Tuesday 20 February 2018

Same old tale as Kilkenny take control

Kilkenny 1-26 Galway 0-22 Leinster SH final

Kilkenny's Richie Hogan
Kilkenny's Richie Hogan
Kilkenny captain Lester Ryan lifts the Bob O'Keeffe Cup following the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The years change but the Galway-Kilkenny dynamic remains the same, rooted inexorably in a pattern that has become utterly predictable.

Galway's swashbuckling exhibition, which forced Kilkenny into stunned submission in the 2012 Leinster final, has faded from the memory as if from a different era, replaced by a sense that if they played each other every day of the week, the result would be the same.

The game pattern might even follow similar tracks, with Galway motoring fluently in the first half, after which Kilkenny power up the momentum jets, seize control and maintain it all the way to the end.

They did it again yesterday, producing almost an exact replica of last year's All-Ireland final success.

It was more than enough last September to steer them to another All-Ireland double and had a similar impact yesterday, leaving Galway beaten just as comprehensively as the seven-point margin suggests.

It secured a 71st Leinster title for Kilkenny - their 16th in 19 seasons - and kept them on the direct route towards All-Ireland glory, while Galway will try to re-launch, via the quarter-finals. The comparisons between last September and yesterday are uncanny.


On both occasions, Galway led by three points at half-time, only to have the lead wiped out in the first 10 minutes of the second-half.

And while Galway stayed in ­contention until the final quarter, they became little more than maroon-and-white specks in Kilkenny's rear view mirrors on the run-in.

They were out-scored by 0-9 to 0-3 in the last quarter, a period in which Kilkenny looked so superior that it was difficult to equate it with a first-half where Galway led by five points (0-12 to 0-7) after 33 minutes.

Cathal Mannion and Conor Whelan were stretching the Kilkenny defence very close to breaking point; Joe Canning was punishing any indiscretions with points from frees and while the Galway defence had some difficult moments in the first half-hour, they prevented Kilkenny from scoring a goal.

That required a good save by Colm Callanan from Lester Ryan in the 18th minute while earlier on Colin Fennelly had shot wide from a narrow angle.

Still, Galway's 0-13 to 0-10 half-time lead left them well-primed for a serious attempt to end a dismal results sequence against Kilkenny.

Of course everyone in the 29,377 crowd - down 2,577 on last year's final between the same contestants - was expecting a Kilkenny backlash.

The Galway players were anticipating it too but, when it arrived, there were unable to respond in a manner that would have tested just how high Kilkenny could raise the pressure gauges.

That's the grim reality that Galway have to deal with as they attempt to rescue something from a season that's already in negative equity following relegation to Division 1B.

It means that other than beating Offaly and Westmeath, two teams ranked a long way below them, Galway's only victory so far in 2016 was against Cork in the opening round of the league in mid-February.

Read More: Relentless Cats just keep rolling on with the same punchline to the same story

They had targeted the Leinster final as the day to make a bold statement, an occasion to justify their decision to force a change of management after last year's All-Ireland final. Instead, they delivered a limp second-half performance, their resistance folding quite meekly as Kilkenny overwhelmed them.

Galway supporters probably feared the worst when they saw Richie Hogan bounding out for the second-half as part of a double substitution with John Power.

Sited close to the Galway goal, it took Hogan less than a minute to make a decisive impact, angling over an inspirational point which rallied his colleagues.

It also sent tremors coursing through Galway and with Power raising the stakes too, Kilkenny's scoring threat increased significantly.

Still, Galway weathered the early storm and still had a three-point lead nine minutes into the second-half before Kilkenny made a decisive break when Jonjo Farrell whipped in the game's only goal.

Four points followed over the next five minutes and while Galway responded with three points, it was their last act of defiance.

Michael Fennelly, a peripheral figure in the first-half, thundered into the game; his midfield partner, Conor Fogarty continued on his industrious way, further increasing the pressure on the Galway defence.

That, in turn, led to their clearances becoming more hurried and less accurate, allowing the Kilkenny defence to become tighter, meaner and altogether more effective than in the first-half. Galway replaced Joseph Cooney and Niall Burke with Cyril Donnellan and Jason Flynn but unlike Kilkenny's two attacking substitutions, it made no real difference.

Read More: Mental block comes back to haunt Galway manager

But then Kilkenny were very much in the groove with so many of their trademark components coming together.

So much success over a long period means they are never short of confidence, whereas Galway heads dropped in the second-half.

Their error count increased and, as the game chugged along towards its inevitable conclusion, Galway looked like a collection of individuals, rather than a coherent group taking on the game's ultimate super-powers.

They will contend that if they had scored a goal in the 50th minute - Cillian Buckley scooped Whelan's effort off the line - it might have made a big difference but with Kilkenny going so well at the time, it's highly probable that they would have responded with another power surge.


The biggest concern for Galway is the manner in which they lost their way in the final quarter.

They scored just one point between the 53rd and 70th minutes, before Conor Cooney and Cyril Donnellan add two more in stoppage time.

It was a miserable return, underlining yet again how poorly Galway perform in their down periods. It has been a feature of their performances over recent seasons and clearly hasn't come right under new management either.

Frankly, Galway were a mirror image of the team that failed twice to Kilkenny last year and this time Anthony Cunningham cannot be blamed.

Meanwhile, it's ruthless business as usual for Kilkenny, who now have five weeks to prepare for the All-Ireland semi-final.


Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (7f, 1'76'), JJ Farrell 1-4, R Hogan 0-5, C Fogarty 0-3, W Walsh 0-2, M Fennelly, J Power 0-1 each. Galway: J Canning 0-6 (6f), C Mannion 0-5, C Cooney, C Whelan 0-3 each, J Cooney 0-2, D Glennon A Smith, C Donnellan 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: E Murphy 7; P Murphy 7, J Holden 7, R Lennon 6; P Walsh 7, K Joyce 7, C Buckley 8; C Fogarty 8, M Fennelly 7; W Walsh 7, C Fennelly 5, L Ryan 6; J Farrell 8, TJ Reid 7, E Larkin 5. Subs: R Hogan 9 for Larkin (ht), J Power 7 for C Fennelly (ht),

Galway: C Callanan 7; P Mannion 7, Daithi Burke 7, J Coen 6; A Harte 6, J Hanbury 7, G McInerney 6; David Burke 7, D Glennon 6; N Burke 5, J Cooney 6, C Mannion 8; C Whelan 7, J Canning 5, C Cooney 7. Subs: C Donnellan 6 for J Cooney (46), F Moore 6 for Coen (53), J Flynn 5 for N Burke (57), A Smith 6 for Glennon (60), P Killeen for Hanbury (66).

Ref: F Horgan (Tipperary)

Irish Independent

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