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Whoever scheduled this afternoon’s double-whammy of provincial finals obviously wasn’t massively concerned about the plight of the poor liveblogger. Apologies for the lack of build-up but I was occupied trying to keep pace with Kerry’s Munster football final success – if you missed it, you missed a gem.

This afternoon’s Leinster SHC final throws-in in Croke Park in just over five minutes. I guess I should go and get the team news pretty sharpish, shouldn’t I?

First up, here are the defending champions:

Kilkenny: David Herity; Noel Hickey, JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell; Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan (capt), Paul Murphy; Michael Fennelly, Michael Rice; TJ Reid, Richie Power, Eoin Larkin; Colin Fennelly, Henry Shefflin, Richie Hogan.

And here are the 2011 Allianz National Hurling League champions:

Dublin: Gary Maguire; Niall Corcoran, Peter Kelly, Oisin Gough; John McCaffrey (capt), Joey Boland, Shane Durkin; Liam Rushe, Alan McCrabbe; Simon Lambert, Conal Keaney, Conor McCormack; David O’Callaghan, Paul Ryan, Peadar Carton.

The national anthem rings out around headquarters. Of course, this is a much stronger Kilkenny side than that which crumbled against the Dubs in the league final. The Dubs for their part are missing Ryan O’Dwyer and Tomas Brady. How will those personnel changes influence matters?

We’re off and running in Croker. Kilkenny playing into Hill 16 in this opening period.

Plenty of positional changes for Kilkenny in these early stages with Eoin Larkin going in to full-forward. A Henry Shefflin free opens proceedings. Kilkenny 0-01 Dublin 0-00

And that’s quickly followed by our first score from play, slotted by Cats midfielder Michael Rice. Kilkenny 0-02 Dublin 0-00

Oisin Gough is penalised for lying over the ball on the ground, allowing Shefflin to point another straightforward free. Kilkenny have definitely started the stronger of the two in these opening six minutes. Kilkenny 0-03 Dublin 0-00

Dublin are struggling to win their own puck-outs which is allowing Kilkenny to put their back six under a lot of pressure. TJ Reid has a go from distance but his shot is just off target.

And there’s another wide, Kilkenny’s third of the game, courtesy of Henry Shefflin. That’s a little bit wasteful, but the Cats are making plenty of scoring opportunities early on.

Alan McCrabbe draws a free for Dublin, allowing Paul Ryan to open Dublin’s account. Kilkenny 0-03 Dublin 0-01

GOAL! Kilkenny 1-3 Dublin 0-1 (Larkin, 11′) Colin Fennelly breaks before setting Eoin Larkin free on the right. The angle is narrow but he’s able to power the ball past Gary Maguire in the Dublin goal. Cracking start by Kilkenny. Dublin not really at the races yet.

A fine individual effort by Alan McCrabbe raises the umpire’s flag. Kilkenny 1-03 Dublin 0-02

Wonderful play by Kilkenny. The build-up between Larkin and Shefflin is perfect, giving Richie Hogan acres of space to take his point. Kilkenny 1-04 Dublin 0-02

Shane Durkin pounces on a loose ball in midfield, handpassing to Conor McCormack whose effort just about has the legs and the direction. Kilkenny 1-04 Dublin 0-3

Once again, Kilkenny engineer a massive amount of space around the half-forward line. Michael Rice doesn’t need to be asked twice and he converts his second point of the day. Kilkenny 1-5 Dublin 0-3

GOAL! Kilkenny 2-5 Dublin 0-3 (Fennelly, 20′) Brilliant by Colin Fennelly. He collects the ball out in the right corner, soloing expertly as he breezes past Oisin Gough, giving Maguire no chance in the Dublin goal. Kilkenny are out to prove a point this afternoon, it would seem.

Alan McCrabbe does his bit to keep Dublin in contention, scoring his second point from play. Kilkenny 2-05 Dublin 0-4

Liam Rushe is booked for slapping down with the hurl. “King Henry” does the necessary from the free, as you might expect. Kilkenny 2-06 Dublin 0-4

A free from Paul Ryan reduces Kilkenny’s advantage to seven points. Kilkenny 2-06 Dublin 0-5

A little bit of handbags there around the Kilkenny half-forward line, the upshot of which is that Shefflin gets flattened by a huge shoulder from Conal Keaney. Everything settles down rather quickly, but there is a bit of a niggle creeping into this game.

And now it’s Peter Kelly and Shefflin who go head-to-head. Dalo briefly threatens to get involved from the touchline, gesticulating quite pointedly in the Kilkenny man’s direction.

A wonderful distance free from Paul Ryan keeps Dublin within a respectable margin. The Dubs fans in Croker are starting to get behind their team – can the league champions step up a gear or two? Kilkenny 2-06 Dublin 0-06

Maurice O’Brien squanders possession in the middle of the park and it comes back to bite Dublin rather quickly, Eoin Larkin flicking over a score from the right corner. Kilkenny 2-07 Dublin 0-06

Magnificent goalkeeping by David Herity there to deny Dublin a goal. Shane Durkin’s dropping ball came off Noel Hickey’s shoulder, wrongfooting the goalkeeper who, with little more than millimetres to spare, managed to stretch his hurl back and flick the ball away. Wonderful.

Paul Ryan adds another point to his personal tally shortly afterwards. Kilkenny 2-07 Dublin 0-07

TJ Reid’s effort drops down off the left upright into the small square. Gary Maguire struggles to deal with with the loose ball, flicking it straight to Shefflin who takes his point. He adds another from a free to make it Kilkenny 2-09 Dublin 0-07.

Brian Hogan, Kilkenny’s centre-half and captain, reaps the rewards for his decision to venture upfield, finishing with a beautifully-taken score. Kilkenny 2-10 Dublin 0-07

HALF-TIME: Kilkenny 2-10 Dublin 0-7 That’s our lot for the opening 35. I’ll be back in a very brief minute, which should just about allow you enough time to compose your thoughts on the first half and send them on to me. Go on …

Just about ready to go for the second half. Kilkenny are back out on the pitch while Dalo continues to administer the hairdryer in the Dublin dressing room.

What do Dublin need to do to come back into this? If they can’t win more ball on the own puck-out and if they can’t make the ball stick in the half-forward line, they have no chance.

We’re back underway. Kilkenny will have a slight breeze in their favour in this second period.

A wonderful chance for Simon Lambert who rises unchallenged to meet Alan McCrabbe’s sideline cut. He really should score from a couple of yards out but somehow fails to guide it towards the goal.

Almost immediately, Henry Shefflin converts a free down the other end of the field. By such margins etc … Kilkenny 2-11 Dublin 0-7

Paul Ryan opens Dublin’s second half account with a free. The gap is back to nine points. Kilkenny 2-11 Dublin 0-08

GOAL! Kilkenny 3-11 Dublin 0-08 (Shefflin, 43′) Without being disrespectful, I fear that may be that for Dublin’s Leinster final ambitions. TJ Reid seizes a breaking ball in midfield and plays a monster handpass to set Henry Shefflin scampering clear with only Gary Maguire to beat. He doesn’t miss.

Paul Ryan does what he has to do from a free, but Dublin need a minor miracle to get themselves back into this game. Kilkenny 3-11 Dublin 0-09

Another Shefflin free takes his personal tally for the day to 1-7. Not bad for a player who probably isn’t even fully fit yet. Kilkenny 3-12 Dublin 0-09

Maurice O’Brien chips away at Kilkenny’s huge advantage and, shortly afterwards, substitute Daire Plunkett frees himself from Brian Hogan’s attentions to knock another point off the gap. Kilkenny 3-12 Dublin 0-11

The Richies combine for Kilkenny, with Power playing Hogan in on the right where he scores under no pressure whatsoever. Kilkenny 3-13 Dublin 0-11

A Dublin free gives Paul Ryan the opportunity to score his seventh point of the day. Kilkenny 3-13 Dublin 0-12

Wonderful hurling by both teams. Eoin Larkin uses a masterful touch to gain possession of the ball before firing it at the Dublin net. A diving Gary Maguire gets just enough hurl on the ball to turn it around the post. Brilliant stuff.

Unusually, Shefflin misses the resulting 65. Looks like he’s human after all.

Paul Ryan scores one of his more difficult frees of the afternoon, converting from out by the right touchline. Kilkenny 3-13 Dublin 0-13

GOAL! Kilkenny 3-13 Dublin 1-13 (Ryan, 57′) A lifeline for Dublin. Jackie Tyrrell is penalised for a big hit on Maurice O’Brien and, from the edge of the large rectangle, Paul Ryan drills the ball through the crowd and past David Herity. Six point game with 13 minutes remaining. Hmmm …

GOAL! Kilkenny 4-13 Dublin 1-13 (Rice, 58′) That lasted all of about 25 seconds by my calculation. Straight from the puck-out, Kilkenny charge down the field and Michael Rice makes no mistake with the goal at his mercy.

Richie Hogan effortlessly taps another point over the bar. What was a six-point game minutes ago is now a ten-point game once again. Kilkenny 4-14 Dublin 1-13

Dublin are still creating chances, even if it is of relatively little consequence at this stage in proceedings. Paul Ryan does excellently to field a dropping ball but he is crowded out by the black and amber jerseys before he can get his shot away. Then, Daire Plunkett again shows a nice turn of foot to create a goal opportunity, but he fails to make proper contact from a tight angle.

Shefflin at one end, Keaney at the other. Just under five minutes to play in Croker. Kilkenny 4-15 Dublin 1-14

Kilkenny are making this look like a training run now. Eoin Larkin has all the time in the world to pick his spot before sending the ball between the uprights. Kilkenny 4-16 Dublin 1-14

As the game ticks into injury time, Paul Ryan adds another point from close range. Kilkenny 4-16 Dublin 1-15

Inevitably, a Kilkenny free leads to a point for Shefflin. That’ll probably be the last of it. Kilkenny 4-17 Dublin 1-15

FULL-TIME: Kilkenny 4-17 Dublin 1-15 An 11-point victory for Kilkenny as they claim their 68th Leinster SHC title – their seventh in a row.

Although Brian Cody’s men were justifiably the favourites, I don’t think too many people saw that coming. In fact, the bookies’ spread of six points was seen to be overly generous by most. Obviously not.

That’s our lot. Kilkenny lift the Bob O’Keeffe Cup and progress to the All-Ireland Semi-Finals; Dublin will have to negotiate a quarter-final tie against one of the successful qualifiers first.

We’ll have more reaction later on this evening, so if you have any thoughts and comments, feel free to send them in to us.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Niall Kelly

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