All good things come to an end, and for many the end is nigh for Kilkenny’s reign as the untouchables of hurling after Saturday night’s defeat to Dublin in the Leinster SHC semifinal replay in Portlaoise.
Brian Cody’s All-Ireland champions came back from the dead a week earlier to snatch a late equalizer against Anthony Daly’s Dublin in the drawn game.
But second time around there was no hiding place for the Cats, still struggling without the injured Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly, as Dublin recorded a deserved 1-16 to 0-16 win at O’Moore Park.
Dublin now meet Galway in the Leinster final at Croke Park this Sunday while Kilkenny face Tipperary in a sell-out All-Ireland qualifier at Nolan Park on Saturday when the winners will take all.
The significance of Dublin’s win can be judged by the fact that they hadn’t beaten Kilkenny in the championship since 1942. Their victory also shattered the myth that Kilkenny don’t lose replays.
The match saw a determined Dublin dominate from start to finish – they led all the way through -- with a Danny Sutcliffe goal in the 53rd minute the turning point after a 0-11 to 0-7 halftime lead for the winners.
Paul Ryan even missed six frees for the Dubs, but it proved no problem as Kilkenny managed just four points from play for the 70 minutes and just two points in total in the second-half.
Their woes were compounded when Richie Power, one of the few Kilkenny players to impress, was dismissed for a second yellow card offense late on.
Heroes were plentiful in the Dublin colors, none more so than center-back Liam Rushe who ensured the MacCarthy Cup holders would leave Portlaoise without a goal to their name this time.
He found it easy to put the win into context.
“It’s monumental for us, personally and collectively. It was an abject defeat to Kilkenny last year when we lost by 18 points. We were so low after it you’d almost think of quitting,” said Rushe.
“This year, we’ve got that monkey off our backs, I suppose, and I know we’ve lost handsomely to them a few times before but you just have to enjoy days likes these.
“We probably felt we let it slip a small bit last week. I watched that last bit a few times and if I had batted the ball and hadn’t flicked the ball off Matt Ruth... different things going through your head but I’m just happy we came down here and put it to bed.”
The win over Kilkenny represents a turning point in the managerial career of Clare legend Daly, an All-Ireland winner as a player with the Banner, but he is working hard to keep his feet on the ground as he prepares for another major test against Galway this weekend.
“I’m not looking any further than next week, that’s the bottom line. We’re in a Leinster final. When I came up here first, to win a Leinster championship would have been an absolute dream. So the dream lives on, I suppose,” Daly said.
“It’s a big test against a fresh Galway team going out in Croker. It’s great to beat Kilkenny in championship hurling. I’ve been close before with Clare and with these boys. But it’s great. They’re a great team - they’re the best team I ever saw.
“We didn’t get carried away, and we won’t get carried away this week either. We’ll stick to our guns now, and we’ll try and get a big performance out Sunday. It’s going to be very difficult, fifth week in a row, but in fairness to Ross Dunphy (trainer), he has the boys in fantastic shape and the medical staff have done a great job.”
Kilkenny have the scant consolation of the back door clash with bitter rivals Tipperary to look forward to this weekend, but manager Cody was in no humor for excuse making after the Dublin defeat.
“Form comes through results and we had a win against Offaly, we drew with Dublin and Dublin beat us. I’m saying a long time about the quality of Dublin teams, to me we were playing one of the top teams in the country and it was a ding-dong battle,” Cody said.
“It was a great game. The battle was there, the battle we expected, it was there the last day and, you know, they’re in a Leinster final next weekend and we’re in the All-Ireland qualifiers and that’s fine. We’re not going to win the Leinster championship but we’re still in the All-Ireland, the All-Ireland qualifiers.”
Cody also confirmed in Portlaoise that Saturday’s game against Tipperary will come too soon for the injured Shefflin and Fennelly, both of whom have been badly missed by the Cats.
He added, “We have a few injuries alright and that’s where the worry comes in but it’s there, we can’t do anything about it. We won’t start looking at the negatives. Obviously it won’t be a physical preparation, it’ll be a mental preparation and that’ll be about it.”
Cavan Fans Angry Over Monaghan Win
CAVAN fans were aggrieved when referee Marty Duffy refused to punish Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan for a steps infringement late on in Saturday’s Ulster SFC semi-final in Clones.
Television replays showed Beggan broke the rules in the final seconds of Monaghan’s 1-10 to 0-12 win, but Cavan boss Terry Hyland refuses to make excuses afterwards for his young team’s defeat.
He said, “Within Cavan people have been going around for too long happy with moral victories. We should have had a draw today but we have to get away from that mentality.
“Those are the calls. At the time we called it as a free but the referee didn’t give it so that’s that. We had other chances before that. Our shot options were probably a little bit askew in the second half.
“There’s good guts in this team and give them two or three years and they’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Monaghan will now play Donegal in the Ulster final and manager Malachy O’Rourke admitted,
“We’ll be written off by those looking on from outside, that’s only natural.
“Donegal have been the benchmark for all teams in the last few years. They have refined a system of play which has worked very well for them and no-one really has been able to overcome it. It’s going to be a serious uphill battle but we’re delighted to be there.”
Meath Ready for Dub Date
MEATH boss Mick O’Dowd has dismissed talk that a Leinster final date against Dublin is a bonus in his first season in charge and is adamant his team will be up for the challenge posed at the All-Ireland favorites.
Speaking after Sunday’s 0-18 to 0-13 semifinal win over Wexford, O’Dowd said, “We are in a Leinster final and looking forward to it. There’s a big prize at end of it and we will prepare well over next two weeks for it.
“Going from 1-17 against Wicklow and still kicking 18 scores is good. But I’d say there is more improvement to come and certainly there needs to be.
“We played a Division 3 team the first day, a Division 2 team here and a division 1 team next. We’ll be ready. We knew Wexford were dangerous with good forwards. Overall we’d be happy enough how we dealt with it.”
McCurry Stars for Tyrone
TYRONE fans have a new star forward to celebrate after Darren McCurry notched up eight points, five from play, in the 1-27 to 0-8 All-Ireland football qualifier win over Offaly in Tullamore last Saturday.
Manager Mickey Harte, still without the injured Stephen O’Neill, said, “Darren is a mighty player, he is very accurate and confident. To look at him playing on the field you’d know he doesn’t lack confidence.
“He has the ability to back up that confidence. We would be very fond of what he can offer.”