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Contrasting emotions after Wild Geese Trophy

Galway's Niall Burke is congratulated after hitting what proved to be the winning free in the Wild Geese Trophy clash with Kilkenny. 

Galway's Niall Burke is congratulated after hitting what proved to be the winning free in the Wild Geese Trophy clash with Kilkenny. 

By John Harrington

Galway manager Micheál Donoghue was understandably delighted with the character his team showed to come from 14 points down to defeat Kilkenny in today’s Wild Geese Trophy clash in Sydney.

The Tribesmen were completely outclassed for most of the first-half and found themselves trailing by 2-14 to 0-6 after 27 minutes.

But they were much improved in the second-half and drew level at the end of normal time when substitute Joe Mooney smashed the sliotar to the roof of the Kilkenny net.

That meant the match had to be decided by a free-taking competition, which Galway won 4-3 after five shots each.

“We were a bit disappointed in ourselves with the performance in the first half,” admitted Donoghue after the match.

“We had a good chat at half-time and the players took massive ownership in there.

“Obviously we were very mindful of where we were and the distance that we travelled. There's a clear understanding in this group of the responsibility that goes with wearing this jersey. They spoke about that at half-time and came out and gave a great performance.

“But I think ultimately this whole week and today was just about promoting our game. In terms of the winning and losing, obviously we're all very competitive and want to win it, but I think it was about promoting our game here in Australia and the reception and welcome we've gotten since we arrived has been overwhelming and humbling.

“We're just delighted to be here and hopefully winning it means we can come back again.”

Galway have had a very settled team for the past two years, so a big positive for Donoghue was the performance of some less familiar faces who did enough to suggest they’ll be pushing hard for game-time in 2019.

“Most of them, Jack (Coyne) and Joe (Mooney) and Shane Bannon, all the lads that came on, last year was their first year in the panel so they've bedded in well and are beginning to understand their responsibility and what goes with it.

“They came on and all contributed massively. The pleasing thing is that when you're down like that in a game it's a huge team effort. They kept driving forward and using the ball really well and created the overlaps and then the opportunities came and we took them.”

Galway are the winners of the inaugural Wild Geese Trophy. 

Galway are the winners of the inaugural Wild Geese Trophy. 

This was a match Kilkenny looked like winning for most of its duration, so their manager Brian Cody was understandably disappointed by the nature of the defeat.

“Yeah, naturally you should be disappointed,” he said. “As players every time you tog out to play a competitive game you want to win it. Winning matters and losing is disappointing so, of course, we're disappointed to lose it.

“Look, it was a very, very decent game, a very competitive game. Strangely enough I suppose both teams played better into the wind.

“I suppose we put ourselves in a good position during the game but they came at us late and caught us. Then there wasn't a replay or extra-time, there was a free-taking competition. That can go whatever way it goes and it went their way today.”

There were plenty of positives in defeat for Kilkenny. Debutant Huw Lawlor was very impressive at full-back, while Richie Hogan and Ger Aylward both looked fit and sharp again after a couple of years dogged by injury.

“Yeah, there's no doubt about it, he (Huw Lawlor) played well,” said Cody. “He's a good player. He's been with us all year in training and he's a good player who's developing nicely for us.

“Richie is free from injury at the moment so obviously the hope would be that he'll continue to be free from injury and be able to keep things going.

“Ger has had a tough time with injuries for the last few years and, again, it's heartening for himself to be able to get through that. To have 40 minutes in a game like that and come away with a nice few scores is good for him.”