KILKENNY 1-24 GALWAY 1-17
at Semple Stadium
Not even the indisposition of their manager and Hurler of the Year could put a stop to Kilkenny's remorseless gallop in yesterday's Allianz Hurling League semi-final in Thurles and the holders marched on to another final.
The seven-point margin flattered the losers, who never threatened the ultimate result once a promising initial few minutes had elapsed.
They were shaken by an eight-minute hiatus, during which captain Fergal Moore had to be treated for concussion and delicately removed by stretcher after coming the worse out of a collision with Walter Walsh, who suffered a cut face and had to leave the field temporarily.
Moore was taken to Clonmel hospital as a precaution and concerns about him had eased by the end of the match.
By the time of the injury Kilkenny had commenced the comeback from Galway’s early lead and after Moore had left the field, they steamed on and hit the front from where they never looked back.
Source of menace
In keeping with the recent history between the counties, Galway were looking for goals and again struck early. Damien Hayes, who was the chief source of menace in the early exchanges, was fouled but got up and fed the ball to Cyril Donnellan whose acute-angled shot squeezed into the net to expand an early lead by the fourth minute to 1-1 to no score.
It was as good as it would get for Galway. Once the pressure started to come on at the other end, the defensive effort was scrappy and with Eoin Larkin in accurate form from dead balls – four in six minutes pushed Kilkenny ahead – the score began to climb.
Galway selector Tom Helebert said afterwards that one of his concerns had been the failure to take goal chances. Whether it was the experience of last year when goals had proved vital in their matches with Kilkenny in Leinster and All-Ireland finals, Galway appeared too conscious of raising green flags and in the 29th minute there was an ominous inkling of the dangers posed by that approach.
Intricate hand passing rather than the taking of a point ended up with David Burke bottled up and from the clearance Richie Power came thundering in on goal at the other end only to draw one of two breath-taking saves from Colm Callanan.
By now Galway had lost their grip in the middle of the field with Power dropping back and Lester Ryan copper-fastening the positive notices he's been gathering this campaign with a hard working display at centrefield, from where he tracked back and blocked, got forward for three first-half points and dropped the ball in for Colin Fennelly's 46th-minute goal, which wrapped up up the match.
It was accordingly not a contentious decision to name him the TG4 Man of the Match.
Others also contributed significantly. Michael Rice, just back in recent matches after the horrific injury sustained in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, complemented Ryan's display and shot a couple of scores of his own. Richie Power plundered five points from play to maintain his team's distance on the scoreboard and the full-back line clamped ever tighter as the match progressed.
Galway's attacks were ragged and prematurely frenzied. Joe Canning moved around the forwards without threatening the sort of domination that his team depends on and was prevented from scoring from play.
Six points up at half-time, 0-15 to 1-6, Kilkenny never allowed to deficit to shrink by more than a point and as the half wore on the goal that put the match to bed looked inevitable.
Iarla Tannian cleared a wayward hand pass from Richie Hogan in the 45th minute when a goal looked on but a minute later Fennelly found the net with a backwards flick after Lester Ryan had dropped in the ball.
Galway were dogged enough to keep the losing margin out of double digits but they had no more ambitious targets.
Referee Diarmuid Kirwan let a lot go, failing to penalise a number of heavy challenges. Goalkeeper Eoin Murphy sustained a high challenge in the second half which went unpunished to the extent that Galway scored from a resulting 65.
Kilkenny will now face Tipp in the final at Nowlan Park on Sunday, May 5th at 3.30pm.
KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce; L Ryan (0-3), M Rice (0-2); W Walsh, R Power (0-1), E Larkin (0-10, 0-6 frees, 0-3 65s); R Hogan (0-5), C Fennelly (1-0), A Fogarty (0-2). Subs: M Ruth for W Walsh (55 mins), C Buckley (0-1) for Fennelly (62 mins).
GALWAY: C Callanan; F Moore, K Hynes, N Donohue; A Harte (0-2), D Collins, J Coen; I Tannian, J Cooney (0-1); D Burke (0-1, free), C Cooney, J Canning (0-8, 0-6 frees, 0-2 65s); D Glennon, C Donnellan (1-3), D Hayes (0-1). Subs: A Smith (0-1) for Moore (19 mins), P Killeen for Donohue (26 mins), J Glynn for C Cooney (47 mins), J Regan for Hayes (57 mins).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).