Canning keeps calm to deny Cats

Galway 2-13 Kilkenny 0-19:  Inseparable from start to finish – and so the 2012 All-Ireland hurling final is headed for a replay…

Galway 2-13 Kilkenny 0-19: Inseparable from start to finish – and so the 2012 All-Ireland hurling final is headed for a replay, Joe Canning's last gasp-free saving Galway from what looked like being another cruel defeat. It's been a long time coming, the first All-Ireland draw since 1959, when Kilkenny and Waterford went to a replay.

Now, Galway and Kilkenny will go at each other again on Sunday September 30th, as part of a double-header with the minor finalists from Dublin and Tipperary, who drew the curtain-raiser here today.

Galway fell short of outright victory this afternoon after a performance that looked in the early stages like sending the All-Ireland hurling title across the Shannon for the first time in 24 years. But defending champions Kilkenny weren’t about to surrender their title, and after clawing back from a half-time deficit, put themselves in front as the tense climax unfolded, before a virtually full house of 81,932.

Hot on the heels of an epic minor final, Kilkenny were up by a single point as the three minutes of added time counted down, but Canning, who had missed a free minutes earlier, made no mistake with the second chance to save the game.


Galway dominated the opening 35 minutes, leading by five points at the break – 1-9 to 0-7 – but it was still all to play for. Kilkenny clawed one back moments after the restart, with a Henry Shefflin free, but again Galway matched it, through Niall Burke.

Then Kilkenny injected a surge – points from TJ Reid and Richie Power, a free for Shefflin, then a brilliant point from Aidan Fogarty closing the gap to one, with 49 minutes done.

As if on cue, Shefflin made caught and fired the ball over the bar – levelling them up on 50 minutes. Just as Galway’s legs appeared to be tiring, they tore back in front with a thunderous goal from Niall Burke four minutes later.

Kilkenny sniffed a goal, through Colin Fennelly, only for James Skehill to make a stunning save before smothering the ball. Shefflin put the free over the bar, levelling it again – before Larkin stuck their noses in front, cometh the hour.

Not for long, as Canning hit back again with two frees, and the Leinster champions were back in front, by the single point.

Shefflin levelled it up again, and then came what looked the decisive strike: a penalty, on 67 minutes after Larkin was brought down by Skehill, but Kilkenny's marksman sent it over the bar.

Canning then had a free to level it, from 45 metres, but unbelievably sent it wide – the disgust written all over his face. Another late chance fell to Iarla Tannian, but he too sent his effort wide.

As if fate and destiny intervened, Canning got a last chance and drove this one over the bar.

After a nervous start from both teams, it was five minutes in when Shefflin, who had hit 3-35 so far this summer, opened the scoring with a free.

Three minutes later Andrew Smith levelled it up again with a well-struck long-range point – and then Canning struck like a lightening bolt, set up by James Regan, he burst into the danger zone and blasted the ball into the Kilkenny net to put Galway 1-1 to 0-1 in front.

Moments later he added a long-range point – brilliantly hit. Game on.

Kilkenny looked strangely disorganised, Tommy Walsh playing at full back and not looking comfortable. Worse still, Shefflin appeared to hit the panic button early on by going for goal with a soft free, then putting the subsequent 65-metre free wide.

So after 17 minutes, Kilkenny still only had a single point – before Richie Hogan ended that brief famine. But Galway kept coming at the other end, Canning hitting two frees in succession – putting them 1-4 to 0-2 in front – while Kilkenny added a sixth wide.

The central ploy worked again when Niall Burke came straight down the tracks to add Galway’s fifth point: still looking good, albeit aided by the slight breeze, Galway found themselves in a commanding position after 25 minutes.

TJ Reid came out for more ball and claimed a score, then sent another well wide – summing up Kilkenny’s unconvincing start.

At the other end Canning added his third free, retaining their six-point lead – and then wing back Niall O’Donoghue added an amazing point, extending that lead once again. Incredibly, Kilkenny still only had three points on the board reaching the half hour mark, but then Eoin Larkin hit his first point, coming from a Galway defensive mistake.

Still, Galway were dominant, Canning striking again from the placed ball.

A slight air of complacency from Galway allowed Kilkenny claw three frees back, all through Shefflin.

Galway kept the pressure on, forcing a save from David Herity, before Canning put a resulting free over the bar. So, at the call from half time, Galway weren’t looking quite as comfortable as they should.

So it proved, too, as neither side looked entirely comfortable in front – a draw the fitting conclusion.

KILKENNY: D Herity; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce; M Fennelly, R Hogan; H Shefflin, TJ Reid, E Larkin (capt); C Fennelly, R Power, A Fogarty. Subs: M Ruth for Fennelly (63 mins)

GALWAY: J Skehill; J Coen, K Hynes, F Moore; N O’Donoghue, T Og Regan, D Collins; I Tannian, A Smith; D Burke, N Burke, C Donnellan; D Hayes, J Canning, J Regan. Subs: C Cooney for Regan (51 mins), J Glynn for C Cooney (61 mins), J Cooney for Burke (63 mins).

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics