The Connacht side went into the game without a first-round tie and it showed, while it was Kilkenny’s third outing and it was obvious they had been together a lot longer than their opponents.
“The U21 championship is a great competition,” said Mullen. “Players have no inhibitions. Names mean nothing and there is great hurling in it. It would be a pity to let the competition die.
“Indeed every effort should be made to promote more, and I feel an open draw is the best way to do that. A county like Galway would benefit from having a few games played before the meet the big boys.
“For periods Kilkenny were throwing the game at us but we didn’t have the necessary drive in attack to capitalise. To be fair Joe (Canning) was carrying a groin injury, something we kept quiet in the lead up to the game, and when he’s not at full tilt we were always going to struggle for scores.”
Kilkenny coach Michael Walsh was glad to clinch the win. “Given how much possession we enjoyed we should have won the game far more comfortably than we did,” he said.
“However the plan factor of the matter is this, we came up here today as complete underdogs and it didn’t matter how much we won by as long as we were on the right side of the final score.
“On another day we might have won by twice as much. There were certain aspects of our game that I wasn’t happy about, but we now have time to work on those before next month’s final.”
One of those areas is their free taking. Richie Hogan is usually so reliable from placed balls and while he finished the game as Kilkenny’s top scorer with 2-5, he should have had at least another five points had he been more accurate from frees.
“In fairness to Richie, he missed several frees that on another day he would have scored with his eyes shut, but it was a fair testament to his character that he never panicked and you’ll get no complaints from me about him after his contribution of 2-4, all from play,” said Walsh.
“I thought our defence was magnificent all through. Joe Canning was always going to be the dangerman for them, but in fairness to our lads, he never posed a threat.”
Kilkenny made the better start and led seven points to two after 20 minutes.
The brilliance of Paddy Hogan at centre back and Kieran Joyce at full back succeeded in containing the Galway attack and their only chance of a goal fell to Conor Kavanagh when Joe Canning set him up but the Kinvara youngster failed to control the sliothar and the chance was lost.
However the switch of Canning out to centre forward did have the desired effect, and with Kilkenny failing to score for the last 10 minutes of the half, Conor Kavanagh atoned for his earlier miss when he drilled the ball to the corner of the net, and Galway went at the break on level terms.
Play improved greatly in the second half and the sides were level four more times before Kilkenny struck for home. A superb pass by Mathew Ruth put Richie Hogan in and he gave Galway ‘keeper James Skehill no chance.
The magnificent skill of Joe Canning from side line cuts saw him convert two from 45m out and with five minutes left, the Leinster champions held a slender 1-14 to 1-12 lead.
However it was Kilkenny who finished the stronger side and Richie Hogan capped a great scoring feat with his second goal.
Scorers for Kilkenny: R Hogan 2-5 (0-1f); C Fennelly 0-4; TJ Reid 0-3; P Hogan (f), J Mulhall 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: G Canning 0-8 (0-4 frees, 0-3 side line cuts); C Kavanagh 1-1; E Forde 0-2; S Glynn, J Greene 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: C McGrath; P Murphy, K Joyce, E O’Shea; N Prendergast, P Hogan, L Ryan; J Dowling, N Walsh; C Fennelly, N Cleere, TJ Reid; M Ruth, J Mulhall, R Hogan.
Subs: JJ Farrell for Cleere (40); J Mahon for Dowling (44).
GALWAY: J Skehill; M Mc Mahon, C O’Donovan, P Callanan; A Keary, K Kilkenny, A Leech; E Forde, A Harte; S Glynn, K Keehan, J Greene; C Kavanagh, J Canning, E. Concannon.
Subs: S Og Linane for Concannon (25); S Howley for Harte (43); N Lynch for Keehan (57).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).