Dublin sent out a warning this afternoon to the hurling world, with a powerful performance in All-Ireland Champions Kilkenny’s back yard.
Following last week’s victory over Tipperary, Ger Cunningham’s side sit pretty atop Division 1A, and momentum is building in the capital.
Although Jonjo Farrell was incorrectly dismissed on 24 minutes, the Dubs were full value for their win. Up to that point, the Cats were not afforded an inch of space by the visitors. Man of the Match David Treacy noted the emphasis the Cork manager placed on intensity.
Dublin did to Kilkenny what the Cats normally subject other teams to. Kilkenny were not let play, from 1-15. For the majority of the game, any time a Kilkenny player had possession, there were two Dubs in his face. It was reminiscent of the black and amber tour de force in last year’s replayed All-Ireland.
Following much experimentation by the Corkonian, some shape and structure is coming. While the goalkeeping and full-back line jerseys are up for grabs, the half-back line is coming together.
The most contentious change has been that of Liam Rushe to full-forward, and this has perhaps overshadowed Conal Keaney’s switch to wing-back. The five-time Leinster football champion has been fully effective, and along with the height of new addition Chris Crummy, Dublin pose a real aerial threat to opposition puck-outs.
Wedged between the two, Peter Kelly has been outstanding. Having spent four summers at number 3, Kelly is enjoying life further out the field. The Lucan Sarsfields man broke into the set-up as a forward, and is inclined to go forward. Judging by his two points today, he is fully suited to the position.
As for the forwards, Eamon ‘Trollier’ Dillon has made the 11 shirt his own, running at opposition defences. He is fulfilling the ‘Bonner Maher’ role; playmaker as opposed to scorer.
Another star of the show today was of course Cuala’s David Treacy. The Man of the Match chipped in with eleven points, four from play. Treacy has too often been the fall guy from the Dublin sideline; when things are not going well, he is called ashore, although he might be hurling quite well.
He has been the easy option to replace. When Dublin were struggling against Cork in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, Treacy was substituted, despite scoring 1-1 in the first half. The added responsibility of free-taking has rejuvenated the 25-year-old.
However, it appears that there is room for only one of Treacy and Paul Ryan in Cunningham’s plans. The Corkonian has a big decision to make.
Liam Rushe caused the Cats problems today, but under the watchful eye of Paul Murphy, he struggled to have much influence on the game. When Murphy was booked, Rushe grew into the game. Simply, if Brian Cody assigns the Danesfort defender to you, it is the ultimate compliment. This is testament to Rushe’s raw ability.
Dublin are by no means the finished article, and with key positions such as full-back and midfield to be sorted, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Last week the Dubs comfortably saw off Tipperary, but it was disregarded due to the Premier’s lackluster display. This week, they did the same to Kilkenny, but many will point to the phantom red card. This may be true, but Dublin are beginning to look the real deal under Cunningham. Watch this space.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena