The Allianz National Hurling League final in two weeks time will be a repeat of last year’s decider, with champions Kilkenny defending the title against Tipperary.
In the semi-finals in Limerick this afternoon, Kilkenny beat Galway by 1-16 to 0-15 while Tipperary proved too good for All-Ireland champions, Clare.
Kilkenny turned in a very strong second half when backed by the wind to turn a five point deficit at the interval into a four point victory.
“That was a good win,” insisted manager, Brian Cody. “It will be a huge challenge facing Tipperary in the final again, but it is exactly the type of game you need with the start of the championship just around the corner.”
There was little or nothing between Kilkenny and Galway during the opening 20 minutes when 10 points were evenly divided. However, from there to the break the losers gained the upper-hand, and scores from Cathal Mannion and Conor Cooney (5) against one reply from a free by T.J. Reid left the challengers 0-11 to 0-6 in front at the rest.
The winners enjoyed a great start to the new half, and by the 45th minute they were back on terms at 0-11 each. T.J. Reid, Colin Fennelly and Henry Shefflin shared the scoring as the Cats upped the tempo when backed by the wind.
With youngsters Padraig Walsh, Cillian Buckley and Brian Kennedy starring in a superb defence, the Cats drove on. The clinching score arrived in the 54th minute when John Power grabbed a long free from goalie Eoin Murphy, before shooting to the net (1-13 to 0-12).
It was never easy from there to the end, but Kilkenny rarely looked like being beaten although Galway had a late chance of a goal blocked.
Scorers: Kilkenny - T.J. Reid (0-5); H. Shefflin (0-4); J. Power (1-0); C. Fennelly (0-3); P. Walsh (0-2); C. Buckley, M. Fennelly (0-1 each). Galway - C. Cooney (0-8); A. Smith (0-2); C. Callanan, D. Burke, N. Burke, J. Canning, C. Mannion (0-1 each).
Referee - J. McGrath (Westmeath).