Sport Hurling

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Front man Buckley on song for Cats' band of brothers

Kilkenny 5-19
Galway 0-15

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

REVENGE was a dish of almost half a dozen goals and a side order of 19 points served up by some badly stung young kittens in this horrendously encounter.

After losing to Galway in last year's decider, many of the same Kilkenny team arrived on a mission and had this one wrapped up with a fourth goal just three minutes after half-time.

With a performance that pre-empted the same style, ferocity and ruthlessness of their seniors, they were installed as white-hot All-Ireland favourites long before the final whistle, despite manager Richie Mulrooney's subsequent plea that this 19-point drubbing was "one of those freak results".

Last year's defeat was a bitter spur for them, he admitted, and should help keep their feet on the ground.

"We won't have any trouble keeping a lid on expectations because there's nine fellas in that dressing-room there who bawled their eyes out last year when we lost the final," Mulrooney said.

"The most important thing for our lads now is to have the maturity to realise that, regardless of the score today, it's only put us into the final," he added.

Expected manager-speak of course, but if they reproduce this kind of form you would genuinely fear for Clare or Dublin.

Kilkenny's attack had been criticised in some quarters for not taking their chances against Offaly and Dublin.

Their response?

To score 2-10 without reply either side of half-time -- another 1-4 unanswered to lead 3-9 to 0-10 at the break and 1-6 immediately after the resumption, before substitute Cathal O'Brien got Galway's first score for 20 minutes.


No surprise then that beaten boss Mattie Murphy looked shell-shocked and was practically speechless afterwards.

He may have led the county to five minor titles but, like his players, Murphy had no answer this time to the latest swarm of merciless hurling hornets from Kilkenny.

The hardest question he had to face was about the surprise substitution of top scorer Shane Moloney, who was hauled off just before the break.

While Galway's half-back line was clearly at sea, their first repairs were to their full-forward line and four of their five changes were made in attack, not in defence.

"Shane had been down twice already and you have to listen to the advice of your medical people," Murphy said, indicating that Moloney was injured.

He said they were also forced to take off wing-back Paul Hoban because he had picked up a booking.

Hoban was one of three players who tried, but failed, to put some 'smacht' on brilliant Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley, the standout performer in their star-studded show.

After they'd spurned two goal chances in the opening minutes, he sent the Cats on their way with their first goal after nine minutes -- a stunner to the top right corner -- and then split the defence again two minutes later to set up their second for Michael Brennan.

With the same sort of balance, shimmies and combativeness, not to mention the red helmet, Buckley looked as close to a young Tommy Walsh as you'll get.

He started at wing-forward and was marked by Matthew Keating, who had to be replaced by Hoban and even when the Dicksboro star was followed to midfield by All-Ireland winner Daithi Burke he still controlled the game like a puppet-master.

Tommy Walsh's brother, Padraig, played at centre-forward and was also excellent.

Richie Power's brother, John, bagged Kilkenny's third goal and in midfield they had Ollie Walsh, son of Michael and grandson of one of Kilkenny's most legendary figures.


Even when they looked towards the bench, on trotted Richie Reid, a brother of TJ's; further proof of the Noresiders' frightening hurling dynasties and upcoming talent.

Galway stayed with them in the opening quarter, trailing by just three points (0-8 to 2-5) after 16 minutes.

And, after Power had missed two frees, a free from Moloney and a great long-range point from Burke cut the deficit to just a point.

But, as if stung by his own imperfection, Power then ghosted through Galway's defence to grab Kilkenny's third goal, scoring a bounced shot with which goalkeeper Shane Kelly might have done better.

If Kelly had regrets about that one, things got even worse on the restart when he tried to kill a long ball in by Buckley on his 'bas', only to fumble it and see Ger Aylward flick it into the net.

Within 10 minutes, Kilkenny had powered 17 points clear with Aylward, Kevin Kelly and Walsh all very impressive.

Galway midfielder Conor Cooney did his best to lead a fightback in which substitutes Keelan Cullinane and Cathal O'Brien fought bravely, but Kilkenny's defence harried in groups and never looked in trouble in the latter stages.

Man of the Match -- C Buckley (Kilkenny).

Scorers -- G Aylward 1-5, K Kelly 1-2, J Power 1-2 (0-2f), C Buckley 1-1, P Walsh 0-4, M Brennan 1-0, T O'Hanrahan 0-3, O McGrath 0-2 (0-2f). Galway: S Moloney 0-5 (0-4f), C Cooney 0-4 (0-2f), D Burke, P Brehony, A Mullins, J Flynn, K Cullinane and C O'Brien 0-1 each.

Kilkenny -- D Walsh; J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy; P O'Carroll, L Harney, O McGrath; K Kelly, O Walsh; J Power, P Walsh, C Buckley (capt); G Aylward, T Hanrahan, M Brennan. Subs: R Reid for O'Hanrahan (52), P Buggy for Brennan (52), C O'Neill for Kennedy (53), D Waugh for Walsh (56), C O'Shea for O'Carroll (56).

Galway -- S Kelly; P Hoban, D Burke, C Diviney; M Keating, D Burke, M Horan; P Brehony, C Cooney; A Mullins, J Glynn, J Flynn; N Keary, S Moloney, T Moran. Subs: B Lane for Glynn (26), G O'Donoghue for Moloney (30), S Morrissey for Hoban (half-time), K Cullinane for Moran (40), C O'Brien for Keary (42).

Ref -- D Copps (Cork).

Irish Independent

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