Wednesday 22 November 2017

Slick Kilkenny torment error-ridden Tribesmen

Kilkenny 1-25 Galway 2-15 Leinster SHC Final

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid goes past Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan on his way to scoring his side’s only goal of the game
Kilkenny’s TJ Reid goes past Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan on his way to scoring his side’s only goal of the game
Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly attempts to get away from Johnny Coen during their Leinster SHC final in Croke Park
Joe Canning celebrates after scoring his superb goal
TJ Reid, Kilkenny, is fouled by Padraig Mannion, Galway, which resulted in Mannion receiving a yellon card
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Get the basics right and the rest will take care of itself. Therein rests the background to yesterday's predictable Croke Park story.

Kilkenny were as efficient as they had to be, hurling comfortably within themselves except for a period before and after half-time, as they powered to a 15th Leinster title in 18 seasons.

Galway needed to get everything right to have a decent chance of unseating the champions, but came nowhere close on a day when they were unhinged by individual errors, rather than systems failures.

Remove the final five minutes of the first half and the opening 10 minutes of the second period from the scoring total and Kilkenny won the other 55 minutes by 1-20 to 0-10.

It underlines the vast difference between the sides for three-quarters of the game, leaving both with a very different perspective as they look ahead to the rest of the campaign.

Kilkenny have five weeks to further fine-tune for the All-Ireland semi-final, while Galway must regroup for a quarter-final against Clare, Limerick or Cork (they can't play Dublin, whom they have already beaten) on July 26.

Galway's record in quarter-finals is poor, but they have even more pressing worries than past failures to consider before attempting the relaunch.


Their individual error rate was so high yesterday that it was surprising they were still in contention past the hour mark, when a three-point scoring burst left them only four behind.

It looked like the ideal time to have built momentum, but they had no more to offer as Kilkenny drove on, shooting five points on the run-in.

Really, that was the story of the game. Galway were flat out all the time trying to match Kilkenny, who looked as if they had plenty more in the tank if the occasion demanded.

Galway's difficulties extended beyond coping with the pressure of battling against hurling's top power. They were also struggling with their own limitations, making silly individual errors so often that manager, Anthony Cunningham must have felt as if he were drowning in frustration.

There was absolutely nothing he could about the sloppy mistakes, which manifested themselves in three ways.

One: Galway's first touch was often poor, resulting in their possession share being smaller than it should have been.

Two: Even when they won possession, they were robbed far too easily.

Three: The attack didn't function as a unit, which left Cyril Donnellan and Joe Canning carrying most of the responsibility.

Donnellan scored 0-3 and also worked industriously in an effort to make things happen, while Canning provided one of the game's highlights with a splendid goal in the 32nd minute which had the crowd buzzing.

His fetch, turn and finish in a split second was vintage Canning but, unfortunately for Galway, the supply lines were broken far too often, leaving him starved of opportunities.

That forced him to drift outfield in the second half, which greatly lessened Galway's goal prospects.

And with Kilkenny firing over points from all angles and distances, Galway were always going to need goals to win.

They got two, but it wasn't enough to unsettle a Kilkenny team that seemed content to win the game via the points route.

Kilkenny's only goal came in the 28th minute and typified the difference between the teams. Galway sub Jason Flynn misdirected a pass deep in Kilkenny territory and, in an instant, the ball was in TJ Reid's hands close to the Galway goal.

Reid had already shown that he was in menacing mode and took another step towards a man-of-the-match performance when driving the ball to the Galway net.

The goal gave Kilkenny a 1-10 to 0-6 lead and presented Galway with a real test of character. Their response was encouraging: two quick points were followed by Canning's goal.

Three points adrift at the interval (1-11 to 1-8) Galway would have felt quite good about themselves on the basis that they had weathered a powerful Kilkenny storm while not playing especially well.

Kilkenny had shot eight wides to Galway's two, which when coupled with the 12-9 score count, underlines Kilkenny's advantage in the possession stakes.

Still, Galway would have felt that if they could reduce the error count in the second half, anything was possible. And when Flynn whipped in their second goal two minutes after the restart, it left Kilkenny facing their first big test of the day.

It took them a while to work through it (they led by a point after 45 minutes), but they eventually succeeded. They were helped by a fortuitous break in the 48th minute when David Burke's shot flew narrowly wide and, from the puck-out, Ger Aylward pointed.

Effectively, it was a four-point turnaround and, from there on, Kilkenny always looked as if they were comfortable control of their own destiny. Even when Galway cut the deficit to four points after 62 minutes, there was no real sense that they would complete the recovery.

And so it proved as Kilkenny closed out the game with a string of points.

It's a measure of Kilkenny's power that their victory was so comfortably achieved without Michael Fennelly, who was ruled out by a bug.


He was replaced by John Power, with Walter Walsh moving to midfield alongside Conor Fogarty, while Richie Hogan also helped out in the area.

Hogan and Eoin Larkin each scored 0-4; Reid landed 1-9; Ger Aylward added 0-3, while Colin Fennelly and Walsh scored 0-2 each.

It was a much wider scoring spread than Galway, for whom Canning, Donnellan and Flynn scored 2-11 between them.

The fact that Cunningham felt obliged to begin restructuring his attack before the half-hour mark hinted at problems that got worse as the game progressed.

David Burke and Cathal Mannion followed Glennon to the bench, as did midfielder Aidan Harte. Having to replace four players numbered higher than eight said it all about Galway's problems in the attacking half.

Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-9 (5fs, 1'65'), E Larkin, R Hogan 0-4 each, G Aylward 0-3, C Fennelly, W Walsh 0-2 each, C Fogarty 0-1. Galway: J Canning 1-8 (0-7fs), C Donnellan 0-3, J Flynn 1-0, David Burke, J Glynn, C Mannion, F Moore 0-1 each.

Kilkenny - E Murphy 7; P Murphy 7, J Holden 7, J Tyrrell 7; P Walsh 7, K Joyce 7, C Buckley 8; W Walsh 7, C Fogarty 7; J Power 6, R Hogan 8, C Fennelly 7; G Aylward 7, TJ Reid 9, E Larkin 8.

Subs: S Prendergast 6 for Fennelly (50), M Kelly 7 for Power (58), M Ruth for Fennelly (71)

Galway - C Callanan 6; J Hanbury 6, P Mannion 6, J Coen 7; F Moore 6, Daithi Burke 7, I Tannian 7; A Smith 6 A Harte 5; David Burke 5, C Donnellan 8, J Glynn 6; D Glennon 5, J Canning 7 C Mannion 5. Subs: J Flynn 6 for Glennon (26), J Cooney 5 for Harte (39), P Brehony 5 for David Burke (59), N Healy 5 for C Mannion (61), P Killeen for Hanbury (64).

Ref - J McGrath (Westmeath)

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