Hurlers did their best, but Kilkenny hold sway again

The highlight of Galway and goal of the game: Galway’s Joe Canning in action against Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy seizes the chance to strike for a superb goal in Sunday’s Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship final at Croke Park, Dublin.

The highlight of Galway and goal of the game: Galway’s Joe Canning in action against Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy seizes the chance to strike for a superb goal in Sunday’s Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship final at Croke Park, Dublin.

The current Galway hurlers, along with many other former Galway teams and other counties over the decades, must be sick to their back teeth of playing Kilkenny in big games. 

The fact of the matter is that the black and amber men are incredibly difficult to beat. 

They have a collective work ethic that has to be admired, allied to terrific stick work, amazing peripheral vision, and a well of self-belief that usually tides them over when they face a stiff challenge in the last 10 minutes of a game.

As regards last weekend's Leinster final - when you are beaten by seven points, you cannot say too much, except that the better team won.

Kilkenny fully merited their 1-25 to 2-15 victory over Anthony Cunningham's charges last Sunday in Croke Park.

The Cats just had too much firepower, and in  TJ Reid, Richie Hogan and Eoin Larkin they have real leaders who shone brightest when they were needed most. They were also without Michael Fennelly and Richie Power, and their return will strengthen their hand for the All-Ireland semi-final.

That said, the Galway players worked hard and they deserve full credit for that. Supporters never have a problem with a team being defeated by a better one, as long as the players give it their all, and the Galway lads did that last Sunday.

One of the highlights of the summer was provided by Joe Canning too, with his superb catch and strike for what will surely be a contender for goal of the year. Canning was back-pedalling and off-balance and did really well to even catch Andy Smith's long delivery, and his finish was truly sublime, as he swivelled and struck in one movement.

It just highlighted what a class finisher he is when he is on form and also proved beyond any reasonable doubt why he needs more regular supply in the red zone.

Galway team manager Anthony Cunningham was  proud of his charges and he felt  there was very little between the sides.

“Overall there was very little in it," he said. "We had a few chances which we were unlucky not to take. I thought our backs did very well for very long spells of the game. Kilkenny are a class act. They are All-Ireland champions, but we are very, very close to them. We were disappointed we didn’t finish the few chances, but that happens.

“David Burke’s goal chance mid way through the second half was a key, key moment. Joe [Canning] had probably one or two [chances] after that, Cyril [Donnellan] as well. But if you look at the performances of Johnny Glynn, Iarla Tannian, Daithí Burke, Cyril Donnellan, and Johnny Coen, we have a huge amount to build on."

Cunningham also called on the Galway hurling fans to back the team.

“We would be pushing hard for the Galway supporters to come out and drive this team on as there is something to build on. The performances of Padraig Mannion, John Hansbury...new players coming into the team at a very top level. They’re a fantastic team coming on and support helps them along that road.

“July 26 is D-Day for us now. That’s what we’ll focus on from now on.”

Cunningham told Brian Cody after the game that he expected to see him for the All-Ireland final, much the same as Kilkenny did after their 2012 Leinster final defeat. Time will tell. However, for now, the players will return to their clubs for championship action this weekend and we will see in three weeks' time if this Galway team can maintain their consistency and perhaps get a win to push them into an All-Ireland semi-final.

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