Leinster SHC Final: Kilkenny beat Galway in thriller
Leinster SHC Final
KILKENNY 2-20 GALWAY 0-24
By John Harrington at Croke Park
Two goals in the space of 40 seconds proved crucial as Kilkenny defeated Galway in a rip-roaring Leinster SHC Final this evening.
It had looked like a dominant Galway were turning the screw in the second-half when a Jason Flynn free pushed them five points ahead on 55 minutes.
But then super-sub Richie Hogan ignited Kilkenny’s comeback with a goal as sublime as you’re ever likely to see.
With his first touch he killed a high-ball down into his path, with his second he dinked it away from onrushing Galway goalkeeper Éanna Murphy, with his third he controlled it on his hurley, and with his fourth he doubled it it to the back of the net.
If there has ever been a wristier goal scored in a match of this magnitude, I’d love to see it.
While Galway were still seeing stars, Kilkenny hit them with another hay-marker almost immediately, and once more it was a goal of the highest quality.
TJ Reid raced onto a perfectly angled ball and then showed a touch of class by dummying a strike to buy himself a yard before flicking it up off his hurley again and driving it to the top corner.
In the blink of a Cats eye Kilkenny had gone from five down to one up, but in the following minutes it still looked like Galway would win this match.
David Burke came off the game to give them a real surge of impetus and two points from him and a brace from Canning pushed them two ahead again.
But it was Kilkenny who had the stronger lungs down the final stretch as they hit the final four points of the match to claim what must be a very sweet 16th Leinster title for manager Brian Cody.
It was a rollicking end to a match that had a good tempo throughout.
Galway found their rhythm in the game a little earlier than Kilkenny with Johnny Coen banging over a long-range point and then Joe Canning landing a free after Brian Concannon did well to draw the foul.
Kilkenny’s first score was a free from TJ Reid, and his prowess from placed balls would become a feature of the half.
Both defences were marking tight and tackling hard and it was rare a forward would have the luxury of taking a ball in space.
But quite often the defending was of the over-exuberant variety and fouls were conceded at both ends of the pitch with the Galway defence especially culpable.
Kilkenny needed those frees because they were struggling to create much from open play whereas Galway were finding their scores a little bit easier as Cathal Mannion, Conor Whelan, and then Johnny Coen again landed points from play.
Both teams were working very hard without the ball, and Galway briefly seized the psychological initiative when a posse of their forwards halted Conor Delaney and forced him to concede a free for over-carrying.
Joe Canning converted that and immediately from the puck-out more pressure from Galway forced another turnover which Canning popped over the bar.
Briefly it looked like Galway were starting to win this arm-wrestle of a contest, but then Kilkenny corner-forward Eoin Cody started to really make his presence felt by winning two frees that Reid pointed to draw the teams level again.
The moment of the game so far came on 22 minutes when Joe Canning stood over the sideline and picked out the run from deep of Joseph Cooney with laser-guided precision. Cooney gave the pass the finish it deserve as he fired over the bar on the run.
The tit-for-tat nature of the contested persisted throughout the half as the game swung from one end of the field to another.
Eoin Cody remained Kilkenny’s stand-out performer, as first he swivelled to score a nice point and then set up Martin Keoghan for another classy point with a great catch, surging run, and perfectly popped hand-pass.
It was Joe canning who had the last say of the half, as his crisply struck shot from the left touch-line arrowed between the posts for another high-calibre score that left his team leading 0-13 to 0-12 by the break.
The first ten minutes followed the same over and back rhythm as the first-half, but then Galway took control in a ten minute spell that saw them score five points without reply from Kilkenny.
They could even have finished the match as a contest in that period, as Jason Flynn had a shot well saved by Eoin Murphy, and Joe Canning drilled in a fiercely struck 21 yard free that was stopped on the line.
But just when it looked like they were building a winning momentum, Kilkenny did what great Kilkenny teams of the past made a good habit of, they banged in a couple of goals in quick succession.
Perhaps it was no surprise either that two of the veterans of all-conquering Kilkenny teams of yore, Reid and Hogan, should provide them.
It was Hogan’s introduction and Reid’s move into full-forward where he could work in tandem with his long-time team-mate that gave the Kilkenny attack the cutting edge it had previously lacked.
When Galway briefly threatened to wrest back control of the game in the closing minutes it was a sublime pass from Reid to Hogan for a point that could have been another goal that gave Kilkenny another surge of adrenalin.
Points from Conor Browne and Martin Keoghan pushed them back into the lead and it was that man Hogan who brought the curtain down on a great win and brilliant individual performance with the final score of the match.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-10 (9f), Richie Hogan 1-2, Conor Browne 0-2, Martin Keoghan 0-2, John Donnelly 0-1, Padraig Walsh 0 -1, Liam Blanchfield 0-1, Eoin Cody 0-1
Scorers for Galway: Joe Canning 0-14 (9f, 1 sideline, 1 ’65), Conor Whelan 0-2, Johnny Coen 0-2, David Burke 0-2, Brian Concannon 0-1, Jason Flynn 0-1, Joseph Cooney 0-1, Cathal Mannion 0-1
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Conor Delaney, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Pádraig Walsh, Cillian Buckley, Conor Browne; Richie Leahy, Conor Fogarty; John Donnelly, TJ Reid, Martin Keoghan; Walter Walsh, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Cody. Subs: Richie Hogan for Walter Walsh (45), Liam Blanchfield for Colin Fennelly (52), Richie Reid for Conor Fogarty (56), Niall Brassil for Eoin Cody (61), Alan Murphy for Richie Leahy (61)
GALWAY: Éanna Murphy; Seán Loftus, Daithí Burke, Shane Cooney; Joseph Cooney, Gearóid McInerney, Fintan Burke; Padraic Mannion, Johnny Coen; Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion, Joe Canning; Conor Whelan, Niall Burke, Brian Concannon. Subs: Aidan Harte for Sean Loftus (ht), Jason Flynn for Niall Burke (40), David Burke for Conor Cooney (59), Adrian Tuohey for Johnn Coen (69), Sean Linnane for Shane Cooney (70)
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)