No repeat of All-Ireland as passion play sadly lacking

Galway 3-11 Kilkenny 0-17

No repeat of All-Ireland as passion play sadly  lacking

So, in anticipation of another high-octane game, the crowds turned up to sunny Pearse Stadium in their thousands, the gates thrown open to allow the late-comers free access.

In truth, it was anything but a repeat. Galway had a new keeper in Fergal Flannery, a new centre-back in Joseph Cooney and, in the enforced absence of the suspended Andy Smith and Cyril Donnellan, the unavailability of club-tied St Thomas’s pair David Burke and James Regan, there were several changes from midfield forwards.

All that paled in comparison to the changes forced on Kilkenny manager Brian Cody, however.

Keeper Eoin Murphy, earning more renown lately as a high-scoring forward for WIT, was making his debut, All Star centre-back Brian Hogan was out as were midfielder Michael Fennelly, wing-forward Cillian Buckley and the entire full-forward line from the All-Ireland final. Also still absent, another multiple All Star, midfielder Michael Rice.

So no, this was certainly not an All-Ireland final repeat. Not in terms of personnel, not in terms of prestige and, as it turned out, most certainly not in terms of either passion or play.

The weather at least obliged with a strong cold wind blowing straight downfield. Kilkenny had the advantage of that wind in the first half but Galway dominated, roared on by a vocal crowd of well in excess of 7,000. The three goals they scored in that opening half were set up by that hurling master craftsman Joe Canning who was at his creative best.

Youngster Davy Glennon was the beneficiary for the first goal, the returning Niall Healy for the second but pick of the three was the sublime 40m crossfield pass to pick out veteran Portumna team-mate Damien Hayes, who turned two defenders inside-out to blast past the unfortunate Murphy.

Kilkenny, meanwhile, were using the big wind to build up a nice points tally but those goals were enough to see Galway head for the dressing room with a three-point lead, 3-4 to 0-10.

That should have been that for Kilkenny, Galway now going to have the gale at their back for the second half in perfect position to drive on. But it doesn’t work like that when it’s Cody’s Cats under the cosh.

Under strength as they were, they still showed the battling qualities of true champions and though they never managed to get their noses in front in what now became a really competitive match (not helped by three unlikely misses from frees by the Richies, Hogan and Power), they kept the result in the balance to the end.

Mind you, there could have been a little complacency in the Galway mindset at half time, those three goals giving them the impression the job was done — a dangerous assumption against a team like Kilkenny, reckoned Galway selector/coach Mattie Kenny.

“I suppose it kind of put the lads in a false position because the goals were big scores at the time but we went in at half time with only four points scored.

“If you had eight or nine points to go along with the three goals then it would have been something you could build on but with only four points scored, we knew Kilkenny were really in the game.”

Just as Kilkenny showed their battling qualities, however, so also did Galway, who held on to collect a very valuable two league points, just the start they needed in what is sure to again be a very competitive division.

Scorers for Galway: J Canning 0-6 (5f, 0-1 65); D Hayes 1-1; D Glennon 1-1; N Healy 1-0; A Harte, J Cooney, D Collins, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilkenny: R Power 0-8 (5f, 0-1 65); R Hogan 0-4 (4f); A Fogarty 0-2; E Larkin, L Ryan, T Walsh, 0-1 each.

GALWAY: F Flannery; F Moore, K Hynes, J Coen; D Collins, J Cooney, N Donoghue;I Tannian, A Harte; D Hayes, N Burke, J Glynn; N Healy, J Canning, D Glennon.

Subs: T Haran (Tannian 31); B Flaherty (Healy 52); P Brehony (Burke 68).

KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, K Joyce, C Fogarty; L Ryan, R Power; C Fennelly, M Ruth, E Larkin; T Breen, R Hogan, A Fogarty.

Subs: M Kelly (Breen 49).

Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).

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