It looked as if the defending champions, who were chasing a hat-trick of titles, had lost their chance after outstanding Galway corner forward Brian Hartley landed his second goal in the 55th minute courtesy of a deflection off the Kilkenny centre back, but in a grandstand finish, the Cats rattled over three points without reply to remain on course for a third title win in a row.
There was little to enthuse about in the opening quarter. With both defences on top, scores were at a premium. And two evenly matched sides were level at 0-1 and 0-2 apiece inside the opening 10 minutes.
Gradually Galway began to take a grip at midfield through Andrew Carey and David Kennedy, and with the irrepressible Karl Wade showing his class at corner forward, the scores began to flow for the westerners.
Wade began the scoring rush with a tremendous point from a 90 metre free before showing his undoubted class with a goal of sheer brilliance after Kilkenny full back James Joyce failed to clear.
Finally, this much heralded final sprang into life and Kilkenny lost a goal chance when Patrick Hogan failed to hold his brother Richie’s cross straight in front of goal with only the Galway ’keeper to beat.
Tempers frayed following that let-off for Galway and both sides were a trifle lucky not to lose a player each, but referee John Sexton, who had a great match, let them off with a yellow card.
Galway hit over four unanswered points, two by Wade, to open up a 1-7 to 0-3 lead after 25 minutes.
But after switching Eoin Guinan to full forward, Kilkenny hit back with three points on the trot and the half time deficit of 1-7 to 0-6 didn’t look insurmountable.
Kilkenny resumed the second half as they finished the first and in the space of three minutes had the deficit down to the minimum with a further three points in a row from the Nolans - Maurice with two frees and Gavin one from play.
Having lost the initiative, Galway brought in John Hughes to midfield for David Kennedy, but it was Kilkenny who continued to hold the upper hand with Pat Hartley at midfield and Richie Power at corner forward playing the proverbial blinders.
As the tension increased, so too did the standard of play and in a hectic five minute spell Kilkenny levelled it for the third time, before the teams swapped goals to be still tied with seven minutes to go.
By now the game was in the melting pot and amid tremendous excitement, Eoin Guinan gave Kilkenny the lead for the first time in the match with a point.
Back came Galway and Brian Hartley’s second goal and his side’s third looked to have given the westerners their first title win in four years.
However, Kilkenny were not quite prepared to give up their title, and in a dramatic closing four minutes they kept their dream of a hat-trick of titles alive with three unanswered points.
Scorers - Galway: B. Hanley 2-3; K. Wade 1-5 (0-3 frees); J. Canning, A. Carey, K. Hynes, J. Hughes 0-1 each. Kilkenny: G. Nolan 0-5 (0-1 free); M. Nolan 0-4 (frees); E. Guinan, N. Kenny 0-3 each;. M. Ruth 1-0; P.Hogan 0-2; R. Hogan 0-1.
GALWAY: M. Herlihy; P. Loughnane, G. Mahon, C. O’Donovan; M. Ryan, J. Lee, K. Kilkenny; A. Carey, D. Kennedy; D. Whyte, K. Hynes, F. Coone; K. Wade, J. Canning, B. Hanley. Subs. J. Hughes for Kennedy; E. Collins for White; K. Coen for Coone; P. Madden for Ryan.
KILKENNY: L. Tierney; J. Maher, K. Joyce, E. Walsh; N. Prendergast, R. Maher, S. Prendergast; P. Hartley, P. Hogan; G. Nolan, M. Nolan, N. Kenny; R. Hogan, E. O’Donoghue, E. Guinan. Subs: M. Ruth for O’Donoghue; N. Delahunty for Walsh.
Referee, J. Sexton (Limerick).