Glory for Kilkenny as Malone slams door shut on Galway revival
Kilkenny 2-7 Galway0-7
Kilkenny confirmed their liking for Semple Stadium by repeating their final victory at the venue two years ago to claim their 12th National League Division 1 title.
Clare were the victims in 2014 and while this decider wasn't as one-sided in terms of the final score, there was no questioning Kilkenny's absolute superiority over Galway.
It was a dreadfully disappointing display by Ollie Bergin's charges. And if patrons arrived looking forward to an explosive individual battle between two of the game's premier midfielders, they were to be disappointed.
While some eyebrows might have been raised by Anne Dalton's siting at right half-forward, it wasn't necessarily revolutionary given her previous experience in the role.
The surprise came in the deployment of Niamh Kilkenny at full-forward, as it meant that goal poacher Molly Dunne was relocated to left half-forward.
That experiment was dispensed with after a quarter of an hour, as Kilkenny dominated around the centre, where Anna Farrell especially stood out.
Perhaps Kilkenny (the player) was carrying an injury, as she remained in attack and we saw none of the usual rampaging runs. Instead, Bergin moved Aoife Donoghue to midfield to counteract the Noreside pairing.
It did have some impact and Galway were more competitive after the break. It was notable, though, that their five second-half points all came from placed balls, and they managed only one score from play all game.
Ann Downey's outfit saw the game out comfortably enough, although the former great would have preferred more from her forwards in the latter period than 1-1.
She would have been delighted with the manner in which they flew out of the traps, though, with points from Julie Ann Malone and Farrell.
Shauna Burke made two excellent saves as Kilkenny poured forward. The Galway goalkeeper should have done better, however, when Shelly Farrell laid the groundwork once more for Anna, whose dipping shot was miscontrolled into the net in the 11th minute.
It was the 15th minute before Galway got off the mark. Kilkenny were well in control and Dalton fired over on the run before Denise Gaule made it 1-6 to 0-2 at half time.
But Galway did resume with considerably more vigour and had the margin down to four with nine minutes left.
Kilkenny shut the door on them with a goal of sumptuous design and construction, involving three stick passes by the two Farrells and Gaule, before Malone launched a rocket high to the corner of the net.
It said much for Kilkenny's superior energy levels that they could find a free player at that end of the field on three occasions in the move, despite playing with a sweeper for the second half. There was no way back for Galway from that.
SCORERS - Kilkenny: A Farrell, JA Malone 1-1 each; D Gaule 0-3fs; A Dalton, SA Quinlan 0-1 each. Galway: N McGrath 0-6fs; A Donoghue 0-1.
KILKENNY - AM Lennon, J Frisby, D Tobin, C Dormer, S Quirke, E Keane, S Kent, KA Doyle, A Farrell, A Dalton, JA Malone, D Gaule, SA Quinlan, M Walsh, S Farrell. Subs: C Phelan for Quirke (36), M Quilty for Doyle (46).
GALWAY - S Burke, H Cooney, S Dervan, S Coen, A Starr, R Hennelly, L Ryan, S Healy, C McGrath, A Donoghue, N McGrath, M Dunne, A Callanan, N Kilkenny, A O'Reilly. Subs: O McGrath for Dunne (45), N Coen for Callanan (47), T Kenny for S Coen (53).
REF - C Egan (Cork).