Cats hold firm as Cody insists places 'up for grabs'
Kilkenny 2-16 Galway 1-16
Experimental Kilkenny prove strong enough to repel Tribesmen's second-half revival
SOMEHOW Kilkenny fans found themselves calling for referee Colm Lyons to bring proceedings to an end in Nowlan Park.
Galway had pulled themselves to within a score in injury-time and it was enough to make the locals jumpy.
However, there was to be no late smash and grab for a Galway side who had been second best for most of the afternoon.
Afterwards, Brian Cody denied that his side should have been further clear, pointing out that Tipperary had opened up a double-figure lead in Nowlan Park before his side recovered.
There were none of those fireworks this time around but Kilkenny were still good enough to keep Galway at arm's length most of the time.
Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Paul Murphy, Colin Fennelly and Eoin Larkin sat on the bench. Others like Henry Shefflin and JJ Delaney didn't even make the match-day squad as Cody went about his stated goal of building a panel.
"There's a realisation that places are up for grabs," he stressed.
They made the ideal start as the first half started in the same way it finished – with a Kilkenny goal.
After just a minute's play, a free dropping in around the square caused havoc in the Galway full-back line and Mark Kelly was on hand to give the home side the perfect start.
And with the first half in injury-time, they registered their second major. This time Jonjo Farrell's deft flick sent Richie Hogan clear. The Danesfort man galloped away from the cover and blasted home to hand his side a nine-point advantage at the interval (2-11 to 0-8).
In between the goals it was mostly one-way traffic. With Hogan directing operations and Walter Walsh showing flashes of brilliance, the Cats were largely on top.
Geoff Brennan had a strong first 35 minutes and helped himself to three points from play, while TJ Reid was also on form.
Galway had their moments, notably when Gearoid McInerney used his physicality to engineer two quick-fire points.
They might have had a major of their own but Niall Healy's pass to an
unmarked Davy Glennon went astray on 20 minutes.
They were also denied when Conor Cooney went for goal from a 21-yard free, with a typically defiant Jackie Tyrrell making the clearance.
With Kilkenny moving so freely in attack, you felt they needed to take all those chances.
Instead, with the Cats holding an envious amount of talent in reserve, it seemed Anthony Cunningham's men were staring down the barrel of a gun at the break.
But instead of going for the jugular, as has been their trademark down the years, Kilkenny seemed to take the boot off Galway's throats as the game slowed to challenge match pace on the restart.
The sides managed just three points each in the opening 24 minutes of the second half, although Kilkenny had the ball in the net only for the score to be ruled out for a square ball.
It seemed only to be heading one way as with just over 10 minutes to play, Kilkenny's nine-point lead remained intact. From there Galway rallied a little. McInerney's power was a bright spot for Galway and he earned a penalty off Michael Walsh for Cooney to blast to the net.
Walter Walsh replied with the point of the day after a tremendous fetch, a deceptive turn of pace, but that score would be Kilkenny's last of the day.
The Cats were then denied a third goal by a tremendous save from Colm Callanan from Walsh but at the other end, points from Cooney, Niall Burke and Padraig Brehony brought them to within three as the clock ticked into added time.
There was, however, to be no late raid with Galway boss Cunningham insisting his players will have learned a valuable lesson.
"There wasn't much in it in the finish," he said. "We were happy with our battle in the last 20 minutes but there was a while when we were off our game.
"It's all about performances and we saw certain things that went well but we need to do that for 70 minutes. Against a top-class team like Kilkenny, the two goals were the difference at the finish.
"We have seen a lot of good performances there and we have new guys who have to learn – and it's only on this stage that you'll learn. And no better place to do it than against Kilkenny. While we'd be happy with some of the play, there are parts we need to tidy up on as well."
For Cody, it seems like business as usual and after confirming he left some of his front-line players out to further test the depth of his panel, he hinted that level of experimentation will continue against Dublin on Saturday.
"The attitude continues to be top-class, we're competitive and we are working hard for each other and there's a realisation that places are up for grabs," Cody said.
"You want to look at as many players as possible and stay competitive and at the end of the league to have a really strong panel that we can take on whatever happens in the championship."
SCORERS – Kilkenny: R Hogan 1-3, TJ Reid 0-6 (4fs), M Kelly 1-0, W Walsh, G Brennan 0-3 each, JJ Farrell 0-1. Galway: C Cooney 1-8 (1-0 pen, 7fs), N Healy, G McInerney 0-3 each, N Burke, P Brehony 0-1 each.
Kilkenny – E Murphy 7; C Fogarty 7, M Walsh 6, J Tyrrell 7; B Kennedy 6, L Ryan 7, C Buckley 7; G Brennan 7, P Walsh 6; W Walsh 8, R Hogan 8, J Brennan 6; JJ Farrell 7, M Kelly 7, TJ Reid 8 Subs: J Power 6 for J Brennan (49), P Phelan 6 for Brennan (61).
Galway – C Callanan 8; D Collins 6, S Kavanagh 6, J Coen 6; A Harte 6, I Tannian 6, Daithi Burke 7; David Burke 7, P Brehony 6; C Mannion 7, G McInerney 8, D Glennon 6; N Healy 7, C Cooney 8, J Flynn 7. Subs: N Burke 7 for Mannion (46), P Killeen 6 for Flynn (53), P Landers 6 for Glennon (54).
Ref – C Lyons (Cork)