After a brilliant first half display, Galway fell asunder under the pressure of Kilkenny’s grip in the second half as the Cats ran out four point winners on the scoreboard. Joe Canning’s late consolation goal closed the gap back to four, but in reality Kilkenny were much further ahead at the end that the scoreboard suggested.
Going in three points up at the break, Galway looked to be in control of the contest, but after the break things never got going again for Anthony Cunningham’s men. A few key decisions early on in the final 35 minutes didn't go their way, with what looked like a blatant foul on Conor Whelan in scoring rage not being given and controversial 65 given to Kilkenny counting against them. But after Johnny Coen managed to avoid a red card for a very high tackle on Colin Fennelly at the end of the first half, only warranting a yellow card from ref James Owens, Galway had got their own stroke of luck from the Wexford man early on.
Galway came out of the gate in the first half a team possessed and hit everything that moved, contesting every ball and hitting hard when tackles needed to be made and they were two points to the good nine minutes in on a score of 0-4 to 0-2, thanks to three points from Joe Canning and one from Cyril Donnellan. But even at that stage Kilkenny looked like they could get in for a goal on a few occasions. Canning and Eoin Larkin swapped points in the 12th and 10th minute respectively, but with 13 minutes gone on the clock, Kilkenny did manage to break through the Galway defence for the games first goal.
A ball to the corner of the Cusack stand side was contested by Walter Walsh and John Hanbury, the Kilkenny number ten was able to hold off the challenge of Hanbury and shaped towards goal, feeding TJ Reid inside the large square and the Ballyhale man gave Colm Callanan no chance as he drove it to the net to put Kilkenny into a 1-3 to 0-5 lead. The same man stretched that lead out to two points a minute later from a free. But Galway dug in and weren’t going to bend the knee that easy. David Burke drove over a long range point and Canning pointed another free, after Whelan was dragged the ground as he looked to break for goal to level it up on 16 minutes. Reid responded with another pointed free from the edge of the D to put Kilkenny back in front by one, but then Galway hit a purple patch hit five points without reply. Jason Flynn stroked over thee pointed frees from inside his own half way line, Canning chipped in with a close range free and Whelan added one from play to put Galway 0-12 to 1-5 up with 27 minutes gone.
Richie Hogan clipped one back for Kilkenny on the half hour mark, before Flynn landed a fantastic point from play, taking the ball down with his hurl tight to the sideline before finding space to shoot it over the bar under pressure. Ger Alyward and Reid cut the gap back again with a few quick scores, with Reid’s point coming from a free after Coen’s tackle on Fennelly. Canning had the last word on the half with a nicely taken point from play and Galway went in leading 0-14 to 1-8 at the turn around.
Hopes were high that Galway could keep it up in the second half but two different teams emerged for the second period with Kilkenny upping their work rate substantially from the first half and Galway never really getting out of third gear no matter how hard their tried. They had a few early decisions go against them and Kilkenny took full advantage as only they can and they had the game tied up in no time.
Galway only managed to score 1-4 in the second half the first of those coming from David Collins in the 45th minute, Collins hit two big scores in the second half as he tired to drive the fight back into the Galway challenge. By the 47th minute Kilkenny had pushed themselves back into the lead and Galway were shipping water as Brian Coady’s men kept piling on the punishment after every Galway mistake. A bit of panic seemed to set into Galway as the drove long balls into no mans land and got caught in possession with Kilkenny hunting in packs forcing turnovers and frees to be given against Galway on a regular basis.
But even with just under ten minutes left on the clock the gap was only four points and goal would have brought Galway right back into it and given the massive Galway crowd a lift as the game headed down the home straight. With Kilkenny four clear Joe Canning missed a free he’d normally stroke over in his sleep and Conor Whelan saw a half goal chance flash wide of the post and that seemed to suck the life out of the Tribesmen and gave Kilkenny the security they needed as they stretched their lead out to seven points as the game entered injury time. Canning did put the ball in the back of the Kilkenny net deep into injury time, but at that stage it was a case of too little too late for Galway, whose 27 year wait to bring the Liam McCarthy Cup goes on for another year.
Galway: Joe Canning 1-7 (1-4f ), Jason Flynn 0-4 (0-3f ), David Burke 0-2, David Collins 0-2, Conor Whelan 0-2, Cyril Donnellan 0-1.
Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-7 (0-5, 0-1 65f ), Ger Aylward 0-3, Colin Fennelly 0-2, Eoin Larkin 0-2, Richie Hogan 0-2, Walter Walsh 0-2, Michael Fennelly 0-2, Conor Fogarty 0-1, Pádraig Walsh 0-1.
Galway: Colm Callanan; Johnny Coen, John Hanbury, Pádraig Mannion; Aidan Harte, Iarla Tannian, Daithí Burke; Andrew Smith, David Burke; Conor Whelan, Cyril Donnellan, Jonathan Glynn; Jason Flynn, Joe Canning, Cathal Mannion. Subs: David Collins for Aidan Harte (25 ), Fergal Moore for Andrew Smith (43-45, blood sub ), Greg Lally for Andrew Smith (51-52, blood sub ), Conor Cooney for Andrew Smith (56 ), Greg Lally for Cyril Donnellan (65 ), Shane Moloney for Jason Flynn (66 ).
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Shane Prendergast; Pádraig Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Cillian Buckley; Michael Fennelly, Conor Fogarty; Walter Walsh, Richie Hogan, TJ Reid; Ger Aylward, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin. Subs: Richie Power for Richie Hogan (60 ), John Power for Ger Aylward (62 ).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford )