Tuesday 6 December 2016

John Mullane: Better teams than Galway will feel they can hurt Cats

John Mullane

Published 06/07/2015 | 02:30

Jonathon Glynn, Galway, in action against Kilkenny players, left to right, Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Jackie Tyrell, Cillian Buckley, Conor Fogarty, and Kieran Joyce (Sportsfile)
Jonathon Glynn, Galway, in action against Kilkenny players, left to right, Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Jackie Tyrell, Cillian Buckley, Conor Fogarty, and Kieran Joyce (Sportsfile)

There might be a King and a couple of princes gone but the Kilkenny dynasty still remains as strong as ever. The Master himself, Brian Cody, now leads it. That's his 14th Leinster title in 17 seasons - an incredible record.

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What was good about Kilkenny yesterday was the fact that they answered all the questions that needed answering.

Was Joey Holden going to stand up to the test against Joe Canning? Apart from Joe's wonder-goal and a point from play, this was an accomplished performance from Holden.

He was captain too, and that would have brought extra pressure.

Paul Murphy was outstanding too but man of the match was TJ Reid.

When they needed leadership, it was Reid and Eoin Larkin who popped up with what was required.

Kilkenny players, from left, Cillian Buckley, Richie Hogan, Paul Murphy, TJ Reid, Eoin Larkin, and Conor Fogarty cheer on their captain Joey Holden as he raises the cup
Kilkenny players, from left, Cillian Buckley, Richie Hogan, Paul Murphy, TJ Reid, Eoin Larkin, and Conor Fogarty cheer on their captain Joey Holden as he raises the cup

They had a great spread of scorers in that forward line, and Cillian Buckley was another to shine further back the field.

Kilkenny racked up 1-25 and there's still room for improvement, but other teams will feel they can be stopped this year.

I don't think Galway had the personnel or the game-plan to really trouble them.

Brian Cody spoke about tougher challenges to come, and the likes of Clare, Tipperary and Waterford could pose problems for them down the line.

Those three teams play a moving, running games and that's what's required to break down Kilkenny.

But as Paul Murphy alluded to, Kilkenny are where they want to be - in an All-Ireland semi-final and with a long break ahead of them. They've gone the direct route again - a route that has served them so well down through the years.

Cathal Mannion, Galway, in action against Kieran Joyce, Kilkenny
Cathal Mannion, Galway, in action against Kieran Joyce, Kilkenny

Galway set the tone from the off and were very physical. The hit from Jonathan Glynn on Kieran Joyce summed up their approach, but Joyce's response typified Kilkenny: he looked to be out cold for a minute or two but he got up and got on with it.

A mention too for Joe Canning's wonder goal. I was in the press box and got out of my seat to applaud it.

It was a piece of sublime individual skill and I'm still not sure how he managed to manoeuvre his body and engineer a goal out of absolutely nothing, I'm still not sure.

Cyril Donnellan tried very hard for Galway in the second half, breaking up a lot of play, but the forward division found it hard to penetrate the Kilkenny rearguard.

I don't know how they're able to do it but Kilkenny suck the opposition into their half, hold firm with their lead and close the game out. They sit back and get men behind the ball.

Richie Hogan went back as a third midfielder and mopped up ball in his own half-back line. Colin Fennelly dropped deep and that allowed the likes of TJ Reid and Eoin Larkin to pick off long-rang scores.

Galway are still in a pretty good place. Anthony Cunningham and Andy Smith appeared happy with their lot in the post-match interviews.

They have something to work on but they're not good enough to go all the way and win the All-Ireland.

Cathal Mannion started well but when Paul Murphy went across to pick him up, his influence on the game was nullified.

Murphy is the best corner-back in the country at the moment and it was between him, Reid and Larkin for the man of the match award.

The first half was very good but we still haven't got that one big match to get us on the edge of our seats.

Read more: Five things we learned from Kilkenny's win over Galway

Read more: Brian Cody shrugs off latest landmark as he hails 'magnificent attitude'

I think we might see it next weekend in the Munster final but Kilkenny are sitting pretty now, into the last four of the All-Ireland series.

I'm still not as convinced as other years that they'll push on and win the All-Ireland. There's room for improvement, but better opposition can hurt this team.

Cody will need Michael Fennelly and Richie Power back for the All-Ireland semi-final because the Kilkenny bench won't strike fear into any future opposition.

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