Cats show up for King Henry's ninth
Kilkenny 3-22 Galway 3-11:Everyone feared for Galway’s chances if the Kilkenny forwards, other than Henry Shefflin, performed like we know they can. So many of them showed up for the All-Ireland hurling final replay today, far too many for Galway to handle.
The 82,274 crowd got to witness Kilkenny capturing their 34th title and ninth this century with so many of their household names in outstanding form.
Ultimately, Galway were blown away but it didn’t help that they lost influential wing forward Cyril Donnellan to a straight red card on 49 minutes. He opened up JJ Delaney’s head with his hurl.
There was no way back after that.
Brian Cody figured out the individual match-ups, which are so important in a replay, but it also helped that Shefflin picked up where he left off three weeks ago, influencing the ebb and flow of this contest as much as he ever has since first gracing the championship stage way back in 1999.
Tommy Walsh actually started on Joe Canning but it wasn’t long before Galway’s primary source of scores went into JJ Delaney on the square’s edge. Canning didn’t last long there, however, shifting out to Brian Hogan when he wasn’t being fed by his teammates.
This was due to every other key individual battle being won by Kilkenny.
The most glaring mismatch was Galway corner back Johnny Coen on Walter Walsh. The size difference guaranteed Walsh clean ball, and Kilkenny rained sliotars down the pair at every opportunity.
Fears of Walsh making his championship bow in such a huge game were quickly allayed. Coen couldn’t handle him.
Kilkenny were also getting some joy from Richie Hogan at full forward, mainly because of his speed to the ball and ability to take a belt or two yet carry on hurling.
Tony Óg Regan could hardly be accused of struggling on Shefflin but still the great man’s influence was immense in the opening 35 minutes of this skirmish.
Take the 14th minute. Matters had yet to settle but Shefflin had, cleverly shadowing the play before scooping and striking over the bar in one rapid motion before a crowd of maroon jerseys could lay a finger on him.
That made it 0-4 to 0-2 in Kilkenny’s favour and the expected result seemed on course.
Then pandemonium broke out in Croke Park. Iarla Tannian dropped a quality ball in on top of David Burke whose delicate glance fooled his marker and Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity for a fine goal.
Before anyone could catch their breath TJ Reid registered a point down the other end.
Galway didn’t blink, firing the sliotar into the Kilkenny defence where Donnellan won it and fed Damien Hayes who, in turn, found Burke in space. His finish put Galway three points clear.
What happened next was incredible. Galway didn’t score for another 11 minutes as Kilkenny ruthlessly racked up 1-7.
Clearly, Richie Power and Eoin Larkin were keen to atone for their performances in the drawn game, with Power following up Larkin’s powerful run through the Galway defence to slide in their first goal.
Then Richie Hogan’s hooking of Tannian led to a Larkin point as Kilkenny regained the lead.
Power quickly added another from miles out the field.
Kilkenny were in complete control with Shefflin, in particular, central to most attacks. He fed Walsh for another score sandwiched between two of his own, the second – another laser strike from play - leading to his trademark index finger salute.
That was how the major damage was inflicted. Kilkenny led 1-11 to 2-4 at the turn.
In typical fashion they tried to kill matters with goals early in the second-half. This may also have been influenced by James Skehill’s failure to reappear from the dressing room. The big keeper dislocated his shoulder last Friday night.
Galway clung on for a while. A beautiful sideline from Canning brought it back to three points again before the drama levels, somehow, reached new heights.
Canning struck the butt of the post from an acute angle and as he cupped his head, the sliotar went to Shefflin who found Cillian Buckley in traffic for a score that seemed more valuable than a mere point.
Donnellan was sent off moments later as a bloodied JJ Delaney was temporarily replaced by Noel Hickey.
As Galway attempted to come to terms with the loss of Donnellan, Kilkenny went about capturing Shefflin’s ninth All-Ireland medal, an honour he shares with Hickey. They even gave their king a break with Power, Michael Fennelly and Walsh giving them an unassailable lead of 1-17 to 2-7.
Galway needed a miracle but these Kilkenny men have never faded down the straight. More goals came from Walsh and then his replacement Colin Fennelly grabbed the third. Walsh, incidentally, came off to a rapturous reception.
Jonathan Glynn’s bullet finish to the top corner with five minutes remaining must be recorded but it had no relevance on the contest, which effectively ended with Donnellan’s dismissal.
Not that many would tell you a 15 man Galway would have stayed with this Kilkenny. Not when the greatest hurling team of all time is in this mood.
Kilkenny:David Herity; Paul Murphy, JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell; Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Kieran Joyce (0-1); Michael Fennelly (0-1), C Buckley (0-1); Richie Power (1-2), H Shefflin (0-09, five frees, two 65s), Eoin Larkin (0-1, captain); TJ Reid (0-1), Richie Hogan (0-3), Walter Walsh (1-3). Substitutions: N Hickey for JJ Delaney (49-61, blood), for K Joyce (65 mins), C Fennelly (1-0) for W Walsh (58 mins), A Fogarty for TJ Reid (65 mins).
Galway:James Skehill; Johnny Coen, Kevin Hynes, Fergal Moore; Niall Donoghue, Tony Og Regan (0-1), David Collins; Iarlaith Tannian, Andy Smith (0-1); David Burke (2-0), Niall Burke, Cyril Donnellan; Damien Hayes, Joe Canning (0-9, five frees, 65, side line), James Regan. Substitutions: J Cooney for N Donoghue (27 mins), J Glynn (1-0) for J Regan (33 mins), F Flannery for J Skehill (half-time), C Cooney for N Burke (52 mins), D Glenn for A Smith (63 mins).
Referee:J McGrath (Westmeath).