THIS was All-Ireland champions, Kilkenny, in full flight. The Cats were snarling from the throw-in and by half-time Galway were a beaten docket in this National Hurling League clash at sun-kissed Nowlan Park yesterday (3-26 to 0-10), writes John Knox.
Brian Cody’s men galloped into the Allianz National Hurling League semi-finals. The Westerners now have to deal with the rigours of the Division IA relegation play-off agianst Dublin.
“The semi-finals are where we wanted to be from the start,” insisted Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody after putting the disappointed of the defeat by Cork behind them. “We have said all along that we wouldn’t mind if we could win the League. The same thing stands.”
The Cats are booked for a semi-final clash with Division 1B champions, Clare or Limerick, who meet in the decider next weekend, on April 21.
Galway boss, Anthony Cunningham was very disappointed. They are now schedule for a relegation clash with Dublin in two weeks time.
“We were rocked by the concession of two early goals, and we never recovered. We never got a foohold in the game,” Mr Cunningham suggested. “We have to get it right for what will be a big, big relegation battle with Dublin. We just have to kick on. Our touch was very poor. It looked better a month ago, but the bad start didn’t help.
In terms of result and performance there was little more Kilkenny fans in the 6,194 crowd could have expected at this time of year. However, an injury picked up by star forward, Richie Hogan late in the game could be a worry, with the All-Ireland attack already minus the injured Henry Shefflin and the retired Eddie Brennan.
Hogan was carried off on a stretcher after an accidental but full on clash with goalie, Jamie Ryan. Early indications were that there could be rib damage. Hogan was rushed to hospital before the game finished.
The winners exploded into action and Galway were 2-3 to 0-2 down after 12 minutes. From there on the visitors were going backwards. At half-time when the busy, busy Cats led by 3-12 to 0-6 the main business of the day was already decided.
Galway’s troubles were reflected in the fact that they had three substitutions made by the half hour mark. It was that kind of trying day for them.
Kilkenny’s first score was a point from captain, Eoin Larkin. In the fourth minute Matt Ruth fielded a long drive out of defence by Michael Rice before blasting a low shot to the net.
Niall Burke, who was Galway’s lone scorer during the first quarter, pulled back two points but they were replied to by the on-fire T.J. Reid and Colin Fennelly. Reid, who was later nominated as man of the match, showed great stick work to claim the second goal in the 12th minute (2-3 to 0-2).
Galway were simply being over-run, with Brian Hogan powerful at centre-back for the Cats, while Michael Fennelly, Reid, J.J. Delaney and Rice were crucifying them in other sectors. Newcomer Cillian Buckley even got to make a big impression.
The winners were generating so much power all over the field it was like Galway were facing a runaway train.
The winners third goal arrived in the 30th minute via Eoin Larkin, who stole a ball off a defender. The difference jumped to 3-9 to 0-6. It rose to 3-12 to 0-6 by half-time thanks to additions from Rice (2) and Colin Fennelly.
Galway didn’t even get a chance to get into the game after the rest. Within 40 seconds Richie Hogan fired over a point. That was followed by like efforts from Michael Fennelly, Eoin Larkin and Reid before the 39th minute.
The game was well and truly over by then, and Kilkenny started to make changes. They introduced five subs before the finish, but the efficiency of the team never suffered in the slightest.
Some of the winners scores nearing the finish were absolute beauties as they threw the ball around with confidence, accuracy and an efficiency you rarely see so early in the season.
Scorers: Kilkenny – E. Larkin (1-7, six points frees); T.J.Reid (1-6); M. Ruth (1-1); C. Fennelly, M. Rice (0-3 each); R. Hogan (0-2, one free); M. Fennelly (0-2); M. Bergin, A. Fogarty (0-1 each). Galway – N. Burke (0-5, frees); A. Smith (0-2); J. Coen, A. Harte, C. Donnellan (0-1 each).
Kilkenny – D. Herity, P. Murphy, J.J. Delaney, K. Joyce, T. Walsh, B. Hogan, R. Doyle, M. Fennelly, C. Buckley, M. Rice, M. Ruth, R. Hogan, C. Fennelly, E. Larkin, T.J. Reid. Subs – M. Bergin for Larkin 44th min; P. Hogan for B. Hogan 47th min; W. Phelan for P. Murphy 50th min; A. Fogarty for M. Rice 50th min; J. Mulhall for R. Hogan (inj) 68th min.
Galway – J. Ryan, N. Donoghue, D. Collins, G. O’Halloran, T. Og Regan, F. Moore, J. Coen, J. Regan, B. Flaherty, J. Cooney, N. Burke, A. Smith, D. Hayes, I. Tannian, B. Daly. Subs – B. Burke for J. Regan 22nd min; A. Harte for Tannian 26th min; N. Healy for D. Hayes 29th min; C. Donnellan for B. Flaherty 40th min; P. Shiel for J. Coen 63rd min.
Referee - Brian Gavin (Offaly).