Kikenny stay on course for familiar destination

Galway 2-15 Kilkenny 1-25

Kilkenny had too much firepower for Galway yesterday in Croke Park, surviving a Joe Canning wonder goal to collect anotherc

Leinster senior hurling title by seven points.

Galway were better than we might have expected, or maybe more consistent; Kilkenny weren’t as good as we were thinking, or maybe they weren’t allowed to be, but the end result was what we all anticipated.

The 32,954 present saw Kilkenny surf their experience to close out a game they led by only a goal with less than 10 minutes left.

The Cats made one pre-game change, with Michael Fennelly withdrawing to be replaced by John Power, though Fennelly’s midfield position was occupied by Walter Walsh, switching out from wing-forward.

Other moves from Brian Cody had Colin Fennelly at left-half forward and TJ Reid top of the left, but early on the Galway full-back line held them in check.

The sides swapped points, Joe Canning’s frees matching Reid’s accuracy from play.

At the end of the first quarter, Kilkenny led five points to four thanks to a typical piece of Richie Hogan magic.

As is now customary, both sides kept two men in their full-forward line but Kilkenny didn’t enjoy the freedom that they’d exploit so fully against Wexford —Daithí Burke held the middle and Johnny Coen covered well, but Kilkenny had already nudged three ahead before getting their first goal on 27 minutes.

TJ Reid had hit two of those points and he was the man who billowed the net, too.

Ger Aylward read the break from a long ball and made ground before trying to find Richie Hogan with a clever pass — Daithí Burke broke up the attack but Reid pounced, rounded the keeper and netted.

1-10 to 0-6. Business as usual?

Galway didn’t fold — they hit two points, from David Burke and Feral Moore before Joe Canning got a goal for the ages.

The maroon full-forward was back-pedalling and off-balance, and did pretty well to even catch the long delivery from his clubmate Andy Smith.

He did pretty extraordinarily to then swivel and strike in one movement.

It was the kind of once-a-career gem that nobody present ever forgets, just as soon as they can accept the evidence presented by their retinas.

There was still time for Eoin Larkin to hit one more point, which meant it was 1-11 to 1-8 at the break.

If you’re interested in what goes on in the Kilkenny dressing-room at half-time, by the way, let Brian Cody enlighten you.

“We were ahead at half-time and we’d been rocked back by a goal just before the half-time whistle, but the game goes ahead. It’s going to go like that.

“Half-time isn’t a time when you’re inspired to do something fantastic or anything, it’s a time when the players get a break, you look at a few things and say a few things.

“The players know themselves, the challenge is there to perform to the final whistle.”

They had to, because the second half began with a bang.

In the first minute a ball squirted kindly out of a ruck for Galway sub Jason Flynn, who made ground before wrong-footing Eoin Murphy in the Kilkenny goal with a wicked drive: level.

The teams then exchanged points — Donnellan hitting two for Galway, Hogan and Aylward responding for Kilkenny, but the Cats started to edge away after that.

Aylward added two good points, Hogan chipped in with a score, and when TJ Reid pointed another free on 54 minutes it was a five-point game.

Galway’s clearances were now being driven back with interest by Cillian Buckley, impressive all through, and with Hogan linking the play well around the middle Kilkenny were in control, though they hit some sloppy wides at this point.

Three Galway points cut the deficit to three with under 10 minutes left but Walter Walsh and Hogan steadied the ship again, Larkin and Reid extending the winning margin late on.

After Kilkenny took the flame-throwers to Wexford, were we expecting too much from them?

Given Wexford’s first half in particular against Cork on Saturday night that performance should maybe be stamped with a health warning, but in its own way the unhurried efficiency they showed when the game was there to be won yesterday was almost as impressive.

Given players like Richie Power and Michael Fennelly are yet to come back, it looks as though Kilkenny are once again timing their canter to September nicely.

Galway need tweak little enough based on yesterday: In the second half they hit aimless ball that Cillian Buckley picked off, and Joe Canning could still be more involved, but no side will be keen on facing them now they’ve got some good performances under their belt.

Finally, will we see a better goal than Canning’s this year? This decade?

Scorers for Kilkenny:

TJ Reid (1-10, 5 frees, 1 65); R. Hogan, E. Larkin (0-4 each); G. Aylward (0-3); W. Walsh (0-2); C. Fennelly, C. Fogarty (0-1 each).

Subs for Kilkenny:

S. Prendergast for J. Tyrrell (49); M. Kelly for J. Power (57); M. Ruth for C. Fennelly (70).

Scores for Galway:

J. Canning (1-8, 5 frees, 1 65); C. Donnellan (0-3), J. Flynn (1-0); C. Mannion, J. Glynn, F. Moore and David Burke (0-1 each).

Subs for Galway:

J. Flynn for Glennon (26; J. Cooney for A. Harte, 37; P. Brehony for David Burke 58; N. Healy for C. Mannion, 60; P. Killeen for J. Hanbury, 63.

Referee:

J. McGrath (Westmeath)



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