Nicky English: Kilkenny answer Galway questions quickly

‘When Galway put on what pressure they could, Kilkenny raised their game impressively’

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid scores a goal in the Leinster  Hurling Senior Championship final against Galway at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid scores a goal in the Leinster Hurling Senior Championship final against Galway at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

 

It was a disappointing Leinster final for anyone who thought Galway were really going to put it up to Kilkenny and test them to the point where they might find themselves in trouble.

When they got a run on them just after half-time, Kilkenny were always able to win a ball and take an easy point. Galway were in the end reduced to hitting long ball in and it was back to the Joe Canning show. Even then, both he and the other full forwards were living on scraps.

Galway weren’t able to impose the pattern of play that was so impressive against Dublin and Laois. Maybe this was because the quality of the opposition was better, but the guys you were thinking might step up didn’t.

Cathal Mannion and David Burke were both replaced. Cyril Donnellan caught some good ball and scored three points but he also hit as many wides.

Galway’s touch was poor and they got possession turned over out of their hands on too many occasions. It would be hard to imagine them controlling the ball Eoin Larkin did for one of his points. After Iarla Tannian had hit a ball along the ground and topped it, it came to Larkin at pace and his touch was unbelievable.

Tighten the screw

It never looked like they were going to take Kilkenny to the edge, but they made them dig it out to some extent. The champions found the answers without too much fuss in the second half.

Paul Murphy stepped up, as did Cillian Buckley in defence and Richie Hogan’s move got him into the game and the exceptional TJ Reid made the frees count, punishing Galway at a time when Walter Walsh had missed a couple of chances.

Second Captains

The Kilkenny defence held up overall but Joey Holden and Jackie Tyrrell were under pressure, particularly when Galway won a couple of rucks near goal, allowing Jonathon Glynn to run across the square and set up the chance for David Burke.

His shot went narrowly wide but combined with a couple of wides by Donnellan, their chance to step up the challenge was gone and it suggested that they hadn’t really the wherewithal to capitalise on any problems in the opposition defence.

Richie Hogan, playing deeper, picked up a pile of ball, and Murphy took control, while Buckley seemed to be everywhere picking up possession. Reid caught some serious puck-outs and created three scores for Hogan and Eoin Larkin.

At the end of the day, when Galway put on what pressure they could, Kilkenny raised their game impressively.

If a team is going to beat Kilkenny it may be the questionable depth in the panel can be exploited. That’s where the loss of the retired players will be seen. They don’t look like they could absorb too many injuries. But future opponents above all have to deal with Hogan and Reid, who as I’ve said before are the best hurlers in the country at the moment.

Galway still seem to me to be better than last year but not as good as they looked earlier in Leinster. Donnellan and Glynn will win ball but they’re not natural scorers, while the natural scorers weren’t getting on enough ball.

I think Pádraig Mannion and Daithi Burke showed up well and Anthony Cunningham can be fairly satisfied with the defence and his match-ups – Burke only allowed Hogan one point in the first half – but they were overrun at midfield in the second half.

They can improve on this performance, but I couldn’t see them beating Kilkenny if they meet again later in the year.

The qualifiers went as expected and the only potential for a shock, in the Wexford-Cork match, was put to bed early.

Wexford unbelievably opted to play against a strong wind when they needed to make as big a start as possible to put Cork under pressure and get what was a decent-sized crowd involved from the start.

Instead, Cork started brightly and were sharp taking scores and building a lead. Wexford contributed to their own downfall and their touch was as bad as it had been in Nowlan Park.

They did get the margin down to six points, but started hitting wides and couldn’t find the goal that would really have ignited the ground. Cork had been scoreless for 20 minutes but Conor Lehane eventually poached a couple of points and the match went away again from Wexford.

Pale shadow

Lee Chin

Cork got more out of Lehane, more what you’d expect from a class hurler, but in allowing the margin shrink to six, and living dangerously for a while, they still don’t look to me like contenders.

Of all the qualifier teams left in, Clare might have the most potential for improvement and the next round will be interesting.

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