One of Kilkenny’s great traits is their ability to limit the damage when they’re under the cosh, and then unload with devastating impact on their opponents while in the ascendancy.
In the first half yesterday, Galway hurled extremely well but were just three points ahead at the break.
Within minutes of the restart, the Cats had reeled them in and a feeling of inevitability descended on proceedings.
David Collins, who performed admirably after coming on, nudged Galway back in front but it was the last time they would lead as Kilkenny turned the screw.
Whatever Brian Cody (or Jackie Tyrell) said tothe Kilkenny players at half-time had the desired effect as they upped the ante considerably after the break.
The Cats displayed the feverish, manic levels of intensity that were missing from the first half and simply overpowered the Tribesmen.
Some might have thought that Kilkenny were on the wane after losing six players to retirement after the 2014 campaign.
Goalkeeper David Herity, Brian Hogan, Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney, Aidan Fogarty and Henry Shefflin all called time at various stages and yet the black and amber bandwagon rolled on all the way to September once again.
What other team in the country would be able to absorb such heavy losses and still emerge as champions?
Factor in that Kilkenny lined out yesterday without Jackie Tyrrell and Richie Power from the start and there’s a clear sign there that the perceived lack of strength in depth may have been overstated..
It had looked good for Galway in the first half as they hunted in packs, put over some inspirational scores and had Kilkenny in real trouble.
But that fizzled out after half-time as Kilkenny turned the screw in a fashion reminiscent of the Leinster final between the teams.
Joe Canning enjoyed some good moments in the first half for Galway but his second half impact was negligible.
Young Conor Whelan, to his credit, kept battling to the end and there were solid displays from David Burke and substitute David Collins.
But Galway’s main men failed to fire when they were needed most as the Tribesmen registered just 1-4 in the second half – the goal a consolation effort from Canning in stoppage time.
Kilkenny are the masters of suffocation, keeping the heat on for the entire 70 minutes and hanging in grimly when they’re on the ropes.
They absorbed the best of what Galway could throw at them before coming out swinging after the break, quickly eating into the interval deficit before going on to lead by seven before the finish.
But Galway didn’t help themselves by dropping the sky-high intensity levels that were a feature of their first half display.
Then again, it would have proven incredibly difficult to sustain them for the entire game.
Colossal stuff from the Ballyhale Shamrocks man despite that injured back. Rumour has it that Fennelly doesn’t do much more than straight line running at Kilkenny training due to the severity of the complaint but when the chips were down he delivered a Herculean display.
Fennelly’s massive leadership was in contrast to the travails of Canning on the edge of the Galway square, unsure whether to stick or twist.
Would he have benefited by coming out to the half-forward line in an attempt to get on the ball? Was he told to stay inside? Should he have realised that his talents were required further from goal and as an extra body in a middle third that had become increasingly congested?
Questions, questions and ones that only Canning himself and boss Anthony Cunningham can answer. In terms of game management and intelligence, it was Kilkenny who had the solutions – again.
This was surely their big chance but Liam MacCarthy has passed Galway by for another year. If they’re not careful, it will soon be 30 years since the famous silverware ventured West of the Shannon but they did have the solace of minor glory to fall back on. As we’ve seen so often in the past, however, that doesn’t necessarily transfer to the senior ranks and the craving at the elite grade is now becoming increasingly desperate.
Galway had their full compliment yesterday against what was essentially a Kilkenny team in transition. Take Joey Holden at full-back in his first full season, despite playing in last year’s decider. And Shane Prendergast, 29 years of age and winning a first senior medal in the Kilkenny full-back line.
These were potential areas for Galway to exploit but they couldn’t manage it. Perhaps they never will.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved