Enda McEvoy: It was 2006-09 all over again and the patented Kilkenny double-barrelled blast 

They weren’t just any two oul’ goals either. These were the kind of goals that could have been scored by DJ or Larkin or Richie Power, the kind of goals to make Kilkenny fans reach for the remote again before they headed to bed
Enda McEvoy: It was 2006-09 all over again and the patented Kilkenny double-barrelled blast 

TJ Reid shoots to score Kilkenny's second goal past Éanna Murphy of Galway. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Apt that in a year where we learned to appreciate some of the simple things in life again, Kilkenny should end up visibly grateful to be Leinster champions once more.

Of the myriad provincial titles they’ve collected in the Cody era this was by some distance the most satisfying. An rud is (recently) annamh etc. The truisms emphasised by the outcome? Many and varied.

The optimum manner in which to win a semi-final, for one thing. Galway beat Wexford handily and learned little. Kilkenny fell over the line against Dublin and came on six lengths for the run.

Above all, they learned not to force-feed the opposition’s spare defender with loose ball.

The importance of staying on one’s feet, for another. Applies to every team sport, of course. Hang in there long enough and something — anything — may happen.

A butterfly flaps its wings, a Joe Canning lineball goes two inches awry, and out of nowhere the momentum tilts, sand in an hourglass.

And then there was Brian Cody, a man unchanged in a world gone mad. Foremost among his numberless virtues is the ability to produce a team primed to do a particular job, regardless of whether or not they succeed.

Once more Kilkenny got boots on the ground.

The occasions they’ve failed in that regard during his reign — the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final, the 2016 final — are easily counted. Every other time they’ve lost was not because they didn’t punch their weight but because they were outpunched by heavier forces. For much of the trip, it seemed like the latter would prove to be the outcome here.

Midway through the second half, Galway had finally opened their shoulders.

Their opponents, five points down and gasping for scores and hitherto unable to ask a single question of Eanna Murphy, seemed to have found their level.

Yet if the last thing a puncher loses is his punch, the last thing a former world champion handballer loses is his quick feet and wristwork.

Did Richie Hogan once play the Artful Dodger in a school production of Oliver!? We should probably be told. He picked more than one pocket on Saturday.

All evening the underdogs had, out of necessity, been more patient in possession than they’d been against Dublin.

For the second goal they didn’t lump the sliotar up the field, they worked it up the field.

Fittingly, if unsurprisingly, the scorer was TJ Reid, who since 2016 has been raging almost singlehandedly against the dying of Noreside’s light.

Suddenly it was 2006-09 all over again and the patented Kilkenny double-barrelled blast. Bang bang on the door, baby.

In their last two Leinster final appearances at Croke Park before Saturday they’d failed to raise a green flag. This at least represented progress.

They weren’t just any two oul’ goals either. These were the kind of goals that Kilkenny used to magic up on tap, the kind of goals that could have been scored by DJ or Larkin or Richie Power, the kind of goals to make Kilkenny fans reach for the remote again before they headed to bed.

Been a while since that was the case.

At the interval both sides were entitled to be reasonably content with their handiwork. Galway had looked slightly superior in most aspects, their tackling not included (Reid 0-9, frees). It took 25 minutes for a Kilkenny forward to find the target from play and there was always a sense that the favourites had an extra gear they could engage if and when it came to it.

They also had the breeze to come. Then again, we live in an era where playing against the wind has become the new playing with the wind.

How Kilkenny triumphed while substituting both Walter Walsh, who never got into proceedings, and Colin Fennelly, who barely saw the ball, is not easily explicable.

But they did have Hogan and Reid — one of them 32, the other turning 33 on Monday — demonstrating yet another truism, in this instance the old saying about the difference between form and class, and they did have Conor Browne.

Browne, who will always be one of the first names on the XV against the likes of Galway and Limerick, may not have his mammy’s hands but he has his auntie’s engine.

Shane O’Neill won’t have complained about the response of his troops. Galway got a second wind and twice went two points ahead again. The pendulum had swung, however, and the feline tails were bristling.

It was the first setback for O’Neill in his adopted county but far from a fatal one.

Consign it to the category of One of Those Nights and move on.

There was little about the losers’ display that cannot be rectified on the training field.

Jumpiness in defence allowed Reid to keep Kilkenny afloat from frees; a degree more cohesiveness in attack and Galway will create goal chances next weekend.

Kilkenny are serious All-Ireland contenders again. Galway remain nothing less.

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