Leinster SHC Final: Kilkenny snatch dramatic draw
Leinster Senior Hurling Final
GALWAY 0-18 KILKENNY 0-18
By John Harrington at Croke Park
This might be a new-look Kilkenny team, but the Cats haven’t changed their stripes.
When Galway hit two points in quick succession to go three ahead a minute from the end of normal time, the reigning provincial and All-Ireland Champions looked set for victory.
But once again Kilkenny proved they just don’t know when they are beat and hit three late points to earn a draw they just about deserved.
It ended in a welter of a drama, but this wasn’t a classic game of hurling in the vein of what we’ve come to expect so far from this year’s Championship.
Both teams hit some poor wides – Galway racked up 12 and Kilkenny 11 – and there was a lot of ball spilled and errors made.
But it was still never less than compelling viewing because there was so little between the teams throughout the contest and because this new-look Kilkenny team were testing Galway in a way few predicted that they would.
They were given a great platform to play by the spine of their defence where Cillian Buckley and Padraig Walsh were superb.
That pair hurled a huge amount of ball and limited Galway’s Joe Canning and Conor Cooney to just a point each from play.
James Maher was another who caught the eye in midfield, where he and partner Conor Fogarty more than held their own against Galway’s dynamic duo David Burke and Johnny Coen.
At various points in the match Galway would briefly start playing with the sort of power and fluidity that was their calling card last year and you expected they might pull away from Kilkenny.
But the Cats stuck tenaciously to the task and always found a way to claw back a deficit and sow doubt in Galway minds again.
The first half in particular was a real arm-wrestle of a contest with both sets of defenders dominant.
Galway full-back Daithi Burke gobbled up anything that came down his channel and Gearoid McInerny was doing a good shadowing job on TJ Reid.
With 25 minutes gone the scores were dead-locked at just five points apiece, which is not the sort of scoring return we’ve come to expect at this level of the game.
Galway’s Niall Burke was the best forward on the pitch in open play today, and when he scored his second of the day to helped the Tribesmen into a 0-7 to 0-5 lead it looked like they were starting to find their stride
But instead it was Kilkenny who came with a sudden surge before half time as two TJ Reid points sandwiched a nice score from corner-forward Billy Ryan, who showed well on his Championship debut.
Kilkenny led by 0-8 to 0-7 at half-time, and upon the resumption the contest continued in its now familiar tit for tat pattern.
Another Niall Burke point had the teams level at 0-11 apiece by the 49th minute, and then came an end to end sequence of play that pretty much summed up the contest thus far.
TJ Reid’s shot for goal was well saved by James Skehill and a few seconds later Joe Canning couldn’t find Conor Cooney who was briefly unmarked in front of goal with an attempted cross-field pass.
Two decent chances, but neither team was quite clinical enough when they were presented with them.
The game was starting to open up though, and Galway forwards like Cathal Mannion and Conor Whelan were getting a bit more space than they’d been afforded heretofore.
Two points from Mannion and one from Whelan helped Galway into a two point-lead by the 57th minute, but then Walter Walsh struck a brilliant score from the sideline to show Kilkenny’s resolve remained undiminished.
Further scores from Reid and Maher sandwiched a Niall Burke point for Galway, leaving just the minimum between the teams with five minutes of normal time remaining.
When Galway hit their last two points of the day through a Joe Canning free and Joseph Cooney point it looked like Kilkenny’s resistance had finally been overcome.
It wasn’t just that they were three points down with time almost up, the nature of those Canning and Cooney scores would have demoralised a less mentally tough team.
Canning’s free came after James Maher was whistled for charging with the ball, and Cooney intercepted the ball from the short puck-out that followed and drove it over the bar.
But Kilkenny simply refused to raise the white flag as John Donnelly, Enda Morrissey, and TJ Reid hit those three late, great points to ensure these two teams will have to do it all over again at Semple Stadium next Sunday at 3pm.
Scorers for Galway: Joe Canning 0-6 (4f 1 ’65), Niall Burke 0-4, Cathal Mannion 0-3, Joseph Cooney 0-2, Conor Whelan 0-2, Conor Cooney 0-1,
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (8f), Billy Ryan 0-2, Walter Walsh 0-1, James Maher 0-1, John Donnelly 0-1, Ger Aylward 0-1, Enda Morrissey 0-1 Eoin Murphy 0-1 (f),
GALWAY: James Skehill; Adrian Tuohey, Daithi Burke, John Hanbury; Padraig Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Aidan Harte; Johnny Coen, David Burke; Joseph Cooney, Joe Canning, Niall Burke; Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion. Subs: Jonathan Glynn for Conor Cooney (57), Brian Concannon for Cathal Mannion (65), Jason Glynn for Conor Whelan (70)
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan; Joey Holden, Cillian Buckley, Enda Morrissey; Conor Fogarty, James Maher; Martin Keoghan, TJ Reid, Richie Leahy; Billy Ryan, Walter Walsh, Ger Aylward. Subs: Liam Blanchfield for Martin Keoghan (48), John Donnelly for Richie Leahy (57), Richie Hogan for Ger Aylward (58), Colin Fennelly for Billy Ryan (63)
Ref: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)