The county’s minors obliterated the challenge from the west in the ESB All-Ireland MHC semi-final and were full value for the 19 points they had to spare over a beleaguered Galway outfit.
This was an awesome performance by Kilkenny as they maintained the strong form that carried them through Leinster and ensured that their victory margins this season have all been in double digits.
Kilkenny played with a ruthlessness and ferocity that was symbolic of the illustrious displays given by their senior counterparts in recent years. That was best exemplified by the stunning dominance they exerted on proceedings either side of the interval. Galway were feisty and competitive for much of the opening-half and a fine point by centre-back Daithí Burke left them narrowly adrift at 2-5 to 0-10 in the 23rd minute. But they had to wait until the 44th minute for their next score courtesy of substitute Cathal O’Brien and in the intervening 21 minutes Kilkenny had racked up an astonishing total of 2-10.
They essentially killed the match off in this time frame and not even the half-time break could interrupt the barrage of pressure they placed on the Galway side.
By the final whistle Kilkenny were runaway victors as they smashed the established trend in recent years of tight and engaging tussles between these counties at minor level.
Kilkenny boss Richie Mulrooney professed his satisfaction at the result but argued that the scale of the win was an aberration.
“It was just one of those games. There’s nothing between Galway and Kilkenny in minor games over the last ten years, and that kind of a result wouldn’t happen tomorrow. We asked the lads to perform for thirty minutes and they did that. At half-time we told them they were in a position to push on and win it. They did that. If you analyse the first-half, at one stage it was 2-4 to 0-8. I felt at that stage with the way Galway were throwing over points, that the goals were vital in keeping us in the game. John Power got the crucial one before half-time and that was essential in helping us build a lead at the break.”
Ominously for the rest of the country, this match demonstrated how the Kilkenny production line is in fine working order and notably it was the county’s leading family dynasties who are producing more exceptional talents. Midfielder Ollie Walsh, son of former goalkeeper Michael, was in superb form at midfield, while half-forwards John Power and Padraig Walsh, younger brothers of Richie and Tommy, fired 1-6 between them. Amongst the substitutes wheeled out by Mulrooney at the finish, was 17-year old Richie Reid from the Ballyhale clan.
Kilkenny have a wide array of scorers in attack, with different players picking up the slack at various junctures. Captain Cillian Buckley, who shone all through, blasted a fabulous left-handed finish to the net in the ninth minute and two minutes later Michael Brennan rifled in an opportunist strike. Power grabbed a crucial goal in the 23rd minute and Thomas O’Hanrahan clipped over some tidy points that helped them into a 3-9 to 0-10 interval lead.
In the second half Ger Aylward claimed four brilliant points and pounced on an error by Galway ‘keeper Shane Kelly for a 33rd minute goal. The fifth green flag was raised by Kevin Kelly in the 52nd minute after he capped a mazy run.
The Kilkenny rearguard pitched in as well with Jason Corcoran, Luke Harney and Owen McGrath all giving stellar displays.
It transpired to be a chastening afternoon for Galway after they had begun the game in a bright fashion. Shane Moloney, who starred in last year’s All-Ireland minor triumph, notched five points in the first-half before being withdrawn nearing half-time in what seemed a baffling call.
“He had gone down twice injured,” insisted manager Mattie Murphy. “We talked to the medical people and they said he was in trouble. Shane had been injured for a good part of this year and look it was a management call. Some you get right, some you get wrong. Goals win matches and we gave them up at crucial times. We had it back to a point but it all caved in then. We weren’t good enough and they were awesome.”
Despite the valiant efforts of Daithí Burke and the oustanding Conor Cooney, Kilkenny were never in danger of being overhauled in the second-half. They will enter the final as overwhelming favourites against Dublin or Clare but Mulrooney is adamant they will not be complacent.
“We won’t have any trouble keeping their feet on the ground because there’s nine fellas in the dressing-room there who were bawling their eyes out last year when we lost a minor final. It really doesn’t matter how we performed today and whether we’re facing Dublin or Clare, the score will be 0-0 to 0-0 when we start.”
Scorers for Kilkenny: G Aylward 1-5; K Kelly, J Power (2f) 1-2 each; C Buckley 1-1; P Walsh 0-4; M Brennan 1-0; T O’Hanrahan 0-3; O McGrath 0-2 (2f).
Scorers for Galway: S Moloney 0-5 (4f); C Cooney 0-4 (2f); P Brehony, A Mullins, J Flynn, Daithí Burke, C O’Brien, K Cullinane 0-1 each.
Subs for Kilkenny: P Buggy for Brennan, R Reid for O’Hanrahan (both 51), C O’Neill for Kennedy (53), C O’Shea for O’Carroll, D Waugh for O Walsh (both 57).
Subs for Galway: B Lane for Glynn (26), G O’Donoghue for Moloney (29), S Morrissey for Hoban (ht), K Cullinane for Moran (41), C O’Brien for Keary (42).
Referee: David Copps (Cork).