PERSPECITVE is a key word at this time in any season! Results of games at this time are important in the moment, and in the short term, but they relate no more than scant details, if even that, about what lies beyond in the more serious time that is summer.
Think Kilkenny! Think Galway! Remember last summer and early fall when they blasted into each other in mile a minute Leinster and All-Ireland finals. Different times! Much different stories!
The sun shone brightly in a cold Pearse Stadium on Sunday and Galway Bay glittered radiantly beneath a clear blue sky to create an impression of finer times, and with around 10,000 fans present for an All-Ireland repeat the setting was perfect.
The fare in this Allianz National League clash wasn’t bad, and interest was maintained right to the end as Kilkenny chased a big score that might have given them a share of the spoils.
In the end Galway, by virtue of the fact that their 14 scores had more value than their opponents’ 17, skipped to a victory that will no doubt be a boost to confidence.
“I was disappointed to lose, but not with any other aspect of the performance,” was the perspective put on the match and outcome by Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody.
And why not? Players can’t be expected to take a camán in their hand after a four plus month break and perform magic.
Still, there were some exceptions – J.J. Delaney on the edge of the square…deadly; Richie Power’s striking of frees and in open play was class; Paul Murphy played well; Conor Fogarty got through a huge amount of good hurling; Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly had some bright moments.
Ryan did well
Of the new guys on board, Lester Ryan, by virtue of a busy and very involved opening half, made a fine impression and probably did enough to get the nod for inclusion again. Goalie Eoin Murphy was beaten three times, but he hadn’t a chance because no one is armed to save the bullets that beat him.
Kilkenny lost the All-Ireland final repeat that kick started the new hurling season, but with eight of the September side on show it could only be classed as a ‘repeat’ in a narrow sort of way.
“It was good to start with a win,” said Galway manager, Anthony Cunningham.
“But we know it is only February 24, and you don’t win titles so early in the year,” added fellow selector, Mattie Kenny.
The three goals the home side scored during the opening half proved the difference in the end. All had Joe Canning’s signature attacked, if not directly, then in terms of an assist. The vision, accuracy and sheer brilliance he showed to create the third was worth the trip west along.
The Portumna man was about five metres in from the right sideline, and 45 metres distance from the city end goal when he drilled a 40 metre, hurley hit pass to the opposite side of the pitch.
The receiver, Damien Hayes, just had to raise his hand in the air and the ball fell into it; still he (Hayes) had a huge amount of work to do, like getting past two defenders before drilled a rising shot high into the net. The ‘spot’ and ‘pass’ by Canning were sublime.
That big score knocked back Kilkenny at a time they looked like putting the concession of two earlier goals behind them. They had narrowed a one time gap of six points (2-3 to 0-3) to the minimum (2-4 to 0-9) before the third concession, which left the home side with a decent enough lead at the interval, 3-4 to 0-10.
The Kilkenny defence was very good during the 10 minutes or so immediately after the break when they conceded not an inch. At the other end Richie Hogan clipped over a free following a foul on Matt Ruth. He was unlucky to miss two more from right in front of the posts - one to either side - during the following minutes, which would have brought the sides level.
Galway pieced together a lovely move in the 45th minute involving Jonathan Glynn, Tadhg Haran and Damien Hayes, who supplied the finish to help them nab a point and regain their rhythm (3-5 to 0-11).
Canning (free) hit the target from all of 80 metres within a minute to inflict more punishment on the visitors, but Kilkenny’s spirited approach remained absolute. A score from Aidan Fogarty, with an assist by Tomás Breen, got them back in the groove quickly.
Ten scores were evenly divided afterwards. Things were that close. The two Richies’, Power and Hogan, always looked the more likely source to spark a Kilkenny rescue, but goal chances weren’t there.
The latter, the Danesfort man, did drilled his way through the home defence in the 62nd minute and got away a decent dipping shot from 20 metres, but goalie Fergal Flannery was equal to the test. Besides, Galway didn’t endure any narrow escapes as the opposition did all the chasing.
The visitors, who lost Michael Fennelly from the selected side with a back spasm before the throw-in, with Eoin Larkin coming in, played well early when backed by the light breeze. J.J. Delaney fielded two spectacular high balls on the edge of the square early on that made you wonder had he been playing football during the close season. The catches prompted good feelings!
The sides were level at 0-2 and 0-3 each before Galway bagged their first goal in the 13th minute. Canning, who had taken up duty out field from the full-forward position, posted the delivery; the ball landing goal side of the defence for Davy Glennon. He made no mistake from close range.
Within two minutes the ball was in the Kilkenny net again. Canning sent in a speculative ball. Niall Healy won possession against a defender. He buried the ball in the net from close range.
Score: Galway 2-3; Kilkenny 0-3.
Six of the following seven scores were claimed by the Cats, via Power (2), Hogan (2), Tommy Walsh and Lester Ryan to bring them right up on Galway’s shoulder on the half hour mark, 2-4 to 0-9. Canning’s exceptional moment followed. Kilkenny were never to get as close again.
The home side did just about enough to shade the honours. Their heroes were Joseph Cooney, Joe Canning for his creative interventions, Aidan Harte, Fergal Moore and Niall Burke.
Kilkenny – Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, J.J. Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Conor Fogarty, Lester Ryan, Richie Power, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin, Matthew Ruth, Tomás Breen, Richie Hogan, Aidan Fogarty. Subs – Mark Kelly for Breen 48th min.
Unused subs – David Herity, Brian Hogan, Paddy Hogan, Mark Bergin, Willie Phelan, Joe Brennan, Tomás Keogh, Padraig Walsh.
Galway – Fergal Flannery, Johnny Coen, Kevin Hynes, Fergal Moore, Niall Donoghue, Joseph Cooney, David Collins, Iarla Tannian, Aidan Harte, Jonathan Glynn, Niall Burke, Davy Glennon, Niall Healy, Joe Canning, Damien Hayes. Subs – Tadhg Haran for Tannian 31st min; Brian Flaherty for N. Healy 51st min; Padraig Brehony for N. Burke 66th min.
Referee – Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).
Frees – Kilkenny 15 (5 and 10); Galway 9 (4 and 5).
Wides – Kilkenny 12 (4 and 8); Galway 9 (4 and 5).