Kilkenny look to bounce back despite late loss of Michael Fennelly

Central question hangs over the more established Galway players

Kilkenny suffered a late setback before Sunday's GAA Leinster hurling semi-final against Galway in Tullamore with the news that former Hurler of the Year Michael Fennelly has had to withdraw from the team. Although his absence is unexplained on the county website, a county source confirmed that he pulled up in training, reportedly with a back injury. His place at centre forward is taken by Mark Kelly who started the quarter-final win over Offaly at full forward.

Richie Power is fit again and comes into the team at full forward. Record All-Ireland winner Henry Shefflin is named among the replacements after recovering from a foot injury.

The only other change from the quarter-final win over Offaly sees Kieran Joyce selected at wing back with Lester Ryan dropping to the bench.

Galway make two changes from their narrow escape against Laois. Portumna centrefielder Andy Smith comes in for Aidan Harte, with Johnny Coen switching from the middle to wing back, whereas in attack Jason Flynn, who scored three points from play off the bench the last day, comes in to replace Jonathan Glynn.


Performance against Kilkenny has been a touchstone of Galway’s best seasons in recent years but for all the lightning strikes the overall trend has been towards Kilkenny by a margin of about two to one points.

By their nature Galway’s wins come as surprises. Are there grounds for thinking another one possible tomorrow? Beyond that it would be the usual turn up for the books? Not really.

There was more of last year in the wheezy effort against Laois than of two years ago when, although they were conceding big scores to Westmeath and Offaly, they were also putting up even bigger ones.

Uncompromising spirits

Anthony Cunningham

has made changes to improve the team.

Ronan Burke

is a specialist full back with an uncompromising spirit if a little short of pace and Pádraig Brehony has generally impressed at centrefield.

Neither though would have had the impact of Pádraig Walsh, who has slotted into the Kilkenny team so comfortably in place of his multi-garlanded brother Tommy.

Nonetheless the central question hangs over the more established Galway players.

This year's captain, Joe Canning was in Hurler of the Year territory two years ago but hasn't been near its vicinity since.

Despite another phenomenal campaign for Portumna his county form has been patchy and there is a bit of tension over whether he or Conor Cooney – highly productive from the placed ball in Canning's absence and still on that detail – takes the frees in tomorrow's game.

Positive note

On a more positive note Galway were impressive giving Tipperary a high-scoring going over in a recent challenge game and Canning lined out at centre forward where he showed terrific form and was withdrawn after the first half.

Elsewhere though Galway have ground to make up. Cyril Donnellan was man of the match in the Leinster final two years ago and is out for the season with a groin injury and Damien Hayes, very influential in 2012, is now two years older and less mobile and no longer a starter.

Kilkenny for their part have bounced back from the hard times of 12 months ago and have even with the loss of Michael Fennelly, Richie Hogan and TJ Reid are in fine fettle.

The quarter-final demolition of Offaly wasn't exactly a stress test but they looked lively enough to be trusted to survive tomorrow's step-up. Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, B Kennedy; K Joyce, J Tyrrell, C Buckley; P Walsh, R Hogan; W Walsh, M Kelly, TJ Reid; C Fennelly, R Power, E Larkin.

Galway: C Callanan; F Moore, R Burke, D Collins; Daithí Burke, I Tannian, J Coen; A Smith, P Brehony; David Burke, N Burke, C Cooney; C Mannion, J Canning, J Flynn.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times