KILkENNY’S Richie Hogan suffered a collapsed lung in yesterday’s emphatic league victory over Galway.
The forward had to be stretchered off after he clashed with Galway keeper Jamie Ryan near the end of the game,
Kilkenny Co Board Secretary Ned Quinn confirmed that Hogan will be out of action for at least four weeks.
A powerful recovery against Cork two weeks ago not only left Galway well-placed to book a league semi-final slot but also suggested they had extensive character reserves to reinforce them during a crisis but, as they trudged dejectedly out of Nowlan Park yesterday, the landscape had undergone a dramatic change.
Title aspirations had been replaced by a call to a relegation shoot-out with Dublin on Sunday week, a task for which they will be hopelessly ill-prepared unless they present themselves altogether differently to the chaotic group which made Kilkenny's lives so easy.
Clearly, there's more to Galway than what they displayed yesterday in a performance that was so anaemic as to leave their small band of supporters in the attendance of 6,194 wondering if there was any blood in their veins at all.
If there was, it certainly didn't stir. Limp and almost apologetic from the start, their failure to match Kilkenny in the basics left them with not even the remotest possibility of competing in the more sophisticated aspects of the game.
Galway's touch and timing were so badly off that they wouldn't have looked out of place in Division 2.
Possession was regularly handed back to Kilkenny off fumbles and through ridiculously careless deliveries and, when it came to the man-on-man battles, there was simply no comparison between the sides.
Kilkenny walked through Galway tackles with embarrassing ease and, having achieved physical dominance, they imposed their special brand of enterprise and creativity on proceedings with devastating impact.
Matthew Ruth, a pre-match replacement for the suspended Richie Power, whipped home their first goal in the fourth minute; TJ Reid added a second in the 13th minute, and Eoin Larkin scored their third in the 31st minute to help Kilkenny to a 3-12 to 0-6 interval lead.
By then, Galway had replaced their entire full-forward line, a move later explained by manager Anthony Cunningham as being down to the amount of ball that was delivered under no real pressure by the Cats full-back line.
It was only one part of a problem portfolio that extended through every Galway line and which continued all the way to the finish.
Reid, Larkin and Colin Fennelly were luring the Galway defence down dark alleys for regular muggings; Michael Fennelly and newcomer Cillian Buckley controlled midfield, while JJ Delaney and Brian Hogan were central anchors in a secure Kilkenny defence which conceded just three points from play in the first 45 minutes.
By then, Kilkenny were 20 points clear and in such complete control that Brian Cody could afford to begin the substitution parade, enabling five replacements to enjoy themselves in the welcoming environment of a romp.
The only blip on Kilkenny's screen was an injury sustained late on by Richie Hogan when he collided with Galway goalkeeper Jamie Ryan under a high ball. Rib damage was the suspected diagnosis and he was taken to hospital for observation. Hogan was one of nine Kilkenny scorers, a list that featured all six forwards, midfielder Michael Fennelly, plus subs Aidan Fogarty and Mark Bergin. Larkin top-scored on 1-7 (0-6 frees) but the Man of the Match award went to Reid, who contributed 1-6 from play.
That was two points more than Galway managed from play on a day when the scale of the challenge facing Cunningham was abundantly clear.
Coming 24 hours after he had suffered at the hands of another black-and-amber brigade as Crossmaglen demolished his Garrycastle side in the All-Ireland club football final, his head must have been spinning as he returned home last night.
However, there's no time for detailed reflection on either defeat as he must begin the difficult challenge of re-energising Galway for the relegation play-off.
"We just have to get ourselves right for two weeks today; we have to ensure that everyone's head is right for a big, big battle with Dublin," he said.
He couldn't figure out why it all went so horribly wrong but pointed to the concession of two goals in the opening quarter as setbacks which Galway never came close to counteracting.
"We were rocked by those two early goals. We never got out of the blocks at all. It was a big learning experience for a young team," said Cunningham.
Referring to Galway's many handling errors, he said that their touch was better a month ago, which will be a source of worry as much as frustration.
"Look we have to drive on -- there's nothing else we can do. We've been using the league to try out some new players and some new things but it didn't work today," he said.
While beating Galway is nothing new to Kilkenny, they would have been surprised by the easy nature of yesterday's task.
"Galway will be disappointed with their performance because it wasn't a true reflection of the abilities they have in their team. It was just one of those days for them," said Cody.
That's one way of putting it. Most defeats come with some modicum of consolation but there was absolutely nothing for Galway to take out of yesterday's mess.
As for Kilkenny, they head into the league semi-final (v Clare or Limerick) as Division 1A winners and with four wins from five games.
"We're where we wanted to be -- that's for sure," said Cody. What he couldn't have anticipated was that the last leg of the journey to the semi-final would have been so readily accommodated by Galway.
Man of the Match: TJ Reid (Kilkenny)
Scorers -- Kilkenny: E Larkin 1-7 (0-6f), TJ Reid 1-6, M Ruth 1-1, M Rice, C Fennelly 0-3 each, R Hogan (1f), M Fennelly 0-2 each, M Bergin, A Fogarty 0-1 each. Galway: N Burke 0-5 (3f), A Smith 0-2, T Og Regan, C Donnellan, A Harte 0-1 each.
Kilkenny -- D Herity 7; P Murphy 8, JJ Delaney 8, K Joyce 8; T Walsh 7, B Hogan 8, R Doyle 7; M Fennelly 8, C Buckley 7; M Rice 7, TJ Reid 9, R Hogan 7; C Fennelly 8, E Larkin 8, M Ruth 7. Subs: M Bergin 7 for Larkin (45), P Hogan 7 for B Hogan (48), W Phelan 6 for Murphy (50), A Fogarty 7 for Rice (50), J Mulhall for R Hogan (68).
Galway -- J Ryan 4; N Donoghue 4, D Collins 4, G O'Halloran 4; T Og Regan 5, F Moore 4, J Coen 4; B Daly 4, B Flaherty 4; J Cooney 5, N Burke 5, A Smith 5; D Hayes 4, I Tannian 4, J Regan 4. Subs: B Burke 5 for Regan (23), A Harte 5 for Tannian (27), N Healy 4 for Hayes (30), C Donnellan 6 for Flaherty (41), P Shiel for Coen (64).
Ref -- B Gavin (Offaly).