All-Ireland final: Fitting that T J Reid should have final say

Kilkenny’s unerring and deadly marksman exacts punishment for every Galway error

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid celebrates as he leaves the Croke Park pitch after yesterday’s All-Ireland hurling final win over Galway. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid celebrates as he leaves the Croke Park pitch after yesterday’s All-Ireland hurling final win over Galway. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

 

If you’re the kind who likes your symbolism served heavy-handed, it was easy to appreciate the fact that TJ Reid was the one who made the game’s last intervention. Galway were dead anyway but when Reid flicked out a hurl to intercept Colm Callanan’s final puck-out over by the Cusack Stand sideline, it was enough for referee James Owens to set the funeral arrangements in motion. Long went the whistle, up went Kilkenny, into the books went another All-Ireland.

Reid had only seconds to savour it before he was swallowed whole by his teammates. Cillian Buckley reached him first and hauled him to the floor. Mick and Colin Fennelly piled in too, with Pádraig Walsh the last onto the heap. Soon after, he was hoisted shoulder high on the opposite sideline. Kilkenny had nine different scorers but there was no mystery as to which name was on the tip of the spear.

Didn’t miss

His goal in the first half came when Galway were just starting to feel that good air in their lungs. After a fidgety start, Anthony Cunningham’s side had tick-tocked their way to a 0-5 to 0-3 lead, with Joe Canning looking like he might bust loose in an All-Ireland final once and for all. Kilkenny had gone 10 minutes with only a point added to the scoreboard.

Reid put an end to the fussing though with a whizz-bang goal on the turn after 13 minutes. Walter Walsh’s handpass inside was the right option and Reid had a step on Johnny Coen who had momentarily left him loitering on the edge of the square.

Kilkenny Galway stats

While there was still a bit to do, Reid’s pirouette and finish was clinical. Though Galway went on to finish the half much the stronger, Reid’s goal was the difference between a disappointing half for Kilkenny and a disastrous one.

This game turned in the 15 minutes after half-time, during which time Kilkenny went from three behind to three ahead. Having had a strip torn off them by Jackie Tyrrell at half-time – “Ye hit each other harder in training!” quoth the gnarled old corner back – Kilkenny came out and started grinding Galway to a husk. Of the eight points they put up in that quarter-hour, Reid scored four and put Eoin Larkin away for a fifth.

We talk a lot about Kilkenny’s intensity without very often putting a name on what it means. It’s tackling and hooking and blocking and all that good stuff for sure, but none of that would matter as much if it didn’t come with tangible punishment to match.

Pressure

This is what intensity amounts to. Galway had played well. They had turned up. And yet here they were, a point behind because Kilkenny had come out after the break like starved hyenas. Galway were rushed into mistakes and started conceding ground and frees. Reid extracted his price at every turn.

That split-second Galway had been allowed in the first half was gone. Soon enough, every ball into the Galway forward line came from the heavens with a prayer attached. Precision was a luxury the Galway defenders just didn’t have.

And as the clock ran down and Galway kept trying answers to questions Kilkenny weren’t asking, Reid was a torment to the end – including a couple of tectonic hits to dislodge Galway possession and set up late points. Which, you’d have to suspect, would have pleased his manager almost as much as the points themselves. Just the six All-Irelands then for Reid, who won’t be 28 until November. Hard to shake the feeling that he’s just getting started.

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