A hugely disappointing ending to last Saturday’s provincial final against Kilkenny saw Galway let slip from their grasp a fourth Leinster title. .
However, there were plenty of positives to take from Galway’s display ahead of a clash with old foes Tipperary this coming Saturday at the Gaelic Grounds (1.15pm ).
A mouth-watering quarter-final is in prospect between these two counties who have not met in the championship since Joe Canning’s wonder strike tipped the scale in Galway’s favour in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final.
Tipperary saw off Cork last weekend by 2-20 to 0-24 to keep their hopes of back-to-back All-Irelands alive. In stark contrast to Galway’s late woes in Croke Park, Tipperary surged to victory with Jake Morris’ 68th minutes goal pivotal in a 2-17 to 1-16 victory, with playing conditions not far removed from the monsoon encountered when overrun by Limerick on their first day out.
Galway will have had time this week to analyse and digest what went so badly wrong in the fourth quarter against Kilkenny. When Jason Flynn superbly fired over Galway’s 20th point to reopen a lead of five with 15 minutes to play, few would have thought the game was about to turn on its head.
But, in the blink of any eye, Richie Hogan’s impudence punished a rare moment of defensive hesitancy and TJ Reid then buried a shot to the top corner with his first real involvement in open play.
Cody’s side were right back in it when in truth Galway should have had a healthier cushion to lessen the impact of the two goals.
Reid’s free-taking kept Kilkenny in touch in a first half in which Galway’s lapses in discipline proved costly. Daithí Burke slotted in at full back and was a rock throughout, but six wides in each half undid some of Galway’s good work back the field.
To be fair, Kilkenny’s defenders made life a lot more pressurised for Galway’s shooters than Wexford ever managed, with space for Brian Concannon and Conor Whelan far more restricted, but both still had an influence on a wet and windy evening in the capital.
Niall Burke also could have had a goal, but for Huw Lawlor’s cynical first-half foul, while Flynn really should have hit the net after escaping from Lawlor’s clutches shortly before the second water break. Had Galway stretched their lead to six or seven at that stage, then Kilkenny may have crumbled, but Hogan was to prove the Cat’s saviour.
Shane O’Neill’s side did recover to retake the lead thanks to a pair of splendid David Burke strikes, but Galway’s failure to score in the closing 10 minutes left the door open.
Joe Canning was unfortunate to see both a sideline cut and a free strike the left-hand post in that time, but Kilkenny ran out just about deserving winners as Cillian Buckley and Conor Browne rose to the task.
It is a really tough ask for Galway to recover from such a bruising encounter and be expected to go again at full tilt on Saturday afternoon in a winner-takes-all encounter, but the chance to end Tipp’s quest for honours will surely focus the minds.
They do not need to rip up the script, a few tweaks to the game plan may be all that is required. Fintan Burke and Shane Cooney again showed themselves more than capable, while Eanna Murphy’s positives outweigh the one error of judgement. Joe Canning was far more involved last weekend in the hustle and bustle of the game and hit two magnificent points, while also crafting another gem for Joseph Cooney.
If Galway can get more scores from Cathal Mannion and Conor Cooney, then their defence looks capable of restricting Tipperary sufficiently to unlock a semi-final outing.
KILKENNY: E Murphy; T Walsh, C Buckley, C Delaney; P Walsh (0-1 ), H Lawlor, C Browne (0-2 ); C Fogarty, R Leahy; J Donnelly (0-1 ), TJ Reid (1-10, 9fs ), M Keoghan (0-2 ); W Walsh, C Fennelly, E Cody (0-1 ). Subs: R Hogan (1-2 ) for W Walsh (45m ); L Blanchfield (0-1 ) for Fennelly (51m ); R Reid for Fogarty (56m ); N Brassil for Cody (60m ); A Murphy for Leahy (62m ).
GALWAY : E Murphy; S Loftus, Daithi Burke, S Cooney; P Mannion; G McInerney, J Cooney (0-1 ), F Burke; J Coen (0-2 ), J Canning (0-14, 9fs, 1 ‘sl. 1 ‘65 ); C Cooney, C Mannion (0-1 ), N Burke; C Whelan (0-2 ), B Concannon (0-1 ). Subs: A Harte for Loftus (35m ); J Flynn (0-1 ) for N Burke (40m ); David Burke (0-2 ) for C Cooney (59m ); A Tuohey for Coen (69m ), S Linnane for S Cooney (70m ). REFEREE: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary ).