Goals win games, and Galway’s strong efforts were crumbled by a Kilkenny hat-trick at Croke Park yesterday, as the Tribesmen succumbed to an agonising two-point defeat, despite holding the Cats scoreless for a 26 minute spell in the second half.
Trailing by five points at the interval, Galway came out at a canter, and simply blew Kilkenny away for the majority of the second half, scoring seven points in a 17-minute period after the restart, with Kilkenny failing to raise a white flag.
Indeed the green ones they raised in the closing 14 minutes of the opening half weren’t added to during this spell, but substitute Danny Purcell put paid to any hopes of David Burke raising the Irish Press Cup, and bringing the title to the West for the first time since 2005.
The Mooncoin forward was ace to Kilkenny stealing victory, with a goal and a point in the closing four minutes of this game – the Cats’ sum total in the second half, as Mattie Murphy’s charges were left stunned, and a first title since 2004 was in the hands of the Cats.
Kilkenny placed huge pressure on the Galway defence right from the throw-in and with most of the possession in the opening five minutes, despite hitting two wides in quick succession, the Cats settled soon after when a Joe Brennan pointed free opened the scoring.
However a duo of Bernard Burke points from play propelled Galway into a 0-2 to 0-1 lead by the ninth minute, and they wouldn’t trail Kilkenny until the 56th minute, when Purcell sent over his only point, with a goal quickly added – and it was curtains for Galway.
Galway’s good work and early advances with a trio of points from Oranmore-Maree half-forward Niall Burke, giving his side a 0-5 to 0-2 lead by the end of the opening quarter was quickly cancelled out – as Kilkenny used their limited possession to good effect.
Despite Galway performing strongest at this stage, it was a brace of goals in the second quarter for the Cats, which propelled them to a 2-5 to 0-6 interval lead, with Brennan and Thomas Breen crashing the ball past Galway goalkeeper Fergal Flannery in the 16th and 28th minutes.
Brennan’s 17th minute goal came following a speculative shot from the wing 24 metres out on the Hogan Stand side, as Galway’s defence was left exposed, Brennan sent in a dipping shot which bounced over the line.
Bernard Burke put Galway back in front after good work by Niall Donoghue on the half-back line for the Tribesmen, but with Kilkenny finishing strongly thanks to a Cathal Kenny sideline, a Brennan free – Breen’s goal and a Peter McCarthy score – the Cats suddenly held a five-point advantage at the interval.
Galway upped their game once more on the restart, as scores from midfield duo David Burke (3 ) and Domhnaill Fox, along with a Niall Burke point, ensured the sides were level at 0-11 to 2-5 by the 44th minute.
Niall Burke and Richard Cummins added further Galway points, and although Cummins and 39th minute substitute John Cannon interlinked well for a tremendous goal chance in the 55th minute, Cannon’s effort flicked by the side netting – a glorious chance to seal victory dismissed.
No one could have foreseen Kilkenny’s late comeback, as Purcell’s killer goal and a point followed and in the end Galway were the vanquished.
Galway manager Mattie Murphy wasn’t making excuses after the game, for the nature of his side’s loss.
“I haven’t a clue, lads, how we lost it to be honest with you,” a disappointed Murphy told the waiting media after the game.
“We were head and shoulders above them. We had a performance out there today that was of the top drawer, if Kilkenny seniors produce anything like it or Waterford seniors ye would be all talking about it.”
“Those lads lost heavily to Cork last year. No one gave those lads a ghost of a chance. The only reason I got the team was because they thought I would go down with it – I went down but I was never as proud of a crop of young lads before in my life, than I was there today.”
His Kilkenny counterpart Richie Mulrooney concurred that luck had been firmly on his side. “What can you say but we had luck on our side,” Mulrooney enthused. “I’m just sorry for the Galway lads who put in such hard work, but we definitely got the rub of the green today.”
Kilkennny: Eoin Murphy; David Healy, Michael Walsh, Alan Cuddihy; Michael Moloney, Richard Doyle, Conor Fogarty; Cathal Kenny (0-1, 1 s/l ), James Gannon; Joe Brennan (1-3, 3f ), Walter Walsh, Rory Hickey; Peter McCarthy (0-1 ), Thomas Breen (1-0 ), Martin Gaffney.
Subs: Mark O’Dwyer for Gaffney (37 ); Danny Purcell (1-1 ) for Gannon (54 ); Canice Maher for Hickey (56 ).
Galway: Fergal Flannery; Declan Connolly, Ronan Burke, Gerard O’Halloran; Niall Donoghue, Donal Cooney, Rory Foy; David Burke (0-3 ), Domhnaill Fox (0-1 ); Alan Dolan, Niall Quinn, Niall Burke (0-5,2f ); Richard Cummins (0-1 ), Bernard Burke (0-3 ), David Glennon. Subs: Brian Flaherty for Dolan (7-10 BS ); Brian Flaherty for Foy (HT ); Martin Dolphin for Glennon (38 ); John Cannon for Quinn (39 ); Luke Madden for Fox (54 ).
Referee: Cathal McAlister (Cork ).