Classy Cats book home final against Tipperary

Kilkenny, the defending Allianz National Hurling League and All-Ireland champions, looked a class act when they all but sailed into another League final by beating somewhat disappointing Galway in the semi-finals in Semple Stadium, Thurles yesterday, writes John Knox.

Kilkenny, the defending Allianz National Hurling League and All-Ireland champions, looked a class act when they all but sailed into another League final by beating somewhat disappointing Galway in the semi-finals in Semple Stadium, Thurles yesterday, writes John Knox.

The score was 1-24 to 1-17, but really Kilkenny could have been even more handsome winners, after one time leading by 11 points during the closing half (1-20 to 1-9).

The Noresiders opened backed by the wind blowing into the town end, and after a flying Micheal Rice pointed them 0-9 to 1-5 in front in the 31st minute, they never looked back. Victory earned a bonus because the final on Sunday week against Tipperary will be played in Nowlan Park.

“We were very happy with the attitude and work rate of the players,” said Kilkenny selector, Michael Dempsey, who, with fellow selector, Martin Fogarty supervised all team affairs in the absence of manager, Brian Cody, who is recovering after heart surgery. “It was a good win and a good team performance.”

Kilkenny’s upcoming showing in the League final will be their 12th since 2002, and they will be chasing their seventh title in that time. The last time Kilkenny and Tipp met in the decider was 2009 when the Cats took the honours.

All action Galway looked very dangerous early on. They enjoyed a terrific start when Joe Canning shot a point before Cyril Donnellan bagged a goal at the second attempt, his first effort being brilliantly save by impressive goalie, Eoin Murphy. The losers were dragging the opposition all over the place, but their threatening approach work didn’t always produce an end product.

Slowly Kilkenny found their way into the game. After a collision between Walter Walsh and Galway defender, Fergal Moore in the ninth minute the play was halted for nearly nine minutes. The Galway player was stretchered off the field. When the action resumed the losers had the first score from Aidan Harte, but it was Kilkenny who slowly got on top.

By the 23rd minute the champions were level at 0-6 to 1-3. Twice subsequently the scores were level before Rice’s point put Kilkenny in front. The winners powered on, and with a late hat trick of points from midfielder, Lester Ryan, who slowly grew into the game, they put together a good lead of 0-15 to 1-6 by half-time.

The difference remained the same during the opening 12 minutes or so of the new half, during which Richie Hogan was on fire at full-forward for Kilkenny, helping himself to three scores as he ripped the opposing defence asunder (0-18 to 1-9). Then in the 45th minute Galway were all but buried when Colin Fennelly plundered a goal for the winners.

Lester Ryan aimed the ball towards the target. Fennelly contested the dropping ball with a defender on the edge of the square. The sliotar fell to the ground, and with a one-handed swipe, and his back to the goal, Fennelly tapped the ball into the net.

Quick back-to-back points from Eoin Larkin and a terrific Richie Power stretched the difference to 1-20 to 1-9 with 22 minutes remaining. Kilkenny were playing so well at that stage, particular in defence where they were on top in all quarters, that there was simple no way back for Galway.

Scorers: Kilkenny – Eoin Larkin (0-10, seven frees, two 65s’); Richie Hogan (0-5); Colin Fennelly (1-0); Lester Ryan (0-3); Aidan Fogarty, Michael Rice (0-2 each); Richie Power, Cillian Buckley (0-1 each). Galway – Joe Canning (0-8, six frees, two 65s’); Cyril Donnellan (1-3); Aidan Harte (0-2); David Burke (0-1, free); Joseph Cooney, Damien Hayes, Andrew Smith (0-1 each).

Kilkenny – Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, J.J. Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Kieran Joyce, Lester Ryan, Michael Rice, Walter Walsh, Richie Power, Eoin Larkin, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan, Aidan Fogarty. Subs – Matthew Ruth for W. Walsh 54th min; Cillian Buckley for C. Fennelly 61st min.

Galway – Colm Callan, Fergal Moore, Kevin Hynes, Niall Donoghue, Johnny Coen, David Collins, Aidan Harte, Iarla Tannian, Joseph Cooney, Cyril Donnellan, Conor Cooney, David Burke, Davy Glennon, Joe Canning, Damien Hayes. Subs – Andrew Smith for F. Moore (inj) 17th min; Paul Killeen for N. Donoghue 25th min; Jonathan Glynn for C. Cooney 41st min; James Regan for D. Hayes 56th min.

Referee – Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).