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Dublin retain Leinster title but questions still remain for Dessie Farrell’s All-Ireland champions 

Dublin 0-20 Kildare 1-9


Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin is tackled by Kevin Flynn of Kildare

Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin is tackled by Kevin Flynn of Kildare

Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin is tackled by Kevin Flynn of Kildare

Respectability for Kildare, more questions for Dublin.

The current champions may have hit the 20-point mark but there were enough mistakes and hesitancy in the performance once more to make a stronger case now that they are coming right back to the pack.

Whether that manifests again on Saturday week when they meet Mayo in the first All-Ireland semi-final remains to be seen but for now, the ritual slaughter that the Leinster Championship has become in this era of Dublin dominance has abated.

They've won their 11th successive Delaney Cup by a cumulative margin of 22 points with an eight-point win over Wexford, a six-point win over Meath and now eight again between themselves and Kildare here. Not the footprint of a team renowned for its ruthlessness.

There was never a doubt about it, it must be said, not even when Daniel Flynn broke through for the game's only goal on 62 minutes, a brilliant solo effort that left just five points between them, 0-16 to 1-8.

But Dublin continued to play that unfussed, 'no panic' game, denying the opposition the oxygen of possession and eventually the game petered out with Dublin substitute Ryan Basquel denied a late goal, adjudged by referee Martin McNally to have overcarried in the 73rd minute.

There were some off colour performances in blue but Ciaran Kilkenny had a strong second half and Cormac Costello continued his fine season, adding four points, two in each half.

They had John Small back on the field from the start too after his recovery from a hamstring picked up in the league match against Kerry in May though he was later withdrawn with what may have been a head injury. His temporary replacement was Eoin Murchan, who has missed the opening two championship matches, another presence they'll be glad to see back in action.

Dublin took a four-point, 0-9 to 0-5 lead in at the end of a drab first half with neither side looking like scoring a goal.

All told it was an uneventful opening 36 or so minutes with more uncharacteristic mistakes from Dublin, the unusual sight of Brian Fenton kicking a pass away in the added time probably stand out for the simple reasons that it's so rare that it's seen. On another occasion Con O'Callaghan dropped short into goalkeeper Mark Donnellan's arms off his left from close range when normally, it's a 'given.'

Kildare got to the first water break just 0-5 to 0-4 behind and feeling quite good about themselves.

But they just weren't clinical in the final third with Ben McCormack landing two shots into Evan Comerford's hands, on top of two wides.

Flynn was a threat throughout with his pace asking questions of Davy Byrne while Kevin Flynn always looked capable of breaking the line.

But Dublin were just that little bit more fluent at the other end. Costello landed two points and memorably got back deep to make a tackle on Flynn in the 18th minute.

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Kildare brought in Shea Ryan for Alex Beirne and he played as a seventh defender, a congestion that did have some success in executing some early steals.

Gradually Kildare began to make more mistakes and when Mick Fitzsimons stripped McCormack of possession in the 30th minute Costello popped over his second shot to open a three-point lead, 0-8 to 0-5.

Dublin pulled clear in the third quarter and led by 0-15 to 0-8 at the second water break before Brian Howard made it double scores, 0-16 to 0--8.

When Flynn struck it briefly engaged the crowd but normal service resumed and Kildare remained at arm's length with just a point from substitute Brian McLoughlin in the closing stages.

Afterwards Jonny Cooper accepted the Delaney Cup on his team's behalf, the first time in 19 cup presentations to a Dublin captain that it wasn't Stephen Cluxton with the exception of the 2018 Leinster final when Cooper deputised for the injured goalkeeper.

Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-5 (3fs), C Kilkenny (1m), C Costello 0-4 each, N Scully 0-2 (1m), J McCarthy, B Howard, C O'Callaghan, P Small, R Basquel all 0-1 each.

Kildare: D Flynn 1-2 (0-1m), J Hyland 0-4 (2fs), N Flynn, A Beirne, B McLoughlin all 0-1 each.

Dublin: E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, D Byrne, S McMahon; B Howard, J Small, J Cooper; B Fenton, J McCarthy; P Small, C Kilkenny, N Scully; C Costello, C O'Callaghan, D Rock. Subs: E Murchan for J Small temp (41), C Basquel for Rock (53), S Bugler for P Small (60), T Lahiff for Cooper (69), R Basquel for O'Callaghan (70), E O Conghaile for Kilkenny (73)

Kildare: M Donnellan; M O'Grady, M Dempsey, D Malone; K Flynn, D Hyland, R Houlihan; L Flynn, A Masterson; S Ryan, F Conway, N Flynn; B McCormack, D Flynn, J Hyland. Subs: A Beirne for Conway (45), N Kelly for Houlihan (45), D Kirwan for Hyland (58), B McLoughlin for N Flynn (61), S O'Sullivan for McCormack (64).

Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)

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