Cats’ fringe men hold on to deny brave NUIG

It may have been a senior development squad team on duty, but the New Year began as the old one finished for Kilkenny — a victory, albeit a hard-earned one.

Courageous NUIG just came up short at wet Freshford yesterday but it wasn’t before the students gave the Cats a fair run for their money. The college led until the 53rd minute when a pointed free from top scorer John Power, brother of senior star, Richie, put Kilkenny 0-11 to 0-10 in front for the first time.

The Cats kicked on with points from Martin Gaffney and Power again, but NUIG didn’t give up the ghost. A 65th minute point from Niall Burke left the minimum between the teams, and then it all came down to Burke and a 70th minute free in front of goal. However, his well struck effort went high and over the bar.

“That was a good work-out for both sides,” insisted Kilkenny manager for the day Richie Mulrooney, the U21 team boss who stepped in for Brian Cody, who was training the senior squad proper elsewhere.

Reports back to Mr Cody will, no doubt, feature favourable reviews for Cillian Buckley and Willie Phelan, who have already been called into the senior squad, while John Power and Jason Corcoran should get honourable mentions too.

NUIG looked the better team during most of the opening half. They looked to have that bit more hurling behind them, and with Niall Burke scoring well, David Kenny, Mark Kelly, Patrick Kelly and Eoin Fahy also to the fore, they took the game to the opposition.

They enjoyed a good start and points from Niall Burke and Patrick Kelly, a mighty effort from the left half-back position, during the opening seven minutes helped them settle as the rain poured down. Power kept Kilkenny in touch via frees and although NUIG were playing the better hurling, they couldn’t get away from the opposition. With his fourth score of the match in the 16th minute, John Power levelled it at 0-4 each. NUI hit the front again, this time through Dean Higgins, and Burke added to their gains.

The winners hit back to attain parity again, but at half-time a John Paul O’Connell point divided the teams as the Galway side led 0-8 to 0-7. The only real goal chance of the half fell to Kilkenny’s Luke Harney in the 29th minute, but he blasted wide from close range.

Within two minutes of the restart, Kilkenny got back level via a pointed free from John Power. During the following 10 minutes four points were shared equally as both sides gave it their all and all but defied the deteriorating underfoot conditions.

Then on 53 minutes the aforementioned point from a free by Power put Kilkenny in front for the first time (0-11 to 0-10). They maintained the advantage to the finish, but only just, and had Burke enjoyed better luck with his second last effort, the match would have been tied.

Scorers for Kilkenny: J Power (0-9, 0-7 frees); M Gaffney, J Cassin (0-2 each).

NUIG scorers N Burke (0-6, 0-2 frees); C Morey (0-3); P Kelly, JP O’Connell, D Higgins (0-1 each).

KILKENNY: D Breathnach; J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy; P Walsh, C Tobin, P O’Carroll; C Buckley, P Butler; J Power, L Harney, J Cassin; J Nolan, G Aylward, M Gaffney.

Subs: C Walsh for J Nolan (ht); R Reid for J Cassin (48); P Gahan for P Butler (56); S Kearns for G Aylward (56).

NUIG: D Tuohy; D Magner, E Fahy, S McCormack; M Kelly, D Kenny, P Kelly; JP O’Connell, C Diviney; D Murphy, N Burke, D Higgins; R Shanahan, E O’Farrell, C Morey.

Subs: A Armstrong for E O’Farrell (43); C Hynes for D Murphy (53).

Referee: D Hughes (Carlow).

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