Slick Tribesmen issue statement of intent
Leinster SHC Round-Robin: Galway 1-22 Kilkenny 2-11
Micheal Donoghue wouldn't be so boastful as to suggest he expected Galway to beat Kilkenny easily but he did admit that what he saw on the training ground in recent weeks left him very happy heading into their first really big Championship test of the season.
"The last couple of weeks has gone well for us in training. We just needed to get back into the match situation," he said.
They did that alright, marking the historic occasion (first Leinster Championship match played in Galway) with a comprehensive win over opposition that had tormented them so often over many years.
Kilkenny came to Pearse Stadium as Allianz League champions, on an eight-match winning run, but even that amount of confidence-building material provided no insulation from Galway's power play.
The hosts restricted Kilkenny to 1-2 from open play, the goal coming from Walter Walsh in the final minute of a game where, apart from the opening minute, Galway were never behind.
"We worked very hard but were under a lot of pressure. Galway are very, very strong and we know that. We knew we were coming over today to face the All-Ireland champions, an outstanding team. And we weren't good enough today," said Brian Cody.
Yet, when Walsh scored a goal in the 64th minute, it looked as if it might give Kilkenny a lifeline, but referee Fergal Horgan disallowed it after consulting with his umpires.
That left Galway's lead at six points and they marked the reprieve by adding five more before Walsh pounced for Kilkenny's second goal late on.
There was a real feeling of satisfaction among the Galway squad and supporters afterwards as this was a clear statement of intent following an indifferent League campaign.
They were always certain to raise their game in summer but few would have anticipated they would reach such heights against Kilkenny, who have had their number for a long time. Galway hadn't beaten Kilkenny in the Championship since the 2012 Leinster final and, in the interim, suffered several frustrating defeats.
Some of them left the impression that Kilkenny had Galway in a psychological grip, which they tightened as required on big days.
It was all very different yesterday. Even when their game wasn't moving particularly smoothly, Galway always remained calm and methodical. It was as if their inner confidence left them believing that they could work their way through whatever puzzle Kilkenny placed in front of them.
That was especially noticeable in the third quarter when Galway's six-point lead was pared back to three.
In previous times, Kilkenny would probably have pressed on and won the game but this time it was Galway who raised the tempo. They prevented Kilkenny from scoring between the 54th and 74th minutes, during which they pointed eight times.
Conor Cooney, who had been relatively quiet up to then, scored 0-3 in that period; Joe Canning continued to hit the target from frees and open play and subs Jason Flynn and Niall Burke also added points.
The sight of powerful trio Jonathon Glynn, Flynn and Burke coming into the Galway attack must have been dispiriting for a Kilkenny defence that had already expended a huge amount of energy trying to cope with Canning, Conor Whelan and Brian Concannon.
Despite the ease with which Galway saw out the game, Donoghue immediately put anti-complacency devices in place ahead of the trip to Wexford next Saturday.
"We worked very hard but we still go away with one or two things we can brush up on. The games are coming in quick proximity and it's all about recovery. We have two more games to come, one with a six-day turnaround," he said.
Kilkenny have a break before their final round-robin game against Wexford on Saturday week, time which Cody will, no doubt, put to good use.
The Cats manager was in no way surprised by the awesome power Galway brought to yesterday's challenge and with the home side's confidence levels at a record high, it was always going to be a difficult assignment for Kilkenny.
"You can see the confidence in their play and the team work in their play. It is not a surprise. The hurlers have been there the whole time. And they are obviously a hugely strong team and have an awful lot going for them," said Cody.
Their scoring bursts in either half presented the Kilkenny defence with problems they couldn't solve, while at the other Daithi Burke anchored a Galway resistance that provided the tightest security for James Skehill.
Overall, it really was a great day for Galway and a chastening experience for Kilkenny who have little experience of losing championship games by wide margins.
Scorers - Galway: J Canning 1-12 (0-7fs, 1-0 pen, 1'65'), C Cooney 0-4, C Mannion 0-2, B Concannon, David Burke, J Flynn, N Burke 0-1 each. Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-9 (8fs, 1'65'), W Walsh 1-1, L Scanlon 0-1.
Galway - J Skehill 7; A Harte 7, Daithi Burke 9, A Tuohey 7; P Mannion 8, G McInerney 8, J Hanbury 7; J Coen 6, David Burke 7; C Mannion 7, J Canning 9 J Cooney 5; C Whelan 8, C Cooney 8, B Concannon 7. Subs: J Glynn 6 for Concannon (51), J Flynn 7 for J Cooney (61), N Burke for C Mannion (66), S Loftus for Canning (69), P Killeen for P Mannion (70).
Kilkenny - E Murphy 7; E Morrissey 5, P Walsh 7, P Deegan 7; C Delaney 6, C Buckley 7, P Murphy 6; C Fogarty 7, J Maher 6; M Keoghan 5, TJ Reid 7, L Blanchfield 5; J Donnelly 5, W Walsh 7, L Scanlon 7. Subs: C Fennelly 5 for Donnelly (ht), J Holden 6 for Morrissey (44), R Leahy 6 for Keoghan (54), B Sheehan 6 for Blanchfield (57).
Ref - F Horgan (Tipperary)