Tannian and Galway tear up the script
THE clocks were altered overnight and times changed again in the afternoon as Kilkenny found themselves in the most unusual position of having lost three National Hurling League games by the end of March.
That's above their average quota of defeats for an entire season throughout the last decade and means that they have almost certainly surrendered the League title which has so often been the precursor to the great championship onslaughts.
Brian Cody's fingers won't be wandering towards the panic button just yet but he did emphasise how much hard work lies ahead as they wind up for the All-Ireland five-in-a-row challenge.
"Galway deserved to win -- we never really dominated the game," he said of yesterday's exciting encounter in Nowlan Park.
Mind you, they gave a very good impression of exerting total control when they outscored Galway by 1-7 to 0-1 in the third quarter to open up a five-point lead (1-16 to 0-14). It looked ominously reminiscent of Galway's collapse against Tipperary some weeks ago when, after turning an excellent first half, they were crushed in the second half.
However, this time Galway's response was altogether more constructive as they rattled into Kilkenny with a courageous mix of flair and power.
The introduction of subs Kevin Hynes, Iarla Tannian and Richie Cummins to the attack made a significant difference as did the dismissal of Kilkenny wing-back Paddy Hogan for a second bookable offence just after the hour mark.
Tannian scored 2-1 in an enterprising contribution; Hynes chipped in with two points while Cummins engaged the Kilkenny defence with a strong running game. Cyril Donnellan, who had given Jackie Tyrrell a torrid time in the first half during which he scored four points, maintained his high work-rate while midfielder Ger Farragher punished Kilkenny from placed balls.
The game was held up for eight minutes after Galway goalkeeper James Skehill was knocked out in an accidental collision with Aidan Fogarty in the 62nd minute. He was taken to hospital by ambulance as a precautionary measure and when play resumed with the sides level, it really was anybody's guess who would take the points.
Kilkenny nudged ahead three times subsequently but were hauled back each time before being hit for what turned out to be the match-winning goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time when Cummins supplied Tannian who batted the ball to the net to put Galway two points clear.
Kilkenny pared one back and, recognising that they needed to win to keep their League title prospects intact, they pressed on in search of a goal in the closing seconds.
Indeed, they had one final chance when TJ Reid, who had earlier scored 1-3, wound up for a strike on goal.
However, Galway sub goalkeeper, Colm Callanan made an excellent stop which retained Galway's slim majority and clinched their first significant win over Kilkenny for quite some time.
Manager John McIntyre attributed Galway's brave reaction to Kilkenny's third-quarter power surge to the lessons learned from the Tipperary game.
"Ten minutes into the second half it looked like a case of déjà vu. Kilkenny had the wind and the momentum but we learned from the Tipperary game and, in fairness, the response was great.
"The lads showed real backbone and character this time. If it (another fade-out) had happened again today, you would be worried about the future so, in the circumstances, we're thrilled by the way we turned things around," he said.
Galway had enjoyed a marginal advantage throughout the first half and managed to build it into a four-point lead (0-13 to 0-9) by half-time. However, Kilkenny were an altogether different force on the restart and quickly asserted their authority helped, it must be acknowledged, by a giveaway goal in the 40th minute.
Skehill left his goal line to fetch the ball but lost possession as he was winding up to make a clearance and Reid pounced to score a goal which was followed by a string of points. With the light wind behind them, Kilkenny seemed set to not only pick up the League points but to also bank a considerable deposit in their scoring difference.
It was crisis time for Galway but unlike the Tipperary game, where they allowed themselves to be tossed into oblivion, they showed real character to chisel out a crucial victory.
"To beat Kilkenny is a turning point psychologically. And to do it in the manner we did was a second turning point," said McIntyre before warning of the need for the Tribesmen to lock themselves into the consistency habit.
"It's always good to beat Kilkenny -- especially down here -- but all it does is put two more League points on the board. We're happy with that but we have a fixture with danger written all over it against Dublin next weekend," he added.
He will be able to call on the Portumna contingent for that game which will add further to Galway's options in a League which, with the exception of the Tipperary setback, has progressed most satisfactorily for them.
As for Kilkenny, they would need to win their remaining two games against Limerick and Waterford with other results also falling their way to have any chance of reaching the League final. However, one suspects they are already focused on the championship.
"It's going to take a huge effort to get us where we want to go but then we've always known that," said Cody who will, of course, have a much stronger hand to deal from once his full panel becomes available for selection.
No need to sound the alarm bells around Nowlan Park just yet but losing three of five games to Cork, Tipperary and Galway certainly wasn't on the early-season agenda for a squad about to set out on a historic championship mission.
Yesterday's attendance was 7,124.
Scorers -- Galway: G Farragher 0-9 (6f, 1 '65), I Tannian 2-1, C Donnellan 0-4, A Harte 0-3, K Hynes 0-2, N Healy, D Burke 0-1 each. Kilkenny: R Power 0-7 (5f), TJ Reid 1-3, A Comerford, A Fogarty 0-3 each, P Hogan (1f, 1 '65), M Rice (1 '65) 0-2 each, J Fitzpatrick, J Tennyson, J Mulhall 0-1 each.
Galway -- J Skehill; F Moore, S Kavanagh, D Joyce; D Collins, J Lee, D Barry; G Farragher, D Burke; A Callanan, C Donnellan, E Ryan; A Harte, J Gantley, N Healy. Subs: K Hynes for A Callanan (51), I Tannian for Gantley (52), R Cummins for Healy (57), C Callanan for Skehill (62), T Og Regan for Lee (79).
Kilkenny -- PJ Ryan; T Walsh, B Hogan, J Dalton; P Hogan, J Tyrrell, J Tennyson; N Walsh, J Fitzpatrick; J Mulhall, M Rice, M Comerford; TJ Reid, R Power, A Fogarty. Subs: C Hickey for Hogan (44), J Ryall for N Walsh (65).
Ref -- J Owens (Wexford).