Kilkenny forwards stepped up to the plate
This is a special one for Brian Cody. The Kilkenny manager found where the leaks were and he plugged them, writes NICKY ENGLISH
YOU WOULD have to be enthralled with Kilkenny hurling after a performance like that yesterday. Of the nine All-Irelands they’ve collected under Brian Cody, this took the longest and it was probably the hardest and sweetest. It has been over the course of three games that they’ve come to grips with Galway and they got there in some style in the end.
Every single one of their players was hopping off the ground right from the start here. It’s some testament to the institution that Kilkenny hurling has become since Cody took over in 1999.
The trend was going their way over the previous 140 minutes of action against Galway this year. The shock and awe of July was long gone by the time yesterday came around.
Their key players stepped up after some of them hadn’t been in their best form before this.
Richie Power had a great game and Michael Fennelly and Eoin Larkin both really improved on their displays previous to this.
Richie Hogan had a fantastic game closer to goal and then you had a super performance from Cillian Buckley and to top it all off, the bolt out of the blue in Walter Walsh.
The Kilkenny forwards collectively really stepped up. I’m only presuming this but you would imagine they felt they let Henry Shefflin down the last day.
He was the big reason they had a replay to play in at all and to a man they made amends. Add in the outstanding defence – particularly Paul Murphy and Kieran Joyce, lads who aren’t the marquee names – and it made for possibly the best display I’ve seen from Kilkenny.
This wasn’t easy for them. They had a long summer. Yesterday they had to go through sucker punches in the first half and moments of danger from Galway in the second but they handled everything that was thrown at them.
Go back to the Leinster final when they were shell-shocked after Galway got the goals against them – they have clearly worked very hard over the summer on how to respond to Galway.
Within a minute of both Galway goals in the first half, they came back with scores of their own. Most people in the ground – including myself – probably missed TJ Reid’s point after the first one and then Richie Power’s goal was an immediate response to the second one.
They played like a team that were ready for anything and their reaction to those goals was the first key phase in deciding the game.
The other key period in the game came early in the second half when Galway turned up the volume and Joe Canning pointed a sideline ball and Henry Shefflin was called for overcarrying. The decision of the referee to call back Cyril Donnellan just as he was banging in a goal for Galway was huge.