Kilkenny turned in an assured and stylish performance when they breezed past Galway and into the All-Ireland intermediate hurling final, winning the semi-final in Thurles by 0-16 to 0-8 this evening.
This is the last Kilkenny team left standing in championship hurling, and if this evening’s strong performance is anything to go by then the Cats have a right chance of taking the honours in the final against Tipperary, which will be played on Saturday, August 31.
Of the decider, which is a repeat of last year’s showdown, Kilkenny manager Pat O’Grady said: “We are really looking forward to it after losing to Tipp last season.”
Galway, who were able to field a shadow senior side, went step for step with the opposition during the opening 16 minutes when six points were shared equally. The Noresiders took up the running in the 18th minute when free taker Rory Hickey pointed following a foul on Conor Phelan.
Within a minute Jonjo Farrell rose the while flag, and Kilkenny were on their way to an interval lead of 0-9 to 0-4 after playing against the breeze.
The winners benefitted from the Galway tactic of playing only five attackers. Consequently the Kilkenny defence never came under serious pressure and, more crucially, the backs were able to get in aimed clearances that hurt the opposition.
Confident and assured goalie, Richie O’Neill was like a ‘sweeper’ behind the defence at times, and his smart use of possession set up several attacks from deep in the Noreside half.
The Westerners missed two chances of scores immediately after the turn before David Langton pointed at the other end. Sub Shane Moloney, one of Galway’s better players during this half, drilled a free over the bar before Kilkenny replied through Rory Hickey (0-11 to 0-5).
As the game wore on Kilkenny grew more and more confident, and the best flowed from the fleet-footed Joe Brennan and Brian Kennedy while Pat Hartley, Michael Moloney and Shane Prendergast stood tall and firm throughout.
Altogether this was a more than decent showing from the Cats, who were having their first outing in the absence of a Leinster championship.
Scorers: Kilkenny - R. Hickedy (0-6); J. Brennan (0-5); J. Farrell (0-2); D. Langton, B. Kennedy, B. Beckett (0-1 each). Galway - D. Joyce, N. Keary, S. Moloney (0-2 each); E. Concannon, J. Carr (0-1 each).
Kilkenny - R. O’Neill, S. Cummins, M. Walsh, S. Prendergast, L. Harney, P. Hartley, M. Moloney, D. Langton, B. Kennedy, C. Phelan, R. Hickey, B. Beckett, J. Brennan, J. Farrell, D. Walton. Subs - J. Lyng, S. Donnelly.
Galway - C. Fahy, S. Caulfield, S. Morrissey, C. Burke, K. Kennedy, G. McInerney, M. Keating, D. Joyce, C. McDonagh, M. Mullins, E. Concannon, L. Smith, N. Keary, N. Lynch, E. Forde, Subs - J. Gantley, S. Moloney, J. Carr, C. Keane, P. Flaherty.
Referee - J. Sexton (Cork).