A powerful second half performance saw Kilkenny turn the corner and capture the senior All-Ireland hurling title for the 36th time.
In what was one of the strongest tests to their title, the champion Cats came from three points down to silence Galway’s roars and bring the Liam MacCarthy Cup back to Noreside on a 1-22 to 1-18 scoreline.
Struggling to impose themselves on a game where the opposition were urged by a huge support at a sold-out Croke Park, the Cats regrouped at half-time (they trailed by 0-14 to 1-8) and then turned the screw to snuff out Galway’s hopes.
A stirring opening 20 minutes, in which time they shot out Galway’s lights - they outscored their opponents by nine points to two - did most of the damage and swung the game their way. Helped by a bustling performance from midfielders Michael Fennelly and Conor Fogarty, Kilkenny started to dominate possession and force more ball into their forwards. It was meat and drink for the likes of T.J. Reid (0-4), Eoin Larkin, Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly, as the Cats eased into a 1-17 to 0-16 lead.
Things hadn’t gone as well in the first half when, in spite of Reid’s 13th minute goal, Kilkenny struggled to impose themselves on the game. Galway, led by fine performances from the likes of Joe Canning (0-7) and Jason Flynn (0-4), took control of the game. Hitting back every time Kilkenny got a score they looked impressive when they went in 0-14 to 1-8 up at the break.
Dreams of ending a 27-year wait for a senior All-Ireland bit the dust for Galway in that second half however, as Kilkenny raised their game and took over. Once they took the lead they never let go, driving in to a seven-point lead thanks to a fine late flourish from the Fennelly brothers, Colin and Michael, and Walter Walsh.
Galway did have the final say - Canning crashing home an injury-time goal to narrow the gap to four points - but the black and amber ribbons were already on the Cup by then.
See this week’s Kilkenny People for all the match reaction.
SCORERS: Kilkenny - T.J. Reid (1-7, 0-5 frees, 0-2 65); Ger Aylward (0-3); Michael Fennelly, Walter Walsh, Richie Hogan, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin (0-2 each); Padraig Walsh, Conor Fogarty (0-1 each). Galway - Joe Canning (1-8, 1-5 frees); Jason Flynn (0-4, 0-3 frees); Conor Whelan, David Collins (0-2 each); David Burke, Cyril Donnellan (0-1 each).