The Kilkenny players could do with remembering that manager Brian Cody has recently undergone major heart surgery after putting him through the emotional ringer again before grabbing a last gasp draw against Dublin in Sunday’s Leinster SHC semifinal.
TJ Reid hit a point three minutes into added time to deny Dublin the shock of the season at Portlaoise as the All-Ireland champions somehow scraped a 1-14 to 0-17 draw.
The match came just two weeks after Offaly really put it up to the Cats in their first outing of the championship summer, and even Cody knows the cracks are starting to show as his side continues to struggle without the injured Michael Fennelly and Henry Shefflin.
The alarm bells that were ringing at O’Moore Park on Sunday need to be silenced in the same venue this Saturday when the sides meet again, or a Dublin win will see Kilkenny face the prospect of a showdown with Tipperary in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Cody, who only returned to action on the sidelines for the Offaly game after his heart surgery, knows his team are using up the nine lives normally associated with Cats of a different nature.
Kilkenny played second fiddle to an eager and committed Dublin team for much of the first half but, despite playing into the wind, managed to be on level terms, 0-8 apiece, at the break before an early second half goal from Walter Walsh put the Leinster and All-Ireland champions in front.
The Dublin defense, led by full-back Peter Kelly, raised their game in the final quarter and their forwards responded as Shane Durkin, Mark Schutte, Conal Keaney and Joey Boland sent balls over the Kilkenny bar.
Keaney drew the teams level with five minutes to go before two Boland frees helped Dublin into a one point lead going into added time.
A famous win looked on the cards for the Blues before substitute Reid flicked a long Eoin Murphy puck-out over the bar to save the day for the black and amber.
Shell-shocked by the close call, even Cody admitted afterwards that his team looked down and out as he spoke to the waiting media.
“With injury time and time running out, we got a break and got the breaking ball, and TJ [Reid] put it over the bar, so it’s in the melting pot again and we have to come up again next Saturday and start all over again,” Cody said.
“First half playing against a bit of a storm we were decent you know. We had done a lot of hard work and went in at halftime level.
“The second half they took over the game really, and dominated. And even though we got the goal we didn’t drive it on. The momentum was with them after that.”
Cody brushed aside questions of fitness and hunger and opted instead to pay tribute to the Dubs.
“We’re not tired, they’re in great shape. They always have been that. It’s not a question of that. But I don’t mind being asked that question in the slightest.
“It’s not tiredness, it’s not a physical thing. What they are is human I suppose. It’s very difficult to say at this stage. I don’t have the answer to that question right now. We’ll have to sit down and look at things. They caused us a lot of trouble in the second half.”
Dublin boss Anthony Daly believes his team is well capable of throwing the same challenge down to Kilkenny second time around on Saturday. And the All-Ireland winner from Clare is adamant his team can succeed at the second attempt.
“I think we have a great chance. We were right in there. I think we proved a good bit to ourselves today. Because people were seriously doubting us and the boys turned around and got stuck in and they’re going away very disappointed now,” Daly said.
The loser of the Dublin-Kilkenny replay will face Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers. Clare have been drawn to face Laois.
McGinley Cheers on Donegal
RYDER Cup captain Paul McGinley added his support to the Donegal cause as the All-Ireland champions produced another dogged but successful performance in their 0-12 to 0-9 win over Down in Sunday’s Ulster SFC semi-final at Breffni Park.
McGinley, whose father Michael is from the county and was alongside him in the stands, spoke to manager Jim McGuinness on the pitch afterwards and then visited the winner’s dressing room to offer his congratulations.
It was a tough game for the All-Ireland champions as they started without the injured Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher and then lost Ryan Bradley and Frank McGlynn to head injuries early on.
Donegal were as clinical in their approach to the game as they had been all season, and
McGuinness felt that was a crucial factor as they look to win a third successive Ulster crown.
Speaking after the match, he told the Irish Sun, “We were very much tested and challenged and people were saying, ‘Are Donegal going to have the bottle?’ I could feel that coming from the stands.
“When you take four or five players out of the team that are normally leaders, and you find a way to win in those circumstances, that is the most pleasing aspect of it.
“I would have to say that our boys didn’t really lose their composure. They kept to their task and worked hard the whole way through it.
“We had Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher missing coming into the game and then we lost Ryan Bradley and Frank McGlynn, both to concussion.
“They would be four fairly strong leaders for us on the field of play so it was great for us that the likes of Ross Wherity and Ryan McHugh got to come in and help push us over the line and give us the chance now to prepare for an Ulster final.”
Down boss James McCartan took some pride from his team’s performance.
“We felt we had them rattled at times but quality teams respond when that happens and they did that,” McCartan said.
“Last year we competed with Donegal as well as anybody and I would have to say that we did it again this year albeit with a different style of football.
“I would find it very hard to be critical of anyone in a red and black jersey today. They emptied the tank.”
Cork Finally Has Clare’s Number
CORK upset the form book with a Munster SHC win over Clare in Limerick on Sunday as they avenged three earlier defeats to the Banner this year with an impressive 0-23 to 0-15 win.
Cork boss Jimmy Barry Murphy said afterwards, “We lost the relegation match barely and in extra time. There wasn’t as big a deal made of it as some people were making out.
“There seemed to be a lot of doom and gloom from people in Cork and particularly about relegation and no one likes to be relegated but we were unlucky on the day and I didn’t think there was that much between the teams.”
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald said, “I’m bitterly disappointed. We probably didn’t ourselves justice out there.
“We didn’t have enough of a lead built up at halftime with that gale. In fairness Cork were tenacious today and they deserved their victory.
“It was the same when we played Limerick last year. We beat them three times and they came back and had the bit between their teeth for the championship game with us. It is very hard when you beat a team, they are going to get so motivated.”
Clare are also upset that referee Barry Kenny failed to stop the game when John Conlon suffered a head injury and concussion.
Another Shanahan’s Chance to Shine
MAURICE Shanahan emerged from the shadows of his famous brother Dan as he scored 13 points in Waterford’s 0-21 to 1-14 win over Offaly in the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers.
Deice boss Michael Ryan commented, “We really needed Maurice to turn on the style and we spoke to him at halftime and asked him to produce an even better performance in the second half. He did exactly that.
“Maurice is a very talented player and probably an under-rated one too. Before the Clare game he had been sick all that week and we knew he could do this for the last couple of years.
“Maurice is Dan’s brother, but Maurice is a fine hurler in his own right. It was only a matter of time before he came good, and he came good here.”
Wexford also won through the first round of qualifiers with a 3-18 to 0-17 win over Antrim, while Westmeath beat London by 1-15 to 0-11 in Ruislip.
London Town Still Alive
LONDON lived to fight another day in the Connacht championship after a stirring 2-7 to 0-13 draw against Leitrim in Sunday’s semifinal in Carrick-on-Shannon, but they have ordered to travel to Ireland again for Sunday’s replay in Roscommon.
Leitrim boss Barney Breen admitted, “It’s a short turnaround but it’s the same for both of us. But I’d rather be playing next weekend than be out of the championship.”