Thriller in Tullamore as Galway stage daring comeback to force replay

Kilkenny were 10 points clear with seven minutes remaining

Galway 5-16 Kilkenny 3-22

Not content with testing your heart-rate, this old game often insists on testing your credulity. So it was here, as Henry Shefflin and Joe Canning traded utterly nonsensical points from opposite sidelines in injury time to leave Galway and Kilkenny level at 5-16 to 3-22 in Tullamore. Mad, mad game.

This was tense stuff throughout. Some games are classics because they flow like raging rivers but this wasn’t one of those. This was nip and tuck and nip again, staccato hurling high on testosterone from the very start. The first half saw bushfires of players squaring up to each other all over the pitch, with three Galway and two Kilkenny players finding themselves in Johnny Ryan’s book before the break.

It wasn't necessarily a measure of any sort of dirt in the game, more a nod to its intensity and physicality. With the respective half-back lines the key battlegrounds, Kilkenny made most of the early advances. Colin Fennelly flashed a couple of quick points and TJ Reid chipped in with two low frees, well struck into the wind.


Galway's response came in the form of two excellent points on the run from Niall Burke and a Conor Cooney free. Joe Canning was positioned at centre forward from the start and regularly drifted back into midfield to collect possession. From one such play, he whipped a soaring point on 15 minutes. From a couple more, however, he spilled poor wides.

Yet they were of a piece with some of the shooting in general. Kilkenny shot eight wides in the first half alone, Richie Hogan and TJ Reid the guiltiest parties. It meant that they didn't press home their advantage when they might have and when Cooney knifed a fine point soon after, it brought the sides level at 0-5 apiece.

The day's first goal came on 24 minutes, Eoin Larkin sprinting through the centre of the Galway defence and deceiving Colm Callanan with a mishit shot. Galway struck back within five minutes though, Burke latching onto an Andy Smith shot that dropped short in front of the Kilkenny posts. The teams tit-for-tatted their way to half-time, standing level at 1-9 apiece when the whistle came.

For most of the second half, it looked like Kilkenny would gradually squeeze the life out of Galway. Colin Fennelly smacked home a goal, Hogan – who was having a stormer – speared a succession of points. And although Galway staunched the flow with a Canning penalty on 50 minutes, all it did was send Kilkenny into overdrive.

They scored 1-8 in 10 minutes to go into what looked like an unassailable 3-20 to 2-13 lead on 63 minutes. And that, you’d have imagined based on all that is sane and logical, should have been that.

Even when Galway started chipping away, it felt more like a matter of putting a respectable look on the scoreline. But then Conor Cooney slapped home a couple of goals in a minute and all of a sudden, we had a three point game. From being safe and secure, Kilkenny were suddenly in flitters at the back.

Of all heads to get lost somewhere along the way, Paul Murphy fired an aimless ball into the Galway full-back line where there was no Kilkenny player to receive it. Galway full back Ronan Burke came out under no pressure and delivered a laser to Jonathon Glynn's paw down in front of the Kilkenny goal. Glynn bore down on Eoin Murphy, only to be poleaxed by Cillian Buckley.

Penalty. Canning. Goal. All square, by what means nobody was entirely sure.

And still there was time for the two boys to do what the two boys do. We get to come back and see them do it again next Saturday. Not a bad life, all the same.

GALWAY: C Callanan; F Moore, R Burke, D Collins; J Coen, I Tannian, Daithí Burke; A Smith (0-1), P Brehony; J Canning (2-3, two penalties), David Burke, C Cooney (2-7, four frees and one 65); J Flynn (0-2), N Burke (1-2), C Mannion.

Substitutes: J Glynn (0-1) for Mannion (half-time), K Hynes for Smith (50 mins), G McInerney for Brehony (60 mins), J Cooney for David Burke (62 mins), D Hayes for N Burke (63 mins).

KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, K Joyce; B Kennedy, J Tyrrell, C Buckley; P Walsh (0-2), R Hogan (0-5, one free); W Walsh, M Kelly, TJ Reid (1-8, seven frees); C Fennelly (1-3), R Power, E Larkin (1-1).

Substitutes: T Walsh (0-1) for W Walsh (43 mins), A Fogarty (0-1) for Power (53 mins), H Shefflin (0-1) for Kelly (63 mins), B Hogan for Tyrrell (69 mins)

Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times