Hard working Kilkenny too good for Galway in disappointing second half

Pádraig Mannion beats Kilkeny’s Richie Hogan to the sliotar in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship final in Croke Park on Sunday.  Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Pádraig Mannion beats Kilkeny’s Richie Hogan to the sliotar in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship final in Croke Park on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Galway led by three points at half time in Sunday's  All-Ireland senior final, and for a few brief minutes at the interval some supporters talked of pressing on and winning the game from that position.

Sadly, that proved to be aimless talk, a bit like some of Galway's play in the second half when regrettably that half-time lead proved to be far from sufficient to win the game.

There was an inevitable feel to the outcome for the entire last quarter as Kilkenny’s grip became almost vice-like.  And while Brian Cody's men only won the game by four points on the score-board - 1-22 to 1-18 - it felt like a good bit more with Joe Canning's late goal from a free purely a statistical detail.

Galway started fairly well and looked to be easing themselves nicely into the game, but with only 13 minutes gone, Kilkenny managed to break through the Galway defence for a relatively easy goal. 

John Hanbury missed a ball and when Walter Walsh fed hot favourite for player of the year TJ Reid,  the outcome was all too obvious. The Ballyhale man gave All-Star certainty Colm Callanan no chance as he drove it to the net to put Kilkenny into a 1-3 to 0-5 lead. 

That goal was a big blow to Galway's chances of producing what would have been a famous win. You could almost feel the massive Galway crowd deflate a little when that green flag was hoisted.

Galway battled hard

To be fair to Galway, they did battle back from that goal with points from David Burke, Joe Canning, and a few superbly pointed long-range Jason Flynn frees. And after a Conor Whelan effort, Galway were 0-12 to 1-5 up with 27 minutes gone and they went in at the small whistle leading by 0-14 to 1-8.

Kilkenny substitute on the day Jackie Tyrrell is said to have made an inspirational address to the Kilkenny lads at half time about what would be required to turn things around in the second half.

His input seemed to have the desired effect, and two different teams emerged for the second period, with Kilkenny upping their work rate substantially from the first half and Galway never really getting into top gear despite their best efforts. 

They had a few early decisions given against them by James Owens (Wexford ), with one stonewall free for Cyril Donnellan standing out, and Kilkenny took full advantage. They had the game tied up inside a few minutes and there only looked to be one winner from there to the finish.

Galway only managed to score 1-4 in the entire second half. Two of those points came from team captain David Collins, who hit two big scores as he tried to inspire all around him.

Galway lost their shape

However Galway seemed to lose their shape and they went really narrow which suited the  physical Kilkenny defenders and the powerful Michael Fennelly at midfield. A missed free from Joe Canning that you would normally put your house on him to score, and a Conor Whelan half-goal chance that went wide, seemed to sum up Galway's second-half efforts.

And there was no doubt in anyone's mind at Croke Park for the last 15 minutes that Kilkenny were going to collect title number 36 and Galway's wait for title number five was going to have to be put on ice for another year.

It is important Anthony Cunningham and his panel of players reflect on what went wrong last weekend and try to build on the work they have done this year to come back stronger and cuter in 2016.

However, as we all know, saying it, thinking it, writing it and doing it, are entirely different things.

The harsh reality is that Kilkenny are the current kings of hurling in the country and it will take an exceptional performance or team to knock them off that pedestal.

Hopefully, that will happen sooner rather than later, and if they wore maroon jerseys, that would be all the better.

Scorers for 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.

Scorers for 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 ).

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