Tuesday 20 March 2018

All so very familiar as Cody's crew sink Tribesmen

All-Ireland SHC final: Kilkenny 1-22 Galway1-18

Galway’s Pádraig Mannion goes shoulder to shoulder with Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward during yesterday’s All-Ireland SHC final at Croke Park
Galway’s Pádraig Mannion goes shoulder to shoulder with Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward during yesterday’s All-Ireland SHC final at Croke Park
Kilkenny's Paul Murphy attempts to block a shot from Conor Whelan, Galway
Galway's Conor Whelan and Shane Prendergast of Kilkenny contest for the Sliotar mid-air
Galway's Joe Canning
Galway's Cyril Donnellan battles against Michael Fennelly, left, and TJ Reid of Kilkenny
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The level of opposition Kilkenny encounter may differ but otherwise there's a predictable similarity about early September Sundays in Croke Park.

They open with a surge of anticipation that the latest challengers will trouble Kilkenny in a way that others didn't but usually end with those who predicted a win for the underdogs asking themselves why they were so foolish.

Within minutes of winning the All-Ireland title for the 36th time - their 11th success in the new Millennium - Kilkenny were installed as 7/4 favourites to complete another treble next year.

No surprise there, since Kilkenny appear to be able to shape the Championship to their liking most of the time, squeezing the resistance from opposition, who eventually succumb to their relentless ferocity.

Read more: John Mullane: Galway minor stars must push on if seniors are to make breakthrough

Galway matched it for the first half yesterday, only to suffer a catastrophic power failure in a second half where they scored only four points in normal time before Joe Canning drove a free to the net in the 71st minute.

By then, Kilkenny were seven points ahead, having scored 0-14 since facing a half-time deficit of 0-14 to 1-8. The opening minutes of the second half shaped the game in the way Kilkenny wanted as they scored 0-3 to draw level.

And while sub David Collins restored the lead for Galway with a long-range point, that was as good as it got for the Tribesmen.

Kilkenny took control all over the pitch and, in addition to injecting real precision into their own game, they dismantled Galway's structure so easily that the result was inevitable from quite some way out. The Cats' lead may have been a mere three points on the hour mark but the flow was pouring so much their way that a Galway revival looked most unlikely.

Read more: Cyril Farrell: Galway wounded by defeat but can build on positives for 2016

And so it proved as they managed just a single point over the next 10 minutes before Canning hit the late goal. It wasn't that Galway didn't have some good chances in the period, but no fewer than four were sent wide, by Canning, Conor Whelan, Greg Lally and Conor Cooney.

Canning's wide from a free in the 62nd minute was especially significant. It was relatively straight-forward but he missed the target when a point would have cut the deficit to two points.

It summed up his second-half performance, which was in such contrast to the first half when he scored seven points, three from open play.

He thought he had landed another point just before the interval but it was waved wide and pleas to check it on Hawk-Eye were ignored by referee James Owens.

If that irritated Galway, Kilkenny were unhappy a few minutes earlier when Johnny Coen escaped with a yellow card for a head-high tackle on Colin Fennelly. It probably merited red but Owens gave Coen the benefit of the doubt.


It was different in the second half when quite a borderline few calls went against Galway.

Not that it mattered in the overall context of a game where Kilkenny imposed their will and let nature take its inexorable course.

Read more: Second half burst and leaders step up – Five reasons why Kilkenny are champions

They were helped by Galway's panic-stricken response to Kilkenny's improvement. Whereas Galway had reacted bravely and positively to the various challenges in the first half, they completely lost their way after the interval.

The attack got sucked into Kilkenny's vortex and, as has happened so many others, there was no escape.

Whelan was the only Galway attacker to really test the Kilkenny defence in the second half, a responsibility that no 18-year old should be expected to take on.

He worked diligently, often against two defenders, but with so little assistance coming from his colleagues, he was fighting a lost cause.

It was all in marked contrast to the other end. Eoin Larkin, who had an excellent game in a variety of postings, enjoyed consistent support, backed up by the relentless drive of Michael Fennelly and Conor Fogarty around midfield.

John Hanbury resisted strongly for Galway and Collins did well after coming on for Aidan Harte but there was a limit to what they could manage against superior forces.

Read more: John Mullane: Only the one winner once Cats created street brawl

Galway didn't help their cause either with several sloppy clearances out of defence which were readily snapped up by the Kilkenny half-back line, while Paul Murphy mopped up most of the spillage which leaked into the full-back line.

Galway's post-mortem on yet another All-Ireland final failure will concentrate on why they failed to match Kilkenny across a whole range of key areas in the second half.

There were certainly no signs of it in the first half when they played with a tempo that suggested they were ready for anything Kilkenny threw at them.

Their reaction to TJ Reid's 13th-minute goal, followed by a pointed free, was hugely encouraging for Galway supporters, who appeared to out-number their Kilkenny counterparts by almost two to one.

Galway outscored Kilkenny by 0-7 to 0-1 between the 15th and 27th minutes, opening up a four-point lead which was fully merited.

Three of their points came from long-distance frees by Jason Flynn.

Kilkenny struggled badly for much of that period, failing to score between the 18th and 30th minutes, an unusually long barren spell for a team that weathers storms better than anybody.

Leading 0-14 to 1-8 at half-time, Galway would have felt everything was going to plan. Indeed, it might have been if they were up against any other opposition. But, as Kilkenny have proved so often in the Brian Cody era, they know how to work their way through problems.

With Richie Hogan well below his best - he was replaced by Richie Power after 60 minutes - Galway would have felt they had a great chance of ending their 27-year wait for an All-Ireland title but the reality was so very different.

The half-time break gave Kilkenny an opportunity to re-evaluate and, once Fogarty pointed in the 37th minute, the balance of power switched significantly.

Galway failed to score for the first 10 minutes of the second half and, by the hour mark, had added only two more points. Canning (pictured) scored only their fourth point in the 31st minute of the second half, by which stage in the first half they had hit 12 points.

The sad reality for Galway was that if they had repeated their first-half strike rate in the second period they would have won, leaving them to consider why their scoring dried up so alarmingly. Kilkenny's pressure game had a lot to do with it, but there was a self-inflicted element too.

The badly-placed clearances made it easy for Kilkenny to not only prevent Galway attacks but to launch counter-strikes, which they did with trademark efficiency.

And so a season that began with the hurling world wondering whether Kilkenny were slipping has ended in familiar pose, as the Liam MacCarthy Cup heads to black-and-amber territory for the eighth time in ten seasons.

As for Galway, the misery goes on. This was their sixth defeat in the final since last winning the title in 1988 and while it wasn't as comprehensive as the 2012 replay defeat by Kilkenny, it was similar in that they fell away in the second half after raising the supporters' hopes earlier on .

Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-7 (5fs, 2 '65s'), R Hogan, W Walsh, C Fennelly, E Larkin, G Aylward, M Fennelly 0-2 each, C Fogarty, P Walsh, J Coen (own point) 0-1 each. Galway: J Canning 1-8 (1-5f), J Flynn 0-4 (3fs), C Whelan, D Collins 0-2 each, David Burke, C Donnellan 0-1 each.

Kilkenny - E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley; M Fennelly, C Fogarty; C Fennelly, R Hogan, TJ Reid; G Aylward, W Walsh, E Larkin. Subs: R Power for Hogan (60), J Power for Aylward (62).

Galway - C Callanan; P Mannion, J Hanbury, J Coen; I Tannian, Daithi Burke, A Harte; A Smith, David Burke; J Flynn, C Donnellan, J Glynn; C Whelan, J Canning, C Mannion. Subs: D Collins for Harte (24),C Cooney for Smith (56), G Lally for Donnellan (64),S Moloney for J Flynn (65).

Ref - J Owens (Wexford)

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