Kilkenny 2-16 Galway 2-15
By Brendan Larkin
RICHIE POWER was the hero for Kilkenny minors when he hit the winning point deep in injury time to deny Galway in a thrilling All-Ireland MHC final at Croke Park yesterday.
The Carrickshock youngster contributed nine points of his side’s tally, eight of them from frees, as the Marble County put back-to-back titles together over a Galway side that came into the game with great credentials but who were over-reliant on their captain Niall Healy for scores.
Indeed, apart from the magnificent finish to the game, this final will be remembered for the scoring exploits of Power and Healy who thrilled the capacity attendance with their superb artistry.
Healy scored 1-11 of his side’s tally, 10 points from frees, to mark him out a player of exceptional talent. Unfortunately, he lacked support and that effectively cost his side the match.
The game was a personal triumph for John Tennyson who played at full back for Kilkenny 18 days after he had his appendix removed and he certainly showed no ill-effects.
In a game that ebbed and flowed over the hour, the closing minutes were hectic after Donal Reilly tied the game for the second time with a point a minute from time.
Both sides would have gladly settled for another day out, as the referee called for three minutes of injury time. The exchanges were razor keen in those closing minutes and when Richie Power missed his shot in front of goal it looked as if the game would end in a draw.
However, the ball came back to Power who knocked over the lead point and while Galway battled to save the game, it proved to be the winner.
Both keepers were called into action very early, Galway’s Aidan Ryan saving well from Eoin Guinan and Colm Grant from Aongus Callinan after Derek Reilly’s shot came back off the upright, all in the opening minute. Defences were clearly working to instructions and the game began to develop into a personal dual between Power and Healy as they knocked over a succession of points from frees which left Kilkenny 0-6 to 0-3 in front at the end of the opening quarter.
Galway opted to play with two in the full-forward line but the defending champions enjoyed the lion’s share of the exchanges with the result that the Galway defence began to struggle under the pressure exerted by Maurice Nolan, James Fitzpatrick and, in particular, Richie Power.
In an effort to try and curtail their influence, Galway switched corner backs with reasonable effect and, with the ploy of playing two inside forwards beginning to work for the Connacht side, they had the deficit down to the minimum after 20 minutes, principally through the excellent free-taking of Niall Healy.
Galway’s pressure on the Kilkenny defence paid a handsome dividend a couple of minutes later when Donal Reilly crossed the ball into the square where it was missed by the Kilkenny backs and the unmarked Healy blasted the net to give his side the lead foronly the second time in the half.However, the cheering had hardly died down when Kilkenny struck back with a goal of their own, a splendid effort from Eoin Guinan after he mishit his first shot.
Galway refused to be rattled and with Healy continuing to orchestrate matters in attack, they struck for their second goal when Healy drove an inch perfect pass across the face of the Kilkenny square for Niall Callanan to give the westerners a 2-8 to 1-10 half time head.
Kilkenny resumed with all guns blazing and, in the space of seven minutes, had rattled in 1-4 without reply.
The goal came following a long delivery by Donncha Cody which two Galway defenders failed to block and James Fitzpatrick rattled the net from five metres out.
Galway were in serous trouble now and their sideline introduced two subs to good effect and in a marvellous eight-minute spell, they hit over five unanswered points, three of them from Healy, to trail 2-14 to 2-12 after 50 minutes play.
There was no let up in the intensity as both sides battled for supremacy and in a welter of excitement Galway drew level after Donal Reilly pointed with a minute to go.
Three minutes of added time was magnificent as chances were taken by both teams but the last chance fell to Power who took it with confidence.
Scorers for Kilkenny: R. Power 0-9 (0-1 free); J. Fitzpatrick, E. Guinan 1-2 each; M. Nolan 0-2; D. Cody 0-1.
Galway: N. Healy 1-11 (0-9 frees); N. Callanan 1-0; D. Reilly 0-2; A. Callanan, E. Fenton 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: C. Grant; J. Dalton, J. Tennyson, S. Cadigan; D. Cody, D. Prendergast, P. O’Donovan; P. Hartley, E. McGrath; M. Fennelly, R. Power, A. Healy; M. Nolan, J. Fitzpatrick, E. Guinan.
Subs. A. Murphy for McGrath; R. Wall for Healy; D. McCormack for Hartley.
GALWAY: A. Ryan; T. Linnane, G. Moran, D. Kennedy; D. Ryan, J. Lee, R. Whyte; C. Burke, D. Kelly; N. Coleman, D. Garvey, N. Callanan; D. Reilly, A. Callanan, N. Healy.
Subs. A. Diviney for Kennedy; E. Fenton for Burke; K. Hynes for N. Coleman.
Referee, D. Kirwan (Cork).