Galway and the Cats are inseparable in thrilling minor clash
All-Ireland MHC semi-final: Galway2-20 Kilkenny0-26
All-Ireland champions Kilkenny survived a superb comeback by Galway in extra-time at Croke Park to send a thrilling semi-final to a replay.
Kilkenny, having not led until the 40th minute, seemed poised for victory when they led by six points in extra-time but yet required an injury-time point from Andy Gaffney to force a replay.
Gaffney had a chance to win it with the last puck of the game with a free from distance but it would have been very tough on Galway, not least as they would have felt neither of two late frees should have been awarded.
Galway's ability to get goals at crucial stages ensured they stayed alive in a thrilling contest where they were level a dozen times.
The sides were level four times in the opening half but Kilkenny never managed to get ahead and they trailed by 0-10 to 0-8 at the interval.
There was plenty of open hurling throughout with Galway getting off to a flying start when Thomas Monaghan pointed after just ten seconds and Brian Concannon quickly followed with another.
It took the champions a long time to settle as Galway crowded the middle sector with corner-forward Sean Loftus playing a roaming role, but Gaffney got Leinster off the mark with a free after seven minutes and John Donnelly levelled two minutes later.
Evan Niland edged the Tribesmen back in front before Joey Cuddihy landed a superb equaliser for the Cats from the left wing.
But then Galway took control after that and hit four points without reply in just over three minutes with Niland, Monaghan, Fintan Burke and Jack Grealish finding the range to lead by 0-7 to 0-3 after 15 minutes.
There was a danger of the game slipping away from Kilkenny but they responded in typical fashion and three more frees from Gaffney and a second point from Donnelly from the left wing tied the game at 0-7 apiece five minutes from the break.
Niland and O'Connor exchanged points but Galway pulled ahead before the break thanks to good scores from Concannon and Niland.
Kilkenny got on top after the restart with Richie Leahy leading the way around the middle of the field and they held Galway scoreless in the third quarter as they hit five points without reply.
Leahy and Michael Cody drew them level before Shane Mahony put them in front for the first time after 40 minutes.
Gaffney then tacked on a '65 and Conor Doheny also found the range to lead by 0-13 to 0-10 after 46 minutes.
But Galway, with their first score of the half, got back in contention when a quickly-taken free from Jack Coyne was sent low across goal by Niland for Cian Salmon to set up the inrushing Monaghan and he fired to the net to level them after 49 minutes.
Leahy restored Kilkenny's lead almost immediately before a Niland free levelled them for the seventh time before Gaffney and Ciaran Connor then exchanged points. Leahy then put Kilkenny back in front before setting up Connolly for another score but Galway rallied and levelled with efforts from Michael Lynch and Niland.
A point from Conor Hennessy looked set to win it for Kilkenny but deep into stoppage time Monaghan rescued Galway to force extra-time when he pointed under pressure from the left wing to level the sides for the tenth time at 0-18 to 1-15.
Kilkenny then took over in the first period of extra-time and struck for six points without reply in a blistering spell with sub Hennessy getting two along with Gaffney and one apiece from Bill Sheehan and Leahy, although Galway were given hope when Niland and Cianan Fahy pointed to leave it 0-24 to 1-17 at the interval in extra-time.
Loftus cut the gap to three points after the restart when he cut in from the right and his shot flew over rather than under the crossbar.
Gaffney quickly cancelled that but then Galway got another lifeline when Cian Salmon got a flick to a long-range free from Niland and send the ball to the net with three minutes left.
And then a minute later Niland levelled the sides with another free and the Tribesmen seemed set for a dramatic victory when Liam Forde pointed in the first minute of stoppage time.
But Gaffney rescued Kilkenny with a free from the right which was hotly disputed by Galway and the task was made less difficult for the Cats' marksman when referee John O'Brien moved the ball to a more favourable position for dissent and Gaffney landed his tenth point of the game.
"Fair play to the lads for never giving up," said Galway manager Jeff Lynskey. "We just asked them to keep going to the end, we could have won it but at least we both get another chance."
Man of the match Leahy said they were disappointed to advance but was looking forward to having another crack at Galway.
"We would have hoped to push on when we led by six points in extra-time but it could have gone either way in the end," said the midfielder.
Scorers - Galway: E Niland 0-8 (6f, 1 '65), T Monaghan 1-3, C Salmon 1-0, B Concannon 0-2, F Burke, J Grealish, C Connor, M Lynch, C Fahy, S Loftus, L Forde, all 0-1 each. Kilkenny: A Gaffney 0-10 (8f, 1 '65), R Leahy 0-4, C Hennessy 0-3, J Donnelly 0-2, J Cuddihy, D O'Connor, M Cody, S Mahony, C Doheny, J Connolly, B Sheehan, all 0-1 each.
Galway - D Gilligan; S Bannon, J Fitzpatrick, C Connor; C Mulry, I O'Brien, A Greaney; J Grealish, J Coyne; B Concannon, T Monaghan, F Burke; M Lynch, E Niland, S Loftus. Subs: C Fahy for Concannon (39), C Salmon for Burke (43), K Cooney for Lynch (57), Concannon for Grealish (64), L Forde for Coyne (67), Burke for Monaghan (72).
Kilkenny - S Murphy; M Cody, T Walsh, C McGrath; D Mullen, D Joyce, C Doheny; R Leahy, J Connolly; D O'Connor, S Mahony, J Donnelly; A Gaffney, J Cuddihy, T O'Dwyer. Subs: E Delaney for Donnelly (35), C Hennessey for O'Connor (43), R Bergin for Joyce (53), N Walsh for Connolly (58), B Sheehan for O'Dwyer (60), O'Dwyer for Mahony (70).
Ref - J O'Brien (Tipperary)