Galway crowned Leinster SHC champions after thriller
Leinster SHC Final replay
GALWAY 1-28 KILKENNY 3-15
By John Harrington at Semple Stadium
Galway had to beat Kilkenny twice before they could finally put their hands safely on the Bob O’Keeffe Cup after today’s thrilling Leinster SHC Final replay at Semple Stadium.
It looked like the Tribesmen were going to romp to a high-scoring victory when they raced into a 1-9 to 0-1 lead after 19 minutes and stretched their advantage to 12 points near the end of the first-half.
But a Ger Aylward goal just before half-time restored Kilkenny’s pulse and then they set their supporters’ hearts racing with a stirring comeback that saw them close to within a point of Galway by the 55th minute.
Credit to Galway though, they didn’t panic, and in the final 15 minutes plus injury-time upped through the gears again to out-score Kilkenny by eight points to two.
That meant they ultimately topped and tailed their win with a haul of 1-17 in 35 minutes, and some of their attacking play in those periods of the match was something really special.
But you can be sure though that Micheál Donoghue will be poring over the tape of the period of the match that saw them outscored by 3-7 to 0-5 when Kilkenny threatened a trademark comeback.
That sort of vista would have seemed unimaginable for most of the first half when Galway cut the Cats to pieces.
Their physical intensity was several notches higher than it had been in the drawn Leinster Final, and Kilkenny were withered by it.Last weekend Kilkenny players were able to pick their way downfield with short-passing and clever supporting-running.
But when they tried to do that in the opening quarter of this match they were smashed back time and again by ferocious Galway tackling.
Galway’s superior work-rate began to tell on the score-board and they were already three points to the good when Jonathan Glynn struck for the game’s first goal.
The big Ardrahan man was a late replacement for Conor Cooney and he justified his promotion by winning a high ball above Padraig Walsh before turning and firing to the net past Eoin Murphy.
Galway were rampant now. In the drawn match the Kilkenny full-back line had dominated, but now they were being burned badly by Glynn, Cathal Mannion, and Conor Whelan who were making hay with the well-judged deliveries coming their way.
Three more points from that trio helped Galway into an 11-point lead by the 19th minute, and Kilkenny were looking all at sea.
They got some sort of traction when John Donnelly, TJ Reid, and Joey Holden hit three points in as many minutes, but Galway simply put their foot on the accelerator again to hit the next five points of the match.
There was more woe for Kilkenny then when Walter Walsh was forced off with an injury.
Leading by 1-15 to 0-6, it looked like Galway had one hand and a few fingers on the Cup, but Kilkenny gave themselves a flicker of hope when Ger Aylward scored a goal against the run of play just before half-time when he booted the sliotar to the net from close-range.
Galway still looked very comfortable at the break, leading by 1-16 to 1-8, but Kilkenny were a very different animal in the second-half.
They were energised by the introduction of half-time substitutes Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan who brought some much-needed bite to their previously toothless attack.
It was Fennelly who ignited the comeback when he pulled a ground-stroke to the net after James Maher’s attempted point rebounded into his path after coming down off the post.
Points from Hogan, Conor Fogarty, and TJ Reid reduced the gap to four points, and then Hogan had the Kilkenny supporters in the stadium hopping when he first-timed a ground-stroke to the net after TJ Reid’s first made the hard yards with a bullish run.
Now, incredibly, there was just a point between the teams, 1-20 to 3-13, and Galway supporters must have been panicking.
Their players didn’t, though. Joe Canning landed a nice point and then the irresistible Cathal Mannion hit his fifth and sixth points of the day to settle his team back down again.
The crisis had now passed, and from there Galway strode confidently to the finish line, scoring five of the last six points.
Perhaps this was the best way for them to win a second Leinster title in a row. They’ve proven their hunger and class remains undiminished, and manager Micheál Donoghue also has a stick to beat his team with between now and the All-Ireland semi-final.
As for Kilkenny, they have just a week to pick themselves back up off the ground before their All-Ireland Quarter-Final clash with Limerick, which will be their third match in as many weeks.
From this remove, that looks like a really tricky test.
Scorers for Galway: Joe Canning 0-10 (6f) Cathal Mannion 0-6, Conor Whelan 0-4, Jonathan Glynn 1-1, Niall Burke 0-2, Aidan Harte 0-2, Joseph Cooney 0-1, Conor Cooney 0-1, J Flynn 0-1
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-9 (6f, 1 ’65) Colin Fennelly 1-1, Richie Hogan 1-1, Ger Aylward 1-0, Joey Holden 0-1, Conor Fogarty 0-1, James Maher 0-1, John Donnelly 0-1,
GALWAY: James Skehill; Adrian Tuohey, Daithi Burke, John Hanbury; Padraig Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Aidan Harte; Johnny Coen, David Bourke; Joseph Cooney, Joe Canning, Niall Burke; Conor Whelan, Jonathan Glynn, Cathal Mannion. Subs: Conor Cooney for Niall Burke (46), Jason Flynn for Joseph Cooney (61), Sean Loftus for David Burke (69)
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh; Paddy Deegan, Joey Holden, Cillian Buckley, Enda Morrissey; Conor Fogarty, James Maher; John Donnelly, TJ Reid, Richie Leahy; Billy Ryan, Walter Walsh, Ger Aylward. Subs: Liam Blanchfield for Walter Walsh (18), Richie Hogan for Billy Ryan (half-time), Colin Fennelly for Richie Leahy (half-time), Robert Lennon for Enda Morrissey (48), Luke Scanlon for John Donnelly (62)
Ref: James Owens (Wexford)