McDonagh shines as Galway make it three-in-a-row
Galway 3-14 Kilkenny 0-12
They have been the minor grade's most dominant force since the turn of the millennium and yesterday, Galway finally completed the three in-a-row, which had previously eluded them, by overpowering Kilkenny at Croke Park.
Sean McDonagh struck the game's decisive score with the last puck of the first half, converting from the penalty spot to send Brian Hanley's side in at the break five points to the good and in truth, Kilkenny never recovered.
Five-points without reply, along with McDonagh's second goal after 47 minutes helped ease Galway over the line, securing a fourth title in five years in the process.
Tiernan Killeen settled Galway into the contest early, sending over a fine point after 30 seconds but Kilkenny quickly restored parity when Billy Drennan pointed the first of his four opening half points.
Galway though received an early boost after falling behind to a Colman O'Sullivan effort when Ruben Davitt reacted quickest to a breaking ball inside the Kilkenny box, striking to the back of the net for a splendid goal and the dream start for the young Tribesmen.
Killeen operated around the middle third in the early going, leaving Galway with a two- man inside line of Davitt and McDonagh, but after Kilkenny sent corner-forward Ian Byrne out to pick up the Loughrea man, both sides quickly resorted back to an orthodox 15, though Killeen's presence did help settle Galway into the game early doors.
Points by O'Sullivan and Timmy Clifford brought Richie Mulrooney's side back within one before McDonagh sent over three points (two frees) to put Galway in the driving seat 1-5 to 0-4.
Drennan provided the riposte for the Cats with three of his own (two frees) but McDonagh's penalty with the last puck of the half, after Greg Thomas was held back by William Halpin, sent Galway in at the break with a five-point lead - 2-6 to 0-7.
Kilkenny were a shell of the side that competed strongly in the opening half and never threatened the thrilling comeback they produced when these sides met in their quarter-final round-robin clash back in July. McDonagh's second goal, after a brilliant no-look handpass from Thomas stretched Galway 3-12 to 0-10 in front and that score well and truly ended the game as a contest though Kilkenny, to their credit, did fight on until the bitter end.
With every attack though, they were met by a wave of maroon and white bodies which ensured of a quiet afternoon for goalkeeper Mike Egan - before the man who opened the scoring, Killeen, sent over another splendid score to conclude the scoring and kickstart the celebrations.
Scorers - Galway: S McDonagh 2-8(6f, 1-0pen, 1'65), R Davitt 1-2, T Killeen 0-2, A Connaire, G Thomas 0-1 each. Kilkenny: B Drennan 0-6(5f), C O'Sullivan 0-2, T Clifford, P McDonald, L Moore, B Wheeler 0-1 each.
Galway - M Egan 7; A Nolan 8, E Lawless 7, C Brennan 8; E Collins 7, I McGlynn 7, J Cooney 8; L Leen 7, A Connaire 8; G Thomas 8, C Cunningham 7, T Killeen 8; S Morgan 7, R Davitt 8, S McDonagh 9. Subs: G Lee 7 for Cunningham(45), S O'Hanlon 7 for Morgan(51), E Davoren 6 for Collins(55), C Molloy 6 for Davitt(59), N Glynn 6 for Thomas(60).
Kilkenny - A Tallis 7; T Roche 8, W Halpin 7, B Reid 7; P McDonald 8, P Moylan 7, Z B Hammond 7; L Moore 8, J Aylward 7; P Blanchfield 7, T Clifford 7, C O'Sullivan 8; B Drennan 8, J Doyle 7, I Byrne 7. Subs: D Walsh 7 for Blanchfield(37), A Hickey 7 for Aylward(43), B Wheeler 7 for Byrne(51), A Murphy 6 for Drennan(58).
ReF- P Murphy (Carlow)