KILKENNY RETAINED THE All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship today, dominating a thrilling final replay against Galway at Croke Park.
The Cats ran out 3-22 to 3-11 winners thanks to nine points from Henry Shefflin, a goal and two points apiece from Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan before Colin Fennelly added the icing on the cake with a late third goal.
Despite two goals within three frantic first half minutes from David Burke, Galway trailed a grimly determined Kilkenny at the break. However, they appeared to be finding a threatening rhythm in the second period until Cyril Donnellan was handed a red card in the 49th minute.
The dismissal capped a frustrating period for the Tribesmen who had just watched a Joe Canning shot ping back of the post, minutes after Donnellan had a goal ruled out as referee James McGrath whistled for a free in just as the ball broke to him 10 metres from goal.
Canning got Galway moving with a placed ball, a minute after his counter-weight, Shefflin, had uncharacteristically fired his first chance wide. But the Ballyhale talisman claimed the next two scores before the 10 minute mark. A signal of intent from the Cats. And they looked set fair to display all their experience, creeping into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead until all hell broke loose.
The three minutes of madness began with Burke deftly diverting Iarla Tannian’s long ball to the square beyond David Herity. The Dunamaggin stopper would be beaten again by Burke little over a minute, but arguably the more telling play was the goalkeeper’s reaction to the goals.
On both occasions the Cats bounced quickly back, TJ Reid aggressively shook off his marker and fired a point as an instant riposte to goal number one. After goal number two Kilkenny showed exactly how rattled they were: Eoin Larkin moving towards the square and hitting a shot, saved by James Skehill, but only tapped as far as the lurking Richie Power.
That goal was the first of 1-6 without reply from the reigning champions as Power and Shefflin ensured the accelerator didn’t lift far from the floor. Skehill’s shoulder, which threatened to keep him out of this game, flared up as an issue again and the Cappataggle man was in obvious discomfort before he was replaced at half time with the score 1-11 to 2-04. A watershed moment for Brian Cody’s men, given the manner in which Galway flew out of the traps in this season’s other two meetings.
The fortunate 82,274 people who found themselves inside Croke Park could sense more drama afoot and they were not short-changed in that respect.
Mountain to climb
Hogan and Shefflin pushed the Leinster side further ahead before Donnellan thought he had registered goal number three. Maroon swathes of the crowd jumped for joy, but the number 12 was left remonstrating with the referee as play was pulled back. Donnellan let his frustration show, swiping out at Brian Hogan to incur a straight red card.
From seeming likely to force another photo-finish when Canning’s superb shot across goal screwed lucklessly off the foot of the woodwork, to facing a mountain to climb at a man and four points down. With 20 minutes to play, Galway’s fate was secured.
Killkenny, as is their trademark, exposed the weakness and ruthlessly tagged on scores through Power, Shefflin, Michael Fennelly, Kieran Joyce, Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly. The latter two hammering a nail in Galway’s coffin with goal on 57 and 62 minutes respectively.
Galway substitute Johnny Glynn added a superb late strike which, on another day, we might hail as one of the all time greats in an All Ireland final. But as the circumstances stood, with an 11 point deficit at full time, it was scant consolation.
Shefflin led the celebrations, he’ll be happy to give up a Leinster crown this year, he has his ninth All Ireland medal on the field of play.
“We’ve won All Irelands down through the years (thanks to) the work-rate. The lads upped it today completely,” Shefflin told RTE in the game’s immediate aftermath, adding:
“Galway are after putting it up to us twice this year already, we knew it had to be a big performance and we’re absolutely thrilled about the way it went.”
Kilkenny: Henry Shefflin 0-9 (0-6f, 0-1 ’65), Walter Walsh, Richie Power 1-2 each, Richie Hogan 0-3, Colin Fennelly 1-0, Kieran Joyce (0-1f), Cillian Buckley, Eoin Larkin, Michael Fennelly, TJ Reid 0-1 each
Galway: Joe Canning 0-9 (0-5f, 0-1 ’65, 0-1 sideline), David Burke 2-0, Jonathan Glynn 1-0, Andy Smith, Tony Óg Regan 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: 1. David Herity (Dunamaggin); 2. Paul Murphy (Danesfort), 3. JJ Delaney (Fenians), 4. Jackie Tyrrell (James Stephens); 5. Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan), 6. Brian Hogan (O’Loughlin Gaels), 7. Kieran Joyce (Rower-Inistioge); 8. Michael Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks), 9. Richie Hogan (Danesfort); 10. Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro), 11. Richie Power (Carrickshock), 12. Eoin Larkin (James Stephens); 13. TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks), 14. Walter Walsh (Tullogher-Rosbercon), 15. Henry Shefflin (Ballyhale Shamrocks).
Subs: Colin Fennelly for Walter Walsh (58), Noel Hickey for Kieran Joyce (65), Aidan Foagrty for TJ Reid (65).
GALWAY : 1. James Skehill (Cappataggle); 2. Johnny Coen (Loughrea), 3. Kevin Hynes (Sarsfields), 4. Fergal Moore (Turloughmore); 5. Niall Donoghue (Kilbeacanty), 6. Tony Og Regan (Rahoon-Newcastle), 7. David Collins (Liam Mellows); 8. Iarlaith Tannian (Ardrahan), 9. Andy Smith (Portumna); 10. David Burke (St. Thomas), 11. Niall Burke (Oranmore-Maree), 12. Cyril Donnellan (Padraig Pearses); 13. Damien Hayes (Portumna), 14. Joe Canning (Portumna), 15. James Regan (St. Thomas).
Subs: Joseph Cooney for Niall Donoghue (28), Jonathan Glynn for James Regan (33), Conor Cooney for Niall Burke (53), Davy Glennon for Andy Smith (63).