SUBSTITUTE Danny Purcell was Kilkenny’s hero with a match-winning goal two minutes from the end of time in a disappointing All-Ireland MHC final yesterday.
The win was Kilkenny’s first in five years but their manager Richie Mulrooney admitted his sympathy for the losers in the aftermath.
Galway had done all the hurling in a game which sprung to life in the closing quarter, and they appeared to have the title won as Kilkenny hit wide after wide.
However goals win matches and Kilkenny got three to break the hearts of a Galway outfit that deserved better from a game they had dominate for long periods.
It’s been a phenomenal season for young Purcell. Already an All-Ireland medal winner with De La Salle Waterford, he was introduced with seven minutes remaining by Mulrooney and the move paid a handsome dividend.
"Danny we need a goal and you are the man to get it for us" Mulrooney told the Mooncoin youngster and he duly delivered. For good measure he scored a point also.
For his team-mate Peter McCarthy it was also a year to remember as he was also a member of that victorious DLS team which defeated Thurles CBS in a thrilling colleges final replay in April.
Galway will be hugely disappointed at the result. A blistering third quarter which yielded seven points in a row saw them go from five down do at half time to two in front and seemingly in command. Kilkenny hit eight wides in that second period and all the signs were pointing to a western win. However they never panicked, kept plugging away and the introduction of both Purcell and Canice Maher added far greater penetration up front.
Two evenly-matched sides took time to settle and there was a shortage of scores until Joe Brennan gave Kilkenny the lead with a point after five minutes. Bernard Burke tied matters for the first time two minutes later before Galway began to dominate. Ronan Burke and Gerard O’Halloran dominated the full back line and with Declan Burke and David Glennon giving them control of midfield, the scores began to flow.
Three points in a row were added as the Burkes, Niall and Bernard began to exert huge pressure on the Kilkenny defence. At the end of the opening quarter the Connacht side led 0-5 to 0-2, with Kilkenny yet to score from play.
With limited possession the Leinster champions struggled for scores, but they were thrown a life line in the 16th minute when a careless pass from defence came to the unmarked Joe Brennan and his shot dropped into the Galway net for a rather fortuitous goal.
That strike tied the game for the third time, but it didn’t improve the play due the close marking and the sides were level for a fourth time after 25 minutes when Cathal Kenny cut a 40 metre line ball over the ball to cancel Bernard Burke’s 20th minute point.
The game lacked any great fluency but Kilkenny began to improve around the middle and grabbed another rather lucky goal in the 28th minute.
A massive clearance out of his own defence by Richard Doyle saw the Galway ‘keeper come off his line to challenge for the ball with his defenders and the sliothar broke out to captain Thomas Breen who first timed it to the empty net. A late point by Peter McCarthy saw they retire 2-5 to 0-6 in front at the break.
There was no improvement in the standard of play on the change over with both sides guilty of poor finishing. Galway wasted a great chance of a goal seconds after the resumption when Niall Burke failed to connect with a wonderful pass in front of the posts. Galway ploughed on and for the next 15 minutes they took control and rifled over seven points without reply to enjoy a two points lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Burkes, Bernard and Niall, along with Donal Cooney were hurling superbly and it was difficult to see Kilkenny recovering. However the introduction of Purcell changed all that and he finished Maher’s pass to the net for the lead goal which shattered the Tribesmen.