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Spot-on changes prove Kilkenny stronger this year

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22 June 2014; TJ Reid, Kilkenny, celebrates scoring his side's third goal. Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Kilkenny v Galway, O'Connor Park, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

22 June 2014; TJ Reid, Kilkenny, celebrates scoring his side's third goal. Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Kilkenny v Galway, O'Connor Park, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

22 June 2014; TJ Reid, Kilkenny, celebrates scoring his side's third goal. Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Kilkenny v Galway, O'Connor Park, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Sometimes you just have to put your hands up and admit that you were beaten by the better team on the day and Kilkenny were just that.

Galway were way off the pace and last week's drawn game looked to have taken a toll on them. Kilkenny, on the other hand, could afford to make five changes and you'd have to say that each of them worked to perfection.

It probably illustrated how intense the Kilkenny camp was last week with Brian Cody naming his starting team so late, but he got his selection spot on. With Jackie Tyrrell moving back to the full-back line, they looked much more assured.

Tommy Walsh will have been delighted with his first championship start of the season and his younger brother, Padraig showed his class yet again. I've been very impressed with him this season and he is certainly going to be a regular in the Kilkenny side for many years to come.

Five changes seemed like a lot especially given that it's a third of the team, but Kilkenny laid down a marker early on and Galway just couldn't live with them. They took no prisoners and played like a team who had a point to prove. As I mentioned in last week's column, Kilkenny will have felt like they threw away the game last week, but they made up for it on Saturday.

TJ Reid was immense and 2-11 is an impressive haul for any player, but I think putting him on free- taking duty has made a man of him. He's lethal from placed balls, but his general play was also excellent. He's one of, if not the form hurler in the country at the moment and Dublin will have a job on their hands in trying to keep him quiet.

It's a big ask for Galway to turn it around in time for the game against Tipperary next week, but they have enough quality to do it. The biggest challenge they face is getting their best 15 players on the pitch from the start.

They know what they have to do and they must throw caution to the wind. Tipp will fancy their chances in Thurles and Galway can't afford another slack performance. Joe Canning and Niall Burke couldn't get into the game at all and that was very unusual.

Kilkenny had their homework done and they punished Galway. It was a harsh lesson, but if they can get their heads right in training this week, the hurt should stand to them. The players will be mentally tired after the two games against the Cats, but it's certainly a case of mind over matter.

David Herity impressed when he was called upon. It's never easy coming into a game like that and he pulled off a fine save in the second half. He didn't weaken the team in any way and if Eoin Murphy isn't fit enough for the Leinster final, Cody knows that he has an able and experienced deputy on hand.

Kilkenny scored four points early in the second half and, after that, it was curtains for Galway. The pace of their attacking play was relentless. They played as if their lives depended on it and they'll need to do the same against Dublin.

Cody has used a lot of players between the championship and the league and he'll have a couple of selection headaches ahead of next week – which is just what he would have wanted. It was a shock to see Conor Fogarty lining out in midfield, but just like all the other changes, it really paid off.

In my eyes, Kilkenny are much stronger than they were last year. They seem to have the perfect balance between young lads coming through and the more experienced guys. They still have a couple of gears to go through and they'll have a major say in the championship. Galway, on the other hand, need to pick themselves up and go again.

On a side note, there was an inter-league match played before the Kilkenny v Galway game and when I arrived at the ground, there were rumblings among the crowd because tickets for the first game weren't valid for the senior match. Thankfully, nothing came of it, but there were certainly a few angry spectators waiting to get into O'Connor Park.

Waterford got their season back on track with a great win over Laois. It must be a huge weight off their shoulders after the heavy defeat to Cork. They have a very young team whom I expect to be back challenging for silverware in the next few years.


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