Ruttledge kills off battling Kilkenny
Two years ago, Nowlan Park was the graveyard for Galway's summer campaign, but on Saturday they banished those demons with a hard-fought win over Kilkenny in their own back yard.
The game hung in the balance right until Tara Ruttledge pulled on a loose ball to fire past Catriona Ryan with two minutes left. Up to then, the Cats had kept in touch thanks mainly to the accuracy of Aoife Neary from frees.
Ironically, it was one of her poorer efforts that helped to give her side the impetus to mount a comeback that made for a gripping second half. Neary's free dropped short and Edel Maher was on hand to finish.
From then on the game ebbed and flowed right until Ruttledge raised the green flag.
Galway dominated the first half and after 22 minutes they led by 0-6 to 0-2, with Niamh Kilkenny hitting four points.
Just before the break the game moved up a notch as Brenda Hanney fired to the net. Niamh Kilkenny immediately tagged on a point as Galway turned the screw.
The Cats responded though and Aisling Dunphy stroked home to give them hope. On the resumption Maher's goal had Kilkenny flying. Neary and Dunphy's efforts sandwiched a point from Galway sub Noreen Coen, before Neary hit her fourth and fifth free to make it a one-point match heading for the final quarter.
Galway's star performer Niamh Kilkenny kept the Westerners out in front with a free as the nerves began to fray, before Ruttledge then put the game beyond doubt with her late goal.
Player of the match: N Kilkenny (Gal)
SCORERS -- Galway: N Kilkenny 0-8 (4f), B Hanney 1-2, T Ruttledge 1-0, A Connolly, N Coen, V Curtin 0-1 each. Kilkenny: A Neary 0-5 (5f), A Dunphy 1-1, E Maher 1-0, S Farrell 0-1.
GALWAY -- S Earner; T Manton, S Cahalan, L Ryan; AM Hayes, T Maher, H Cooney; N Kilkenny, AM Starr; O Kilkenny, S Tannian, A Connolly; T Ruttledge, B Hanney, V Curtin. Subs: M Conroy for Tannian (20), N Coen for O Kilkenny (28).
KILKENNY -- C Ryan; C Dormer, C Doherty, G Walsh; J Frisby, C Phelan, E Aylward; A Dunphy, A Dalton; A Neary, A Fahey, D Gaule; M Dargan, E Maher, M Quilty. Subs: E Keane for J Frisby (h-t), S Farrell for Dargan (34), M O'Connor for Fahey (39), K Fennelly for Dunphy (21).
REF -- M O'Kelly (Cork)