KILKENNY 1-24 GALWAY 2-12 DAMIAN LAWLOR in O'Connor Park KILKENNY will attempt to win their third title in four years when they tackle Tipperary in the Erin Foods All-Ireland under-21 final on September 10.
They were by far the better side in Tullamore yesterday evening, beating the Tribesmen by nine points, although they simply had no answer to Galway wonder-kid Joe Canning when he was introduced in the 21st minute. Canning went on to score 2-4, 2-3 of which were incredible scores, and by the time Kilkenny moved Donncha Cody off him, he had almost destroyed the Cats on his own. One wonders why he wasn't played from the start because he could have won the game for them such was his class and presence.
However, as a team, Galway always played second fiddle in this entertaining semi-final. While players like Tadhg Linnane, son of Sylvie, Pat Holland and Canning impressed, it took a while for senior players like Ger Mahon and Niall Heally to get going. On the other hand, Kilkenny were best served by John Dalton at centre-back and wing-forward TJ Reid who shot five excellent points. Cha Fitzpatrick shot 0-5 from frees and three '65's and in the end this was enough to see them past the finishing post.
It will now make for an interesting final and will hopefully be more closely contested than this affair. Only for the magnificent impact made by Canning, it would have been a rout and so we now look forward to seeing the powerful student making his mark in the minor final next month.
From the start, Kilkenny tore into action, leaving slow-starting Galway in their wake and leading 0-4 to 0-0 after just four minutes, with James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick shooting three immaculate long range frees.
It looked like a trouncing was on the cards as the reigning champions only registered two points in the opening 10 minutes with two placed balls from Kerril Wade. All over the field, Kilkenny were on top and their forwards cut through their opponents like a knife through butter with Paddy Hogan adding two more points to put them 0-7 to 0-2 up after 13 minutes. A minute later, Richie Power rattled the back of the Galway net and the 4,000 crowd feared the worst. Certainly, the domination of John Dalton at centre-back, Cha Fitzpatrick and Paddy Hogan looked ominous for the Tribesmen, especially with all the Kilkenny forwards bar David McCormack scoring from play by the end.
Startled by their slow start, the Galway mentors couldn't take much more. A few minutes after Power's goal, manager Vincent Mullins decided to bring on Canning in place of wing-forward Seán Glynn. With his first touch of the ball, the 17-year-old Portumna man, who is chasing three minor titles in a row, flicked the ball to the net from a Niall Healy delivery. Canning rose first to touch the ball past Donnacha Cody on the edge of the square, which left it 1-8 to 1-4 after 24 minutes. Seconds later he shot a marvellous point from the left wing to bring the deficit to three points. We thought a fight-back was on the cards, like the senior encounter between the same sides a few weeks back.
But Kilkenny were not rattled and TJ Reid weighed in with three fine points from the wing before the break, while Fitzpatrick added another free and Richie Power maintained his fine form with another point from the corner to leave the Cats 1-12 to 1-5 ahead at the interval.
After the restart, Fitzpatrick uncharacteristically missed three frees from the same place, and Galway were inspired by a bullet of a goal by Canning who beat Cody again to rifle home a super shot that Liam Tierney almost saved. Fresh from getting his Leaving Cert results this week, Canning shot a wonder point after 42 minutes - he was certainly passing this test with flying colours.
With 12 minutes to go, Galway trailed their opponents by five points but they had Canning to thank for even being so close, he really made a huge impression when introduced. But even with scores from Donal Reilly and Finian Coone, Vincent Mullins' men couldn't get the deficit down as Kilkenny displayed much more aggression in the second half.
With 10 minutes to go, the crowd roared in disbelief when Canning effortlessly hit his third point of the day, running away from goal to give his side hope once more but really the rest of his teamates were in hiding in attack. This was the difference in the end as the reigning champions surrendered their crown to a much hungrier Kilkenny side.
SCORERS - Kilkenny: J Fitzpatrick 0-8 (0-5f 0-3 '65), TJ Reid 0-5, R Power 1-1, P Hogan 0-4, A Murphy 0-2, A Healy 0-2, M Nolan 0-1, M Fennelly 0-1. Galway: J Canning 2-4 (0-1f), K Wade 0-3 (2f 1'65), D Reilly 0-2, A Keary 0-1, N Healy 0-1f, F Coone 0-1.
Kilkenny: L Tierney, K Joyce, D Cody, S Cummins, P Hartley, J Dalton, D Fogarty, J Fitzpatrick, M Fennelly, TJ Reid, A Murphy, P Hogan, R Power, M Nolan, D McCormack. Subs: A Healy for D McCormack (37), E O'Donoghue for M Nolan (56).
Galway: A Ryan, T Linane, P Loughnane, P Holland, A Keary, J Lee, G Mahon, N Callanan, D Kelly, C Donlon, F Coone, S Glynn, D Reilly, N Healy, K Wade. Subs: J Canning for S Glynn (21), K Hynes for N Callanan (20), C Kavanagh for C Donlon (50).
Referee: J Sexton (Limerick)