Galway retained their Leinster hurling title with an impressive 1-28 to 3-15 win in a sun-drenched Thurles on Sunday.
The Westerners were superb throughout, but in fairness, Kilkenny had their purple patches as well in the game. Indeed, Brian Cody’s charges trailed by 12 points at one stage but cut the deficit to just a single point, before Galway rallied in the final 10 minutes to pull away yet again. The reigning champions are now through to the All-Ireland semi-final stages, while Kilkenny will now have to pick themselves up for a quarter final game against Limerick next weekend in a venue yet to be decided by the GAA.
Micheal Donoghue’s charges were full value for their 9 point lead at the break, 1-16 to 1-07 and in truth should have been a bit further ahead. Cathal Mannion opened the scoring and Galway then pushed three ahead with further points from Niall Burke and Conor Whelan and after six minutes Galway were 0-03 to 0-00 ahead. The imperious TJ Reid traded points with Aidan Harte, before Ardrahan club man Johnny Glynn grabbed a goal for Galway despite the efforts of Eoin Murphy in the Kilkenny goal. Galway then went on to tag on further white flags with Whelan, Mannion and that man Glynn again coming to the fore.
Galway in the driving seat 1-07 to 0-01 after 15 minutes. Joe Canning stretched the gap to eleven with a brace of points, before Reid knocked over two for Kilkenny to get the scoreboard ticking again for the Cats, John Donnelly canceled out a free from Canning soon after. Reid then knocked over his fourth, before Joey Holden registered a point to narrow the gap to seven, however Canning split the posts with a trademark sideline, before Glynn tapped over again the lead out to ten now, 5 minutes to go in the first half. Mannion and Joe Cooney then raised white flags, before Ger Aylward scored a very controversial goal, he appeared to carry the ball ’13 steps’ before he kicked the ball to the net, the goal stood despite protests from the Galway defenders. Reid and Whelan then traded scores to end the half.
The second half began where it left off with both, however, Kilkenny appeared more fired up and they cut the gap to five by 42 minutes. James Maher and Canning traded scores, before half time substitute Colin Fennelly got on the end of a misplaced pointed effort from Maher to fire to the net past James Skehill all to play for once more. Galway didn’t panic though as Canning settled nerves with a free, before Whelan fired over another point. Fennelly responded for Kilkenny for Richie Hogan and Conor Fogarty cut the gap to five once again on 50 minutes. TJ Reid fired over a free, before that man Hogan was on hand to finish past Skehill with a superb ground shot on 55 minutes to make a 1 point game. Canning pointed for Galway, before Conor Fogarty had his shot from long distance ruled out by Hawk Eye. Cathal Mannion who was easily man of the match in my eyes scored a corker of a point on 60 minutes to cancel out a TJ Reid free. Conor Cooney then got the insurance score with six minutes to go for setting up Canning for another a minute later.
Reid registered Kilkenny’s eight point, but Aidan Harte who had a spectacular game at wing back knocked over his second about 20 seconds later. Murphy was then called up in the Kilkenny goal to save from Jason Flynn, however referee James Owens had his arm outstretched for an advantage for a free and brought it back and Canning fired over and the gap was six with just injury time left. Jason Flynn closed the scoring for the game as Galway retained the Bob O’Keeffe Cup and marched on to an All-Ireland semi-final.
Galway – J Skehill; A Tuohy, Daithí Burke, J Hanbury; P Mannion, G McInerney, A Harte (0-2); J Coen, David Burke; J Cooney (0-1), J Canning (0-10, 6f), N Burke (0-2); C Mannion (0-6), J Glynn (1-1), C Whelan (0-4). Subs: C Cooney (0-1) for N Burke (47mins), J Flynn (0-1) for J Cooney (61), S Loftus for David Burke (69)
Kilkenny – E Murphy; P Murphy, P Walsh, P Deegan; J Holden (0-1), C Buckley, E Morrissey; C Fogarty (0-1), J Maher (0-1); J Donnelly (0-1), TJ Reid (0-9, 6f, 1 ’65), R Leahy; W Walsh, B Ryan, G Aylward (1-0). Subs: L Blanchfield for W Walsh (18mins, inj), R Hogan (1-1) for R Leahy (HT), C Fennelly (1-1) for B Ryan (HT), R Lennon for E Morrissey (48), L Scanlon for J Donnelly (62)
Ref: James Owens (Wexford)