Kilkenny edge out Galway to win 20th Walsh Cup
Ever-reliable Richie Hogan slots 11 points to see Brian Cody’s Cats home at Nowlan Park
Richie Hogan scored 11 points as Kilkenny edged out Galway to secure a 20th Walsh Cup. Photograph: Inpho/Tommy Dickson
Kilkenny 0-20 Galway 0-18
There is an old motto about trophies handed out on the first Sunday in February. It’s not the winning that matters it’s the taking part, the essential thing not to have conquered but to have fought well.
Both Kilkenny and Galway will feel they succeeded in that regard, although when it came to the part about winning, Kilkenny would not be denied. They set the pace from early on and in the end just about held on, deserving if not entirely convincing Walsh Cup champions for the seventh time under manager Brian Cody – and 20th in all.
It certainly wasn’t all shadow boxing and had flashes of decent sparring – the crowd of 4,111 under the bright, broadening sky at Nowlan Park kept interested right up until the final whistle. Galway had ample opportunity of their own to win, some wayward free-taking from Jason Flynn most conspicuously costing them their chance of victory.
What ultimately swung it Kilkenny’s way was the contrastingly reliable Richie Hogan, who contributed more than half of Kilkenny’s scores with his 0-11, all but two coming from placed balls. This was backed up by some bullish defending from Kieran Joyce, while lesser known lights such as Ollie Walsh had their say too, his three points from midfield coming at a time when Kilkenny needed them most.
“Absolutely important, if at all possible,” smiled Cody, when asked how important it was to get the win. “I mean both teams wanted to win, but it’s not a question of the competition you’re playing. You’re playing a match, against another team, and you always want to win that.
“It was certainly competitive, right up until the very end, and we’re happy enough. Galway had their chances, for sure. Missed five or six from frees they’d normally get, no doubt about that. We missed a few as well, but that’s par for the course this time of year.
“It’s not a question of not always taking it seriously. Sometimes it just didn’t suit us in terms of availability, players coming back from injury, a time when a lot of players are also playing Fitzgibbon Cup.
“But we certainly got a good bit of out it, in terms of match practice. The league starts next Sunday, Waterford come down here, so we’re straight into very, very serious hurling. It’s going to be very competitive.”
No goals on the day, however, although several standout saves at both ends – Eoin Murphy denying Conor Phelan on 20 minutes, Colm Callanan denying Jonjo Farrell not long after. Kilkenny’s dominance showed most in that period too, up five points at one stage, before going into the break 0-13 to 0-10 in front.
The second half dragged on a bit, with nine minutes of added time mainly due to the back injury sustained by Martin Dolphin. Kilkenny ended up playing the last 20 minutes with 14 men after Pat Lyng was sent off for a second bookable offence, although Galway failed to make that numerical advantage count.
Flynn hit a series of frees wide at that point, at least four of which should have been converted. They still chased Kilkenny by four entering adding time, got two more back through Aidan Harte and Davey Glennon, but then simply ran out of time.
“Today was always going to be a step up from the teams we played previous,” said Galway manager Michael Donoghue. “Coming down here, Kilkenny were always likely to set the tone. We tried to match it. And they probably bossed it a bit early on.
“I suppose for the first 10 or 15 minutes Kilkenny raced out of the blocks, really came at us. But that was a good experience for our younger players, to see that the level is at.
“After that we were left chasing it, and the long stoppage in the second half probably killed it a bit. We came back at it again, when they had the man sent off, but overall it was a mix of the good and the bad, missing a good few chances, especially some frees. Jayo (Jason Flynn) probably had a bit of an off day, on the frees, but we conceded a lot as well. So plenty to work on.”
Kilkenny also extend their winning record over Galway, since they joined the competition, in 2009, having won two previous finals over them now. The priority now, says Cody, is to extend that winning run through the league.
“The priority for us in the league is always to try to win it. I think that’s the same for every team. Do we want to win it? Of course we do, but it’s going to be very, very difficult.”
Galway used 37 players in the competition, the likes of Paul Flaherty and Gearoid McInerney all putting their hands up for more permanent places: “We’ve given a lot of young lads a chance,” said Donoghue. “It’s still a great game to have before the national league.”
Waterford visit Nowlan Park next Sunday, while Galway head for Offaly, both teams suitably warmed up and tested and ready for the essential winning.
KILKENNY: E Murphy; J Holden, R Lennon, M Walsh; K Joyce (0-1), P Murphy, C Fogarty (0-1); O Walsh (0-3), L Ryan (0-2); P Lyng (0-1), C Martin (0-1), M Malone; R Hogan (0-11, seven frees, two 65s), J Farrell, R Leahy. Subs: C O’Shea for Fogarty (half time), L Blanchfield for Malone (43 mins), S Morrissey for Leahy (53 mins), J Maher for Martin (62 mins), A Murphy for Farrell (71 mins).
GALWAY: C Callanan (0-1, a free); P Killeen, J Hanbury, J Grealish; A Touhy (0-1), M Dolphin, A Harte (0-1); J Coen (0-1), D Nevin; S Maloney (0-2 one free), J Cooney (0-2), D Glennon (0-2); S McInerney (0-1), J Flynn (0-6, five frees), C Phelan. Subs: T Monaghan (0-1) for Nevin (29 mins), M Donohoe for Grealish (half time), G McInerney for Dolphin (53 mins, inj), K McHugo for Phelan (66 mins), P Flaherty for S McInerney (61 mins).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)