real ding-dong battle at times and the men from the Capital acquitted themselves well.
In Donal Burke they have a real talisman and genuinely talented hurler. The Na Fianna man kept the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors and he had a decent supporting cast in Danny Sutcliffe, Cian Boland, Mark Grogan and Paddy Smyth. The loss of Ronan Hayes was a blow to the Dubs and they will hope to have him back in blue very soon.
TJ – what more can be said? Surpassing Patrick Horgan’s championship scoring record is an unreal achievement. There’s still some fuel in the tank and the Shamrocks man will be hoping his county play deep into the summer.
O’Loughlin’s Paddy Deegan came into the starting team and had a great game, notching 0-3 in an energetic display. Tom Phelan will have been pleased with his performance and 3 points from the Conahy Shamrocks man will have done his confidence the world of good.
All-Ireland series participation guaranteed. We head to Chadwicks Wexford Park this weekend owing our opponents one. It’s certainly time for the Cats to get the better of the Slaneysiders. Secure the result and we can start to plan for the provincial final and another tussle with Henry’s men.