Fantastic, unbelievable and totally unexpected
Kilkenny didn’t know what hit them – they had no shape, no pattern and no idea how to handle what Galway were throwing at them, writes NICKY ENGLISH
THE BEST thing you can say about Galway yesterday is that they were everything Kilkenny usually are and they did everything you would expect Kilkenny to do. They were powerful, they were skilful, they scored at will, they knocked back the opposition whenever the opposition had the ball. It was fantastic and unbelievable to watch and it was totally unexpected by everyone, including myself.
We were all talking before this game about how boring the championship was and how the shadow of Kilkenny hung over every game that was played. Well, Galway just blew it wide open.
People could not believe what they were watching. I was sitting beside some Galway supporters in the crowd and even when they were nine points up near the end, they were finding it hard to believe they were going to hold on. They were as shell-shocked as some of the Kilkenny players.
I felt the writing was totally on the wall for Kilkenny as early as five minutes into the game. Jackie Tyrrell came out with a ball in one of the early exchanges and was absolutely hammered by the Galway forwards. It was happening the whole time – Kilkenny couldn’t get the ball out past halfway.
Galway had conceded a hatful against Westmeath and Offaly but they were obviously on a mission here to prove that they could defend as a team. Kilkenny were hit by an avalanche of punches and by the time David Collins scored a great point to make it 1-6 to 0-0 after 18 minutes, there was no way back for them.
That opening period was the winning of the game. Galway dominated physically and they made it count on the scoreboard as well. Iarla Tannian and Andy Smith were well on top in midfield and their half-back line cleaned up. Then up front the two Burkes and Cyril Donnellan were excellent. But it was Joe Canning’s goal that really got them going and he led them all the way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look fitter and he gave a masterclass yesterday. He turned up in places on the pitch that you’d never see him and he was their talisman all day.
Kilkenny didn’t know what hit them. They had no shape, no pattern and no idea how to handle what Galway were throwing at them. Damien Hayes was causing them all kinds of trouble out around the middle and there were Galway players moving all over the place at huge pace and with huge power. That first 20 minutes was as good an exhibition of hurling as you could hope to see and it was played in horrible conditions as well.
Not only did they win all the 50-50 balls, they were winning 20-80 balls as well. It meant that when Kilkenny attempted a comeback later on, they had enough of a cushion to withstand it.
Even though they got a bit nervous in the second half, Galway were always able to answer when Kilkenny landed a blow. They scored the first point after both Kilkenny goals through David Burke and Damien Hayes and that 10-point margin was nearly always maintained.