Brian Cody fumes at 'sloppiness' after Kilkenny withstood late Galway scare
Kilkenny 0-21 Galway 1-14
Move along folks, nothing to see here. Dog bites man; tourist gets pocket picked down side-street; husband forgets Mothers' Day card; Galway come up short against the stripey men.
In any hierarchy of unremarkable mishaps, Galway hurlers losing in Nowlan Park is well down the page. True, they almost rescued something from an odd contest with a strangely fitful, uneven cadence to it. But the late pulse came as much from Kilkenny forgetting themselves as it did from a maroon resurgence.
The bottom-line stat is that, when the arithmetic grew dangerous (0-17 to 1-13 with ten minutes remaining), Kilkenny rallied, scoring four of the last five points of the day. There and then, the silliness subsided.
The eccentricity of this rivalry was highlighted in a programme piece, Enda McEvoy rewinding to 2012 and a 35-point turnaround between their contests on April 1 (Kilkenny 3-26; Galway 0-10) and July 8 (Galway 2-21; Kilkenny 2-11). There's no denying the relationship has its aberrant turns.
On their good days, it's as if Galway can reach inside the Kilkenny ribcage. On their bad ones, they have all the personality of a hurling wall.
Yesterday, they danced between both vistas. Having matched their hosts score for score through the opening 11 minutes, they bled seven unanswered points to the 20th and, thereafter, slipped into that familiar Galway setting of mild ambivalence.
Kilkenny led 0-13 to 0-5 at half-time, then spurned a couple of simple scores just after the resumption, most notably Richie Hogan's first-time fresh-air in front of goal after being all but placed in a sedan chair by Colin Fennelly's run.
Fennelly himself had spooned a weak shot into James Skehill's hands just beforehand and, on the line, you could all but sense Brian Cody bristle.
Kilkenny's lead was 0-15 to 0-6 with 25 minutes remaining, but they were loitering now.
Joe Canning scored a sublime point without taking the ball to hand from the right tram-line and, when Cillian Buckley then gifted him another opportunity, Joe obliged again. Then Iarla Tannian nailed a monster and a Canning free brought the margin down to six.
And then, with 13 minutes remaining, Galway got a slapstick goal that set the 7,402 attendance ablaze with mild consternation. Paul Hoban's low shot wasn't exactly an essay in elegance or velocity, but it skittered its way past an unsighted Richie Reid to shrink the margin down to three.
If looks could kill, Cody's face would be on a 'Wanted' poster today.
"I wouldn't be wild about sloppiness," he told us with some understatement when it was over. "I suppose we were decent in the first half and we were not decent in the second. The start of the second half we got opportunities to take big scores and we didn't take them. And we weren't as competitive as we needed to be at all for the rest of the half.
"The game kind of fizzled out I thought. It wasn't the most brilliant game I'd say."
That it wasn't, but Galway will mine consolation from having escaped the lions' den without being mauled. Daithi Burke had a fine game at full-back and, once he drifted out to the middle third, Canning was terrific. Indeed, for a time, the only real entertainment open to the Kilkenny throng was a gentle baiting of the Portumna man.
They reacted furiously to his 32nd-minute response to a Conor Fogarty foul (where he seemed to drop-puck the ball at his assailant) but, with the hordes baying, Canning nailed a magnificent free from half-way.
That said, by then, his counterpart in stripes, TJ Reid, already had 0-10 on the board, so there was no real sense of a marquee shoot-out here. Just the fun of two efficient geniuses going about their business.
Canning finished that half with three successive wides, but his urgency was welcome to a Galway team for whom only Iarla Tannian and Davy Glennon carried a supportive threat.
Always, you sensed Kilkenny to be in control even if Hogan and Fennelly were strangely off-colour and Kevin Kelly unable to make any inroads on the edge of the square. Skehill saved wonderfully from Walter Walsh in the 44th minute after Burke's giveaway pass and, without the liberating energy of a goal, Kilkenny just never slipped over the horizon.
James Maher did build on the good impression made two weeks earlier against Tipp with another brace of points, but the Kilkenny attack lacked its customary explosiveness here.
Hoban's goal was quickly followed by points from Padraig Brehony, Glennon and Canning to make it a one-point game with ten minutes remaining. And that was when Kilkenny worked the bellows of their self-disgust to kick on again.
They might have had a late goal but for Gerry McInerney's brilliant hook on Maher but, pointedly, most the late action was down the Ted Carroll end, Galway's rally finally spent.
For Micheal Donoghue, the consolations were not things to be trumpeted.
Yet, at nine points down, they look in danger of falling heavily here and, however much Kilkenny's tardiness contributed to the narrative, this was better than what Galway have often shown in similar circumstances.
They will have been especially pleased with the leadership shown by Canning and the attentiveness of a defence that did not ship a goal.
"Look, there's no such thing as a moral victory, but we put in a decent second-half performance so it's something to build on for next week" said the Galway manager.
"In fairness to the lads they came out with a different attitude in the second half. I think the challenge for us is to get more consistent performance out of them. Division 1 is really, really competitive so, for us, it's just about getting more games, getting more training with the lads.
"They're getting to know what ideas we want. We're looking at trying to nail down lads in different positions. Down through the years, lads were saying we need a three or a six or an 11 or whatever it may be, so the games are giving us the opportunity to look at lads in different positions."
Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-14 (8fs, 2 '65s'), R Hogan, C Fogarty , J Maher 0-2 each, C Fennelly 0-1. Galway: J Canning 0-8 (3fs), P Hoban 1-0, D Glennon, I Tannian 0-2 each, J Flynn, P Brehony 0-1 each
Kilkenny - R Reid 6, S Prendergast 6, J Holden 7, J Tyrrell 6, P Walsh 8, K Joyce 7, C Buckley 7, L Ryan 6, C Fogarty 7, C Fennelly 5, TJ Reid 8, J Maher 7, W Walsh 5, K Kelly 5, R Hogan 6. Sub: JJ Farrell 6 for Kelly (61)
Galway - J Skehill 7, F Moore 7, Daithi Burke 8, G McInerney 6, A Harte 6, David Burke 6, P Hoban 6, D Glennon 7, A Smith 6, N Burke 5, I Tannian 7, C Whelan 6, C Mannion 5, J Canning 8, J Flynn 6. Subs: E Burke 6 for C Mannion (h-t), M Keating 6 for Smith (41), P Brehony 6 for Whelan (52), S Moloney 6 for Tannian (60), R Cummins (not on long enough to be rated) for Flynn (69)
Ref - B Kelly (Westmeath)