All is utterly transformed as Cats run wild while Galway disintegrate
Galway 3-11 Kilkenny 3-22:IF THIS year’s All-Ireland hurling final had been treated as an episode of The Twilight Zone, it might well start with a freeze frame of Joe Canning addressing the free that took the original match to a replay.
What was better? Go close and lose surprisingly narrowly, regroup and go again. Or force the draw and take the consequences: initially some days of controversy followed by disintegration in the replay and a double-digit beating?
Kilkenny were transformed for yesterday’s renewal of hostilities and improved in virtually every sector.
Organised and inspired by Henry Shefflin, the champions emphatically nailed down back-to-back All-Irelands – and their first through the qualifiers – and it was fitting that the Ballyhale icon became the first man in the history of Gaelic games to win nine All-Ireland medals as a starting player.
He has now taken the field for all of Brian Cody’s 62 championship matches as manager and together they have created the game’s most successful collective.
Scan the field and note the difference.
Kilkenny’s defenders held their position and didn’t follow their men but instead controlled their zone and did so efficiently and without fuss. Once again Paul Murphy was immense and if anything sums up the strength of Kilkenny it’s the form of this defender who came in last year, played sufficiently well to win an All Star and will at least hold that status this season.
When confounding Kilkenny in the two championship matches to date, Galway had built their case on rampant starts to the Leinster final and to a lesser extent the drawn All-Ireland. That was thwarted yesterday and from the start Kilkenny held the initiative.
Galway had struggled to keep Joe Canning involved for 70 minutes in the drawn match and yesterday were unable to change that and, far from finding a convincing second half, he was quieter than normal even in the early stages and hurled a fair bit in a deeper position.
Cody’s centrefield surgery worked well and Cillian Buckley gave an energetic performance scoring an important point to kill Galway’s momentum after Joe Canning had hit the post with a goal opportunity, which might – however improbably – have levelled the scores in the 48th minute and defending well enough to cut out a goal chance for Cyril Donnellan at the end of the first half. More influentially Michael Fennelly was back closer to his Hurler of the Year form and Galway’s dominance in the middle in the previous two matches was eradicated.
Galway did create their chances and the goals that have always provided the oxygen for their more exuberant performances did actually come but on this occasion they were merely keeping the patient alive rather than fuelling a convincing challenge.