Galway dig deep to produce crazy finale against Kilkenny

Tribesmen recover from 10 points down with seven minutes left to force replay

Galway’s Ronan Burke and Fergal Moore tussle with Mark Kelly and Eoin Larkin of Kilkenny. Photograph: Inpho

Galway’s Ronan Burke and Fergal Moore tussle with Mark Kelly and Eoin Larkin of Kilkenny. Photograph: Inpho

Mon, Jun 23, 2014, 15:30

Hurling’s facility for serving up days of giddy illogic endures. Kilkenny and Galway tumbled through the sky here like tangoing parachutists, somehow landing back on earth as one after a game of brazen unpredictability. It finished Kilkenny 3-22 Galway 5-16 and even then, the fattened totals only tell a bit of the story.

The best of it was the end of it. A breathless, deathless last 40 seconds in which Henry Shefflin won it for Kilkenny and Joe Canning saved it for Galway. Their points were virtual camera negatives of each other, from more or less the equivalent spot on either end of O’Connor Park. Both on the run, both off their less natural side (it would be a grievous libel to call it their weaker one), both at an angle from close to the sideline. The best at their best when only the best would do.

“Two top players,” purred Brian Cody afterwards, as Tullamore hummed with 12,548 different attempts to explain what we’d just seen.

“Everyone knows that, everyone knows the quality of both players. Two super points. Ordinary players would have found it difficult. Neither of those players are ordinary, they just popped them over the bar.”

Out the gate

Glorious as both intercessions were, not a soul in the ground could have envisaged the need for them even just five minutes earlier. This was over. Done. Out the gate and away home.

TJ Reid’s seventh successful free of the day put Kilkenny 10 points to the good in the 63rd minute. It meant that they had just put 1-8 on the board without a Galway score to interrupt them, as classically Kilkenny a burst of game-set-and-match as you could wish to see.

We shrugged and set about telling the tale of a Kilkenny side that was back, one that was reanimated and refreshed and looking ominously well-appointed for the time of year. One that had come through a first half grapple of raw-boned intensity with honours even before moving through the gears as the third quarter gave way to the fourth.

Another generation

It was going to be a story of Cody’s ability to create yet another team for yet another generation. Of Richie Hogan’s reinvention as an all-action midfielder, responsible for five points of Kilkenny’s gaudy total. Of Tommy Walsh’s rage against the dying of the light, his 27-minute cameo at wing-forward crucial to Kilkenny’s best period. Of Colin Fennelly’s selfless hooking and blocking to go with the 1-3 he stitched into the day.

Beyond Cody’s side, it was going to be a story of another Galway season that looked bound for deflation. Of a willingness to go toe to toe but a fatal weakness for leading with a glass chin. Of another day where Joe Canning was heroic in a losing cause. Not quite the same old same old but close enough to it for the nuances to get lost in the hubbub.

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