KILKENNY WILL FACE Clare in the All-Ireland U21 HC Final after withstanding a late Galway comeback on Saturday evening. The Cats won 4-16 to 2-15 at Semple Stadium in Thurles.
The Cats led by ten points with just 15 minutes of the match to be played, but got sloppy in their play and allowed the Tribesmen in for two late goals.
Kilkenny woke up, however, and a string of late points saw them safely through to face the Banner County at Croke Park.
In a dress rehearsal for the senior final a couple of weeks’ time, Kilkenny laboured in the early exchanges and went behind to the pre-match favourites.
Points from Davy Glennon, Niall Burke and Johnny Glynn gave Galway the early initiative but Kilkenny fought back, culminating in an equalising goal from Ollie Walsh in the 12th minute.
Richie Commins and Ger Aylward swapped points, before full-forward John Power parachuted Kilkenny into a 2-6 to 0-7 lead with his team’s second goal in the 19th minute.
With four minutes remaining in the first half, Kilkenny had a ten-point cushion, but converted frees from Burke (2) and Tadgh Haran left it 0-11 to 3-9 at the break, Ger Aylward having pounced for the Cats’ third goal.
An early John Power penalty – after Brian Flaherty brought Aylward down – brought the gap back to ten points before the two teams swapped a couple of scores each.
With the game at Kilkenny 4-11 Galway 0-13, Davy Glennon scored a goal for Galway that appeared to be little more than a consolation.
However, Joseph Cooney followed that up with another goal three minutes later to put some hope back into the hearts of the visiting Galwegians.
Haran pointed from play and the lead was cut to three, but finally Kilkenny woke up and put some distance between them and Galway, with points from Kelly, Power, Aylward and Walter Walsh leaving seven between the sides at the death.
Kilkenny scorers: John Power 2-1 (1-0 pen), G Aylward 1-3, W Walsh 1-0, K Kelly 0-6 (4f), P Walsh, C Buckley, W Walsh 0-2 each.
Galway scorers: D Glennon 1-1, J Cooney 1-0, N Burke 0-8 (5f), T Haran 0-3 (2f), R Commins, J Regan, J Glynn 0-1 each.
Galway: F Flannery, B Flaherty, D Burke, J Grealish, J Coen, D Burke, J Cooney, P Brehony, T Haran, R Commins, N Burke, J Regan, C Cooney, J Glynn, D Glennon.
Subs: P Killeen for Brehony, S Moloney for Commins
Kilkenny: D Walsh, J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy, L Harney, R Doyle, J Lyng, G Brennan, O Walsh, K Kelly, P Walsh, C Buckley; W Walsh, J Power, G Aylward.
Subs: M Gaffney for P Walsh.
Referee: J Sexton (Cork).