Galway dishing out the pain

KILKENNY came to Pearse Stadium yesterday looking to preserve the only 100% record in the top division of the Allianz Hurling League, and after an explosive opening four minutes they were very much on track to do exactly that.

Two goals within a minute, the first from midfielder Michael Fennelly, the second from Eddie Brennan from the subsequent Galway puckout, along with points from Eoin Larkin (two) and Richie Hogan, put the Cats 2-3 to 0-0 ahead.

Galway were in serious trouble and the obituaries were starting.

That they then managed to come back from that, that they actually led at the break by two points, 2-7 to 2-5, though playing into the strong diagonal wind, spoke volumes for the character now ingrained into this new-look Galway side.

“I said to them before in the dressing room they didn’t hurt enough against Cork,” said manager John McIntyre, referring to last week’s loss.

“I needed to see Galway players losing a bit of skin, losing a bit of blood. We all know about Galway’s stick-work and ability with the ball and all that, but you have to back that up with a rawness and a bitterness that Galway teams have been lacking through the years, and not just on my watch.”

They showed plenty of that rawness yesterday, and none more so than giant full-forward Iarla Tannian. There were others throughout the field who stepped up to the mark yesterday.

Full-back Ciarán O’Donovan and his two speedy corner men, centre-back Tony Óg Regan and the pair flanking him, midfielders Ger Farragher and David Burke, along with the hard-working trio led by Andy Smith in the half-forward line.

But none had the impact of Tannian. Looking slimmer than he’s been for years, the Ardrahan man caused endless problems for Kilkenny full-back John Dalton.

He provided the scoring pass for Joe Gantley to open Galway’s account with a well-worked goal, scored their second major four minutes before the break (great work out of defence by David Collins), added a point and generally made his presence felt every time the ball came near his area.

Alongside him, and typifying the ethos spoken by McIntyre, Gantley and Aongus Callanan worked like dervishes, and an experimental Kilkenny full-back line didn’t get a moment to settle on any ball.

“It was the start from hell,” said the eloquent McIntyre.

“And when you’re playing a team of the calibre, experience and proven ability of Kilkenny, it’s not an easy stranglehold to break.

“They were very physical. They were finding their men. They got two opportunist goals. They got three early points and you think ‘Wow, how can Galway get back into this match?’ “But, slowly but surely the Galway players looked into their souls. They showed great heart. They showed great pride in the jersey and we were back in the contest in a big way by half-time.”

Into the second period, and though Kilkenny notched a quick two points (Hogan and sub Cha Fitzpatrick), soon it was Galway again on top, and in the 47th minute they led by six (3-10 to 2-7), courtesy of yet another Tannian goal.

They extended that to nine just five minutes later (4-11 to 2-8), Cyril Donnellan with the fourth Galway goal.

Now it was Kilkenny’s turn to answer a few questions, and true to form, back they came, points from Hogan, Michael Fennelly and TJ Reid, then an opportunist goal by Colin Fennelly, bringing it back to just a goal (4-11 to 3-11) with 10 minutes still remaining.

“I expected the game to settle,” said Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, speaking of Kilkenny’s great start.

“And that they’d come back at us for sure. You’re talking about a very, very good (Galway) team. They went ahead, I think it was about nine points in the second half, and looked like they would cruise on in. Then we came strongly and pulled it back.

“The game could have gone away from us very, very quickly in the last 10 minutes, with the last goal they got. They put a bit of daylight between us and they were strong but we fought back well.

“It was a good fight to the end. I was happy the way we fought back.”

It wasn’t enough, however; a point from Tannian, now on the 40, steadied the Galway ship, eagle-eyed Farragher rifled over another, and they finished up worthy winners.

Kilkenny aren’t gone, by any means, and have top players to return, but this result throws the league wide open again, with still three rounds to play.

Scorers for Galway: G Farragher 0-8 (0-4f, 0-1 65); I Tannian 2-2; C Donnellan 1-0; J Gantley 1-0; A Callanan 0-2; A Smith, A Cullinane, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilkenny: R Hogan 0-6 (0-3f, 0-1 65); M Fennelly 1-2; C Fennelly 1-0; E Brennan 1-0; E Larkin 0-2; TJ Reid 0-2; J Fitzpatrick 0-1.

Subs for Galway: D Joyce for A Cullinane (inj. 57); J Coen for Gantley (70); K Kilkenny for Ryan (70+2).

Subs for Kilkenny: J Fitzpatrick for Tyrell (inj. 41); J Mulhall for Guinan (45).

Referee: C McAllister (Cork).

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