Mattie Kenny celebrates after beating his native county.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kevin O’Brien reports from Parnell Park

OF ALL THE permutations heading into yesterday’s final day in Leinster, Galway being dumped out in the middle of June was well down the list of expected outcomes.

They were level after 67 minutes in Parnell Park and Kilkenny were leading Wexford in Nowlan Park. Then a devastating double-blow arrived. Chris Crummey took a pass from Ronan Hayes and dispatched it past Colm Callanan to propel Dublin to a 3-19 to 0-24 victory. 

Then the news of Lee Chin’s late equaliser came through. Just like that, Galway’s summer was over and Dublin lived to fight another day. 

The Sky Blues held three late leads against Kilkenny, Galway and Wexford heading into the last five minutes in last year’s championship but lost all three games. They were four ahead of Kilkenny at half-time in the opening round and led Wexford by five midway through the second period, but failed to win either game. 

Sooner or later, something had to give.

“These Dublin players are tired of the moral victories and they want to start getting real victories,” said a delighted Mattie Kenny afterwards.

In fairness to them they’re after delivering on that tonight. It’s a little bit of a monkey off their back. It was a massive game of hurling there tonight. 

“I suppose it tests your character and resolve,” the Dublin boss continued.

“In the dressing room at half-time, we couldn’t predict the future or say what was going to happen. We just said, whatever bit of energy that’s in your bodies – work till we fall down on the pitch.

Chris Crummy was involved in two second-half goals for the Dubs.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“And that’s what they did. In the last 10 minutes they showed unbelievable hunger and desire and fair play to them. Massive performance from those Dublin players.

“I thought we played really, really well down in Kilkenny. I don’t think we got the credit we deserved for the 50 minutes hurling. We switched off for a few minutes and it cost us. We played really well here against Wexford, allowed two sucker goals.

Tonight wasn’t a flash in the pan. These lads have shown really good form right through the championship and if we were to go out tonight I’d have been really, really disappointed because I could see the potential in these lads. 

“I could see how well they were hurling. It was a difficult ask for the guys tonight. As you can see we were without a lot of players tonight, down six or seven top class players. We had O’Donnell going off and we still had to empty the bench.

“It just shows you there is more depth in the Dublin squad than maybe people give them credit for,” he added.

Two of the key figures in Dublin’s triumph were Chris Crummey and Conal Keaney. Crummey helped keep Johnny Glynn relatively quiet after a shaky start and managed to make two vital second-half contributions in attack.

He won the Dublin penalty 36 seconds after the restart and then bagged the critical goal two minutes from time. 

The old warhorse Conal Keaney was immense once again.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Two really, really timely interventions,” said Kenny. “It just shows you the level of an athlete and player he is. He was tracking Johnny Glynn all night and we saw how influential he was below in Kilkenny last Sunday.

“Johnny had a really good game against this evening but Chris worked hard all evening trying to track him and still had the energy to get up for them two goals.

“The point after it was the key score. If Galway got a point back there would have been only two points in it with five or six minutes to go and it was well within their capability to claw that back.”

Keaney only got better as the game wore on. Completing 70-minutes of high-octane action is no mean feat for a 36-year-old. He fetched four puck-outs, fired over three points and set-up a score for Oisin O’Rorke.

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“He was super. I thought himself and Danny (Sutcliffe) won some critical ball across that area.

“Coming up to half-time Galway got a bit of a grip across that half-back line and we said our half-forward line would try to make sure they didn’t have that influence throughout the second-half.

“Keaney, Danny and Fergal Whitely when he came in there, Cian Boland, Trollier (Eamonn Dillon) was moving between the two lines and I thought he was absolutely superb.” 

Eamonn Dillon scored his third championship goal of the summer.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dillon’s haul of 1-1 was key, as was O’Rorke’s nine-point tally. He stepped up to the free-taking responsibilities in the absence of the injured Paul Ryan and David Treacy.

“We were missing our first and second choice free-takers there tonight, both of them out injured. Oisin has been unlucky not to figure more in the championship. He’s been showing good form.

“I keep saying to the lads, keep training, hold up your head. Even if you’re not getting games, your chance will come. At this level it will always come and you have to be ready when it does come.

“Obviously he grabbed his opportunity tonight and played really, really well for us.”

So there’s no Leinster final for Dublin to look forward to but if you’d offered Kenny a third place finish prior to the game he’d have taken your hand off.

They’ll hope to get a few bodies back from injury before the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final clash against the Joe McDonagh Cup winners on the weekend of 6/7 July.

Liam Rushe celebrates after the game.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It was a special night in Parnell Park. Dublin supporters flooded onto the field at the final whistle and stayed out there for a good 20 minutes afterwards.

“The atmosphere there tonight…. playing in these smaller stadiums just shows you the atmosphere you can generate. Just talking to some of the Galway people coming off there, they’re very disappointed but they said, ‘What a game of hurling. What an atmosphere and what a night.’

“They’re very disappointed. Looking at the permutations myself the last week, I thought we had a good chance of getting a result here tonight. Sport is funny. We nearly go from fourth into a Leinster final but a draw down in Wexford Park meant that it’s all of us on five points. To be honest, I never envisaged Galway being out of the championship.”

After ending his native county’s interests in the All-Ireland, Kenny said it didn’t bring about a bitter-sweet feeling for him.

“I’m not here to beat Galway. I’m six years working in Dublin hurling and my job is to get the best out of these guys. That was my only focus. As a player and manager all you do is focus on what’s within your own control.

“You go out and try to perform the best you can and to get a result for our own group. That’s what we did tonight.”

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