McIntyre puts win down to ‘backbone’

A CRACKING match, this NHL Division One game in Nowlan Park yesterday, a fitting occasion for the unveiling of the new stand at the O’Loughlin’s end of the ground, even if the result didn’t please the home contingent in the 7,124 crowd.

Galway shaded matters in an entertaining first half in which centre-forward Cyril Donnellan gave Jackie Tyrell a rare roasting (four fine points from play), and the Tribesmen enjoyed a decent half-time lead, 0-13 to 0-9.

Within five minutes of the changeover, however, that cushion had gone, Kilkenny with first a pointed 65 by wing-back Paddy Hogan, then a fortuitous goal by returning team captain TJ Reid, capitalising on an error by Galway keeper James Skehill.

The third quarter then belonged almost entirely to the Cats as they outscored the visitors by 1-7 to 0-1 to take a five-point lead (1-16 to 0-14), and introduce for Galway the spectre of another implosion similar to that of two weeks ago, which saw them lose a big first-half lead to Tipperary.

A couple of shrewd substitutions by Galway, however, and they got their challenge back on track; two points from Kevin Hynes and a goal by fellow-sub Iarla Tannian helped Galway back to parity, 1-18 apiece.

That was the 61st minute, a significant time in the match, for a number of reasons. First, there was the second yellow card received by Paddy Hogan for a second personal foul, which led to Ger Farragher’s equalising free and left Kilkenny reduced to 14 for the remainder of what was becoming a real heavyweight bout.

Then, just moments later, another significant event; James Skehill was having a nervy afternoon in Galway’s goal. A poor shot was heading out wide but James decided to make sure, make the save and clear – but didn’t. Lost possession, then in bending to pick up the ball he was met head-on by the charge of in-rushing Kilkenny corner-forward Aidan Fogarty. Entirely accidental, but it left James prone on the ground for several minutes, eventually, in a precautionary move, removed from the pitch by ambulance.

However, it didn’t disrupt Galway. Far from it. Kilkenny did what Kilkenny do, battled to the end, but another Tannian goal – another sub – saw them take the lead in the ninth minute of injury-time, a lead they held to the finish. However, it was a lead they held only after a full-length diving save in the last action of the game by sub keeper Colm Callanan, from TJ Reid.

TJ could have taken the easy point, but knew a draw for Kilkenny wasn’t really going to do them any good.

This was Kilkenny’s third defeat in what has become a cutthroat division, and barring a series of extremely unlikely results falling in their favour in the remaining two rounds, almost certainly marks the end of their interest in this year’s league.

“It’s not the end of the world,” was manager Brian Cody’s philosophical response; “It’s one extra game if we go to the league final, that’s it. We gave ourselves a chance to win all the matches, they were all close and tight. We’re short at the moment and it’s going to take a huge effort to get where we want to go to.”

For Galway manager John McIntyre, relief that recent history hadn’t repeated itself: “Ten minutes into the second half there was a real feeling of deja vu in the context of what happened to us against Tipperary.

“If it happened to us again today you’d really be worried about the future and I’m thrilled for the players. They had to show a bit of backbone today, a bit of character and they learned from the Thurles experience which was a bad one for the team management and players alike.

“We’ll take the points but we have a fixture with danger written all over it against Dublin next week.”

Scorers for Galway: G. Farragher 0-9 (0-6 frees, 0-1 65); I. Tannian 2-1; C. Donnellan 0-4; A. Harte 0-3; K. Hynes 0-2; N. Healy, D. Burke, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilkenny: R. Power 0-7 (0-5 frees); TJ Reid 1-3; A. Fogarty 0-3; M. Comerford 0-3; M. Rice 0-2 (0-1 65); P. Hogan 0-2 (0-1 free, 0-1 65); J. Tennyson, J. Fitzpatrick, J. Mulhall, 0-1 each.

Subs for Galway: K. Hynes (A. Callanan 51); I. Tannian (Gantley 53); R. Cummins (Healy 58); C. Callanan (Skehill inj. 64); T. Óg Regan (Lee 70+9).

Subs for Kilkenny: C. Hickey (B. Hogan inj. 45); J. Ryall (N. Walsh 66).

Referee: James Owens (Wexford).

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