Gritty Galway make real statement of intent in Cats den
Leinster SHC round robin: Galway 3-20 Kilkenny 2-22
Three red cards, 11 yellow cards, and controversy over the amount of time played in the second-half provided the crowd of 15,778 with plenty of talking points as they left Nowlan Park after a fiery contest that dramatically changed the complexion of the Leinster round robin table.
A Kilkenny win would have guaranteed them a place in the Leinster final, irrespective of how they fared against Wexford next Saturday, but now they need to win to make sure of a place in the decider on June 30.
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If they lose and Dublin beat Galway, they will be eliminated from the All-Ireland race, a scenario that looked most unlikely when they started yesterday's second-half just three points (1-13 to 1-10) behind Galway, who had played with a strong wind in the opening 35 minutes.
Galway should have been further ahead, but missed chances, including three long-range frees by Jason Flynn, and an excellent save from Darren Brennan left their advantage slim enough to suggest they were in for a difficult second-half.
And so they were, but their response was emphatic as they raised their game to a level they hadn't previously reached this year.
"A great game to win," was Micheál Donoghue's assessment of a victory that took them to the top of the table. It brought no guarantees, though, as defeat by Dublin next Saturday and a Kilkenny-Wexford draw would eliminate them from the All-Ireland race.
"This is just building blocks for us, we are not going to get carried away," said Donoghue.
Still, there was much for him to enthuse about, especially the manner in which they drove on and took the contest to Kilkenny in the second-half.
A goal by Brian Concannon in the 49th minute put them eight points clear and while a TJ Reid goal in the 59th minute cut the lead to three points, Galway pounced quickly.
Sub Johnny Coen, who played like a man intent on proving a point after being omitted from the starting 15, drove in Galway's third goal in the 60th minute to leave them leading by 3-20 to 2-17.
They didn't score during the remaining 14 minutes, during which Kilkenny hit 0-5. Their recovery took them right to the edge, but they ran out of time as referee Colm Lyons played just over the allocated four minutes of stoppage time.
Given all the earlier stoppages, at least another minute was justified, but it didn't come, much to Galway's relief as the momentum was very much with the home side.
Asked afterwards if he thought more time should have been played, Brian Cody said the fact that it was even being raised tells its own story.
So, too, with the dismissals of Paul Murphy (48th minute) and Ger Aylward (66th minute), for what Lyons deemed second yellow card offences.
"You mention the time-keeping. You're confused with that... you're confused with the cards. I'm equally as confused. I'm not going to comment on referees. It's ridiculous that almost every question so far has been about the referee, so you better go down and ask him yourself," he said.
Kilkenny took two red and six yellow cards, while Galway finished on one red and five yellows, most of them picked up in the closing stages when the pressure took them close to breaking point. Galway's dismissal was of the straight red variety, flashed at John Hanbury in the 61st minute for a high tackle on Aylward.
Galway fouled repeatedly as Kilkenny charged forward relentlessly in the closing stages and while TJ Reid, who finished on 2-11 (2-4 from play) punished the offences, the visitors had enough on deposit to earn them a precious win.
Kilkenny's main frustration centred on the dismissal of Paul Murphy on a second yellow card in the third quarter after his attempt to stop Brian Concannon's run was adjudged to have been overly-aggressive.
It was a borderline call, but a highly significant one as it left Kilkenny a man down for the next 13 minutes until Hanbury saw red, by which time they were six points behind.
Having been held to 0-16 by Wexford in their last game, there was a major improvement in the Galway attack, where all six starters, including Adrian Tuohey, scored.
Best known as a corner-back, he played in the half-forwards and as well as scoring two points, grafted exceptionally hard to stop Kilkenny defenders picking targets with their deliveries.
The workrate across all the Galway attack was up on previous outings and, in addition, their finishing improved too.
None more so than Cathal Mannion, who shot 0-7 (0-6 in the first-half) from play. Conor Whelan and Concannon each scored 1-2, while Jonathon Glynn was at the heart of the action from start to finish.
Reid and Billy Ryan were best of a Kilkenny attack where Walter Walsh was badly missed, after becoming the latest Kilkenny player to be hit with the injury bug.
Will any of them be back for the Wexford game?
"Lads are working hard, but I just don't know at this stage," said Cody.
As for Joe Canning, Donoghue gave nothing away about a projected return date.
"He was back in the collective training last week. He has hit all his markers. He is coming good. We will see how he goes," said the Galway boss.
SCORERS - Galway: C Mannion 0-8 (1f), C Whelan, B Concannon 1-2 each, J Flynn 0-3 (2f), J Coen 1-1, A Tuohey 0-2, J Glynn, David Burke 0-1 each. Kilkenny: TJ Reid 2-11 (6f, 1'65), B Ryan 0-3, B Sheehan, R Leahy 0-2 each, D Brennan (f), A Murphy, P Deegan, C Fennelly 0-1 each.
Galway - C Callanan 7; A Harte 6, Daithi Burke 6, J Hanbury 6; P Mannion 7, G McInerney 6, J Cooney 7; S Loftus 5, David Burke 7; A Tuohey 7, J Glynn 8, C Mannion 9; C Whelan 8, J Flynn 6, B Concannon 8. Subs: J Coen 8 for Loftus (ht), D Glennon 5 for Tuohey (58), N Burke for Concannon (64).
Kilkenny - D Brennan 8; T Walsh 6, H Lawlor 7, P Murphy 6; C Fogarty 6, P Walsh 6, P Deegan 6; A Murphy 6, R Leahy 7; A Mullen 5, B Ryan 8, TJ Reid 9; B Sheehan 7, C Fennelly 6, G Aylward 6. Subs: R Hogan 6 for Mullen (31), J Holden 6 for T Walsh (44), J Cleere 6 for A Murphy (51), J Donnelly 6 for Sheehan (58)
Ref - C Lyons (Cork)