Kilkenny and Tipperary stroll through to hurling league final
Cats comfortably account for Galway despite absence of Brian Cody on the sideline
Kilkenny’s Richie Power holds off the challenge of Galway’s Niall Donoghue at Semple Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
A league which began with Kilkenny and Tipperary having their noses bloodied will end with them both in fine fettle and apparently a distance clear of everybody else. Together they sashayed through to the league final yesterday, flicking Dublin and Galway out of their respective sights by 15 (Tipp) and seven (Kilkenny) points. That both matches were over by half-time says everything about the strength of the sport’s two best teams.
Even allowing for the fact that a league title was far from the top of Galway’s list of priorities, they were still brushed aside with alarming ease here. Kilkenny were without Brian Cody’s ruddy-faced presence on the sideline but you wouldn’t have known it.
They competed with no less intensity, took scores with no slighter sense of urgency. They were 1-24 to 1-17 ahead when the music stopped but that makes it sound closer than it was. From injury time in the first-half onwards, there was never less than five points between the sides.
In midfielder Lester Ryan and goalkeeper Eoin Murphy, Kilkenny have found the two additions that lend any league campaign legitimacy and Ryan was especially dynamic here. The Kilkenny centre with him, Michael Rice, Michael Fennelly and Brian Hogan marshalling it will be a thoroughly forbidding place to be this summer. Ahead of them, Richie Hogan laced five points from play into the day’s tapestry, each of them as pretty a loop as the next.
For Galway, a bad day all round was improved by the news that Fergal Moore wasn’t as seriously injured as he first appeared after his early clash of heads with Walter Walsh. The game had been held up for nine minutes as he was prepared for the stretcher – the clash was so bad that it took Walsh 15 minutes to be stitched up and reintroduced – and fears for Moore lent Semple a sombre air for a while afterwards.
But although he was concussed, it was later confirmed that that was as bad as the news was going to get for him. It is thought entirely likely that he will be back for Galway’s championship campaign, one in which they will surely give a better account of themselves than they did here.
In the other semi-final, Tipperary were at their fluid, languid best to polish of a stuttering Dublin side by 4-20 to 0-17. Early goals from Shane Bourke and Bonner Maher put them 2-3 to 0-1 up after just 10 minutes and Anthony Daly’s side didn’t managed to get within touching distance for the rest of the day. Partly this was down to their own unsteady touch and over-elaborate hand-passing but mostly it was a result of Tipp’s no-mercy score-taking.
With Lar Corbett the fulcrum of their attack, Eamon O’Shea’s side created space at will and took their chances when they came. And when there was no space to be had, the tactic of launching high balls in on top of the Dublin full-back line paid a handsome dividend too. Three of their four goals came this way.
They meet Kilkenny in a fortnight in Nowlan Park. Summer feels closer by the day.