Galway weather storming revival
An explosive wind-assisted second half display went within a ace of given Kilkenny a dramatic victory in a game fraught with uncertainty at Croke Park yesterday. But even though they whittled down an 11-point half-time advantage to a single point with five minutes remaining, the Leinster champions lacked the killer blow to finish the job.
The first half pattern hardly suggested what was to follow. Galway were dominant while Kilkenny were sluggish. Kilkenny manager Jimmy Dunne described his team's first-half display as among the worst he had seen by his side. "Our forwards did not contest the ball, they looked to be stuck to the ground."
Galway could hardly believe how easily they gained possession. Defenders such as Brian O'Mahoney and Fergal Moore won the ball as they wished. Hugh Whiriskey was on top in midfield and from the moment wing forwards Richie Murray and Kevin Brady switched wings the shots flowed towards the Kilkenny posts.
It all added up to a handsome 112 to 0-4 interval lead despite nine first-half wides for the Galway lads against two for Kilkenny attack which looked inept.
The first signs of a Kilkenny revival came in the first minute of the second half. Brian O'Mahoney fouled Aidan Fogarty in the large square and Gordon Byrne drilled the resultant penalty to the net.
Kilkenny were slow to consolidate the gain. They continued to struggle to gain possession and were generally yards behind in the chase.
Half-forward Gordon Byrne, one of the most accomplished attackers on view, nibbled away at Galway's advantage with three classy points before full forward Kieran Rafter stepped centre stage to knock home two goals in the 16th and 17 minutes of the half, and Aidan Fogarty added a point.
The goals which turned the game on its head came when Rafter got the touch to speculative long deliveries from Timmy Murphy and Gerry Byrne. Wing back Murphy played a huge game and his pinpoint-accurate 65 with five minutes remaining left only a point between the sides. From that point there were chances at both ends to clinch it, but Galway held on.
A high catch by Galway full back John Culkin in the last minute kept the Kilkenny effort at bay. Cathal Coen failed from an easy position for an insurance point, and the final seconds were played out in a welter of excitement.
Kilkenny claimed they were denied a point unfairly by the umpires at the Railway end and this added to the tense nature of what was a thrilling finale.
But Galway had displayed sufficient skills in the opening period to establish themselves as the team to beat.
That task is now in Tipperary's court.
GALWAY: J O'Loughlin; B O'Mahoney, Culkin, R Reilly; F Moore, C Dervan, MJ Quinn; H Whiriskey (0-2), S Tierney; R Murray (0-6), M Coughlan, K Brady (0-3); D Hayes, D Forde (0-5), C Coen (1-2 two pointed frees). Subs: D McLoughlin for Tierney (20 mins); G Farragher for McLoughlin (50 mins).
KILKENNY: D Herity; K Doheny, J Tyrrell, B Murphy; T Murphy (0-1, 65), C Hickey, JJ Delaney; G Byrne, C O'Neill; M Phelan (0-1), Gordon Byrne (1-4), D Brennan; D Dowling, K Rafter (2-0), E Walsh (0-2). Subs: A Fogarty (0-1) for Phelan (40 mins); E McCormack for Brennan (half-time).
Referee: J McLean (Antrim).