Kilkenny put Galway rookies to the sword

Kilkenny hammered a youthful Galway side at Nowlan Park to book their place in the Division 1 semi-finals.

Matthew Ruth (5 minutes), TJ Reid (13) and captain Eoin Larkin (30) all netted in the first half, handing the Cats a 3-12 to 0-6 interval lead.

There was no way back for Galway who will meet Dublin in a relegation play-off next weekend, while the sight of Richie Hogan being stretchered off was the only concern for Kilkenny boss Brian Cody.

After losing to Cork last time out, the All-Ireland champions got their campaign back on track with a dominant display as they outclassed their opponents in almost every position.

Goalkeeper Jamie Ryan and free-taker Niall Burke stood out but this was really a day to forget for the Tribesmen who were limited in their play and showed a lack of appetite for the game.

Cody made a number of changes to his team and they had the desired effect with newcomers like 2010 All-Ireland minor winning captain Cillian Buckley and Kieran Joyce showing well along with the more experienced Larkin, Tommy Walsh and man-of-the-match TJ Reid.

Ruth was added to the Kilkenny attack in place of the suspended Richie Power, while two changes to the Galway team saw Niall Donoghue and James Regan come in for Declan Connolly and David Burke respectively.

The omens for Anthony Cunningham's side were not good when Larkin landed a third minute free and Ruth raced through the centre to shot past net minder Ryan for a 1-1 to 0-0 lead.

Galway responded with two pinpoint frees from Niall Burke, but Kilkenny were in ruthless form and Reid's strike moved them 2-3 to 0-2 ahead after the Galway defence failed to clear their lines.

Burke sent over his third successful free but Kilkenny were far more potent and threatening in open play, led by Ballyhale ace Reid who excelled on the ball and also did a huge amount of work in setting up scores for his team-mates.

Reid had 1-03 from play by the half-time whistle. Larkin, having already converted five frees, finished off the Cats' third goal by the half hour mark. By contrast, the Galway forwards struggled to make an impact off limited ball and Cunningham decided to withdraw Iarla Tannian and Damian Hayes.

Burke and Andy Smith tried to rouse the visitors with a couple of noteworthy points, but Kilkenny were finding it far too easy to create scoring chances at the opposite end - indeed, Galway had Ryan to thank for keeping out two more goals as they turned around with a 15-point deficit to overcome.

Although Cody emptied his bench in the second half, there was no sign of Kilkenny taking their foot off the pedal as they continued to put Galway to the sword.

Corner back Paul Murphy was taken off after an impressive performance and Larkin was also called ashore after he put 20 points between the sides - 3-17 to 0-6.

Richie Hogan, Michael Fennelly, Larkin and Reid all fired over before Tony Og Regan answered back for the Connacht outfit.

Substitute Mark Bergin got on the scoresheet for the Cats who were oozing confidence while moving between second and third gear. Galway's defence just could not get to grips with the movement and intelligence of Kilkenny's attacks and were effectively chasing shadows at times.

Cyril Donnellan and Aidan Harte helped take some of the responsibility off Galway free-taker Burke by landing a couple of points, but it was a damage limitation exercise and it was no surprise to see Kilkenny finish with a flourish courtesy of scores from Ruth, Reid and Colin Fennelly.

Danesfort clubman Hogan had to be taken off in the closing stages after colliding with Galway stopper Ryan, and Cody will hope the wing forward is available for the semi-final match against the Division 1B champions - either Clare or Limerick - on April 22.

For Galway, they only have a week to regroup before their crucial play-off against Dublin. When the sides met in the league phase in early February, Galway produced a 0-20 to 0-13 victory in Salthill.

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