In the pursuit of excellence, sportspeople make extraordinary sacrifices.
Hurlers are no different.
Kilkenny’s Rory Hickey travelled up to O’Connor Park, Tullamore the evening prior to Saturday’s All-Ireland IHC semi-final to practice his frees.
And he was duly rewarded for his efforts, rifling over 13 placed balls as the Cats convincingly marched on to a final appearance against Tipperary.
Precious little separated Kilkenny and Galway during an opening 30 minutes where they were deadlocked on four occasions, including at the interval, 0-10 to 1-7.
Galway’s goal came from an 8th minute 21m free by former senior player Niall Healy and his 1-8 contribution would have caught the eye of a senior boss Anthony Cunningham.
Healy, industrious centre-forward Padraig Mannion and Bernard Burke were the only Galway forwards to get on the scoresheet and with Shane Maloney’s threat being snuffed out that trend continued in the second half as Kilkenny’s defending was resolute, with Brian Kennedy, Mark Phelan and Alan Walsh being outstanding.
Kilkenny, champions in 2010, introduced Michael Malone and Luke Harney and the subs made a big impact. Malone’s 47th minute point that made it 0-17 to 1-10 marked the beginning of the Cats’ surge for the finishing line.
Two Healy points gave Galway, seeking their first victory at this stage of the championship since 2005, a glimmer of hope. However over the final five minutes dominant Kilkenny with scores from JJ Farrell, Hickey (2 frees) and Paul Murphy sealed the deal.
Scorers for Kilkenny: R Hickey 0-13fs, P Murphy 0-2, J Brennan, K Kelly, R Walsh, JJ Farrell, G Aylward, M Malone 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: N Healy 1-8 (1-6fs), P Mannion 0-3, B Burke 0-2.
KILKENNY: R O’Neill; M Phelan, A Walsh, J Corcoran; B Kennedy, B Beckett, P Phelan; J Brennan, P Murphy; K Kelly, R Hickey, N Walsh; R Walsh (c), JJ Farrell, G Aylward.
Subs for Kilkenny: L Harney for P Phelan (ht), M Malone for Brennan (ht), C Kenny for R Walsh (51).
GALWAY: J Ryan; G O’Halloran, E Fahey, D Connolly; Darragh Burke, Daithí Burke, P Huban; D Fox, C Diviney; M Dolphin, P Mannion, G Lally; N Healy (c), S Maloney, B Burke.
Subs for Galway: D Higgins for Diviney (24), C Kavanagh for Maloney (41), J Gelsten for Lally (58).
Referee: C Lyons, (Cork).
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