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room to improve

The enforcer who dictated the terms so impressively in last year's All-Ireland final -- remember the juggernaut that collided with Shane McGrath so early on and then the magnificent goal he subsequently scored? -- was missing. That's understandable, perhaps, given Fennelly's lengthy absence after damaging ankle ligaments in the league final against Cork.

He returned for the Tipperary semi-final, and played well, but the final passed him by. Kilkenny need their Hurler of the Year setting the tone around the middle, where Iarla Tannian did such a decent impression of him for long spells on Sunday.


The last time Kilkenny failed to score a goal in back-to-back championship matches was in 2005 -- between their 0-22 to 1-16 Leinster final win over Wexford and the All-Ireland quarter-final with Limerick, which they won by 0-18 to 0-13. So on that basis, the prospects of another shut-out are slim.

Kilkenny did create goal chances but not nearly as many as might have been expected. Colin Fennelly should have done better with his, and if it had been any earlier in the match, Henry Shefflin would surely have gone for goal from that penalty.

Slow starts

As much as successive goal droughts have been rare, when, if ever, during the reign of Brian Cody, have Kilkenny found themselves behind at half-time in three successive championship games? Even their semi-final win over Tipperary saw them trail at the break -- 1-10 to 1-9 -- despite having dominated the first half.

On Sunday the deficit was 1-9 to 0-7, nothing like the 2-12 to 0-4 scoreline they had to deal with in the Leinster final nine weeks earlier. But after 29 minutes they had scored just three points. It's become too much of a trend over the last three games to be a coincidence.

Richie Power

Like Fennelly, he has become a senior figure in Kilkenny's cabinet but is suffering a crisis in form that stretches back two games now to the Leinster final. There were signs of improvement early in the second half with a turnover on Niall Donoghue and a point that was disputed. But it's hard to see that such a quality forward will be restricted to just one point from play again for the third successive match.

Henry's precision

Believe it or not but Henry can be even more precise! Sunday's display ranked right up there with his best All-Ireland final performances, but Shefflin could have easily topped his 12-point haul. There were two '65s' which went wide in the first half while, in a frantic finish, he hit a wide, and a shot dropped short into James Skehill's hands, admittedly when the pressure was at its most intense. Richie Power was also wide and short with early frees.


Losing their shape

It makes a statement and looks good to see such talented forwards such as Joe Canning and Donegal footballer Michael Murphy tracking back, making tackles and closing off space as they do. And for Galway, giving Canning licence to roam had worked so well up to now.

But they needed him much closer to the goals in the second half last Sunday. Apart from one short run and offload along the Cusack Stand side just after the restart, his contribution from general play after such a magnificent first half was minimal.


Joe Canning (right) was still reportedly annoyed with himself in the aftermath of Sunday's match for missing the 50-metre free earned by David Burke, which prefaced his late equaliser from a much more difficult angle in injury-time. It was Canning's fourth wide from a placed ball, and if you add in Tony Og Regan's first-half wide, it's an area that Galway can expect gains from the next day.


No prizes for guessing who was the happier manager after the draw. Just look at the pictures as Anthony Cunningham smiles and pats a clearly agitated Brian Cody, still jabbing his finger and having his say over that late free, at the final whistle. As much as Cunningham will be pleased at getting such a break, the greater pleasure will be derived from their survival.

In the back of their minds it must have been impossible to avoid the thought of a severe backlash from Kilkenny. The Leinster final was never a true reflection of where either team was -- this drawn All-Ireland final was much more accurate. And Galway are right there.

exploiting their pace

Pace abounds in this Galway attack, and when they opened things up and ran at static Kilkenny defenders, they generally profited, with referee Barry Kelly always more likely to lean with the attacker. James Regan created the goal in this manner and Niall Burke also chose the direct route twice for crucial points. But in the second half Galway's attacking play was much too concentrated on getting ball into the 'D' in front of the Kilkenny goals, and that's where Brian Hogan and Tommy Walsh played themselves back into this game.


Davy Glennon is an obvious choice off the bench after his smart play at the end to win that free, but Niall Healy, fresh from his exploits with the intermediate side, is an interesting inclusion.

Healy hasn't always won approval from everyone in Galway, but he's a resurgent figure and might just be worth a punt late on the next day.

Irish Independent