Saturday 10 December 2016

Groundhog day for the Tribesmen as Cats purr yet again

Ryan Nugent

Published 04/07/2016 | 02:30

Kilkenny captain Lester Ryan with supporters delighted to get a close-up view of the trophy. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kilkenny captain Lester Ryan with supporters delighted to get a close-up view of the trophy. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The Tribesmen may have initially sensed fear, but it was the Cats who smelled blood to claw their way back from behind to win yet another Leinster title - nothing new to see here.

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Leicester City and Connacht Rugby have scripted 2016 as the year of the underdog - and if only Brian Cody's Kilkenny had not been so comfortable in writing their relentless success story, Galway may have had a day to remember.

Katie Nagle (5) and her father Richard, from Ballyhale, arrive at Croke Park ahead of the match between Galway and Kilkenny yesterday. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Katie Nagle (5) and her father Richard, from Ballyhale, arrive at Croke Park ahead of the match between Galway and Kilkenny yesterday. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

For the first half, it certainly seemed that way, with Kilkenny asleep and the West awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Just for a moment, Galway seemed like they wanted it more than Cody's winning machine.

Not once, but twice in the opening 30 minutes did Galway players Pádraic Mannion and Conor Cooney leap ecstatically into the air after winning frees.

The Galwegians even ran in at half-time three points to the good.

Read more: Galway challenge peters out as Kilkenny claim 71st Leinster crown in familiar style

But who are we to doubt the most successful team in GAA history?

As one punter remarked at the interval: "I've lost count of how many times I've been here after the first half of a Kilkenny match and said they've played poorly, but how many times have they lost?"

Once Kilkenny forward Jonjo Farrell got his goal to level the game, it became a procession, with the Cats leaving supporters and pundits alike purring again.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on his way into the game. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on his way into the game. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

For Galway fans, however, it was just another groundhog day, with one group of supporters comparing it to Mayo's constant quest to win the football championship.

Caroline Jordan (29) from Galway said the biggest battle for the county's players was in their heads.

"We are disappointed, because it just happens like this every year," Caroline said.

"Every year, we play Kilkenny they come back in the second half and annihilate us.

Galway’s Pádraic Mannion in action against Cillian Buckley of Kilkenny during the Leinster SHC final at Croke Park, which Kilkenny won to claim their 71st provincial title. Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Galway’s Pádraic Mannion in action against Cillian Buckley of Kilkenny during the Leinster SHC final at Croke Park, which Kilkenny won to claim their 71st provincial title. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

"It's psychology because Galway are well able to beat Kilkenny. Bogey team, whatever it is, it's sickening."

However, her brother Niall (42) expected their day to come sooner rather than later.

"We'll keep doing it, we'll keep coming up for matches and we'll get the nirvana we deserve which is an All-Ireland win," he said.

Read more: Leinster hurling final as it happened: Kilkenny 1-26 Galway 0-22

A 15th Leinster title in 19 years means it's a familiar path into the semi-finals for Kilkenny fans, many of whom made their way out of Croke Park before the trophy was even held aloft.

However, any fear that victory was boring their band of supporters was quickly quashed.

James Butler, from Johnswell, Kilkenny took in the game with his sons Aidan (4) and Oliver (6) and said they certainly got their money's worth on Sunday.

"It was a good match until the last 10 minutes," he said.

With both teams still in the All-Ireland draw, who is to say there won't be a repeat of last year's Liam McCarthy Final?

But it is hard to bet against the Cats.

Irish Independent

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