By Jim O’Sullivan
KILKENNY may have trailed for much of yesterday’s All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final but they had the scoring touch when it mattered most — in the final minutes.
Substitute Eoin Reid’s 43rd minute goal revived their challenge after Galway had made the running all through the first half and, after midfielder Cathal Dervan was off target with two frees, Kilkenny grabbed the lead through Richie Power.
Just like their seniors, they finished the stronger, with a score from Willie O’Dwyer ensuring they go through to the final against Tipperary.
Galway trailed for less than a minute at the start after James Fitzpatrick picked off the opening score. And, in their first attack, Kenneth Burke goaled in spectacular style.
A second goal followed from the same player in the eighth minute and it put the Westerners in a strong position.
Kilkenny were enjoying a wind advantage but it counted for little because of the way Galway were hurling so confidently, impressing in their speedy and direct style of play.
They were doing well at midfield. Iarlaith Tannian’s strong play in the centre forced Kilkenny to bring Keith Nolan in from the left wing in a bid to curb him and team captain Joe Gantley was showing good form in the left.
But it was Burke who had the real scoring touch, hitting some good scores and finishing the half with an impressive 2-3 to his credit. Kilkenny’s forwards were not quite as threatening, although Power, son of the former senior star also called Richie, looked dangerous.
He demonstrated that with a great goal in the 13th minute, when he cut in from the wing and got past several defenders before scoring with a powerful low shot.
It brought Kilkenny to within two points, but Galway’s forward strength meant they were able to add on the scores and maintain their lead all the way to the break.
However, they were fortunate not to concede a goal in the 20th minute when James Fitzpatrick challenged for possession in the small square before left corner-back James Farrell broke free with the ball. It was 2-8 to 1-8 at half-time for Galway.
During the break Kilkenny manager Nicky Cashin and his co-selectors decided on some significant changes.
They brought P.J. Delaney to centre-back from midfield, to where team captain Michael Rice was switched from centre-forward.
And, with O’Dwyer coming out to the centre, substitute Reid from the Shamrocks slotted in nicely at full-forward.
The changes, and several others that were to follow, took time to boost Kilkenny’s challenge, but they were level when Reid got a touch to a long free to get their second goal.
A minute later James Fitzpatrick had them back in front and while that score, and another ‘lead’ point from Rice, were answered by Galway, it was the Leinster champions who were playing the better hurling.
Kilkenny took back the advantage with three minutes remaining and it was notable that full-back John Tennyson made a vital catch at the edge of the square before O’Dwyer picked off the last score in injury time.
Scorers for Kilkenny: R. Power 1-5; J. Fitzpatrick 0-4; E. Reid 1-0; P.J. Delaney, M. Rice, S. Coonan and W. O’Dwyer 0-1 each.
Galway: K. Burke 2-5; C. Dervan 0-3 frees; J. Gantley 0-2; I. Tannian 0-1.
KILKENNY: C. Grant; P. Holden, J. Tennyson, D. Prendergast; S. Cadogan, C. Hoyne, K. Nolan; P.J. Delaney, S. Maher; R. Power, M. Rice, S. Coonan; J. Fitzpatrick, W. O’Dwyer, A. Healy. Subs: E. Reid for Hoyne (second half); P. Kennedy for Cadogan (44th).
GALWAY; A. Ryan; D. Reilly, B. Costello, J. Farrell; D. Collins, A. Garvey, K. Brisco; C. Dervan, N. Callanan; E. Lucas, I. Tannian, J. Gantley (capt.); N. Healy, A. Callanan, K. Burke. Subs: D. Kelly for Callinan (21st minute); D. Garvey for Lucas (23rd); D. Reilly for Callanan (53rd); K. Huban for Gantley (56th); P. Flynn for Brisco (60th).
Referee: J. Sexton (Limerick).