Early goal gave Galway lift, but Cats were too anxious

THE outcome was what very few would have anticipated, but even if their senses were jolted Kilkenny were already looking forward to the All-Ireland hurling final replay before they even left the Croke Park dressing-room on Sunday, writes John Knox.

THE outcome was what very few would have anticipated, but even if their senses were jolted Kilkenny were already looking forward to the All-Ireland hurling final replay before they even left the Croke Park dressing-room on Sunday, writes John Knox.

Whether they felt hard done by or not when caught on the line by a questionable free that earned Galway an equalising point as the game drifted towards the 73rd minute didn’t matter, the challenge of the replay on September 30 had to be dealt with.

“If we were told we would be playing in an All-Ireland final in three weeks time we would be happy, normally,” Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody said of the unexpected position both finalists found themselves in after a titanic struggle.

“That is what we have been told today. We will get on with it, and we will endeavour to bring our best game to Croke Park in three weeks time.”

The final was an up and down affair, with Galway the dominant force in the first half and Kilkenny on top afterwards.

For Kilkenny, men like Brian Hogan, Tommy Walsh, Paul Murphy and the long serving Henry Shefflin inspired the match saving effort, it was suggest to Mr Cody.

Outstanding

“The big men stood up in the second half,” the boss of 14 seasons suggested. “They responded. That is why they are big players; that is why they are known as big players, because they do that sort of thing.

“They were outstanding.”

However, the Cats would have to drive on and challenge themselves to do better, he insisted.

“There has to be more in the team,” the manager said when he continued. “To win we will have to have more. If we play the same the next day we won’t win the game.

“We are going to have to play better than we played today. The players have to look for more. They have to look for more,” he repeated.

The former All-Ireland winning captain didn’t think the game got away on Kilkenny in the end, nor did he think Galway took it from them.

“The game went as it went,” he said of the nail-biting finish. “Galway were the better team for most of the first half. We came back into it a bit nearing the end of the first half.

“They had a seven point lead at one stage. If they had stretched that lead it would have brought it into very, very difficult territory for us.

“We pulled it back and we went in five points down at half-time, which isn’t a huge deficit in hurling. We built on things strongly in the second half. We got a fair bit of momentum going.

“Kilkenny were out of it a lot in the first half. The goal gave Galway a strong impetus. It rocked us early on.

At times we were almost trying too hard. We weren’t relaxed. You need to be relaxed as well as full blooded. A bit of composure was lacking at times in the first half.”

“We were strong in the second half. We were rocked back by their goal, which came after an unfortunate break of a ball more than anything. That happens.

“That was the way it went. We came back again and had the lead going into injury-time. Then they got the last free and the equaliser. That was the way the game went. We don’t have any excuses.

“No, we don’t have any excuses,” he added a second time.

What about the last free, though, one asked? It seemed to me that the Galway player jumped into Jackie Tyrrell and the free might have been given the other way.

Ref’s opinion is final

“That will be scrutinised I am sure on television and so on,” he replied. “My immediate thoughts were, and I am sure every Kilkenny person in the stadium felt something the same, it doesn’t really matter. The referee’s opinion was all that mattered.

“He gave a free. That was it.”

It will be interesting to see what all the commentators have to say seeing that they have been generally harsh on Kilkenny’s approach to tackling and so on up to this, one prompted?

“That is the way they do things,” was his response this time. “Let us wait and see what their feelings are on this one. At the end of the day that doesn’t particularly matter either.

“Kilkenny were out of it a lot in the first half. The goal gave Galway a strong impetus. It rocked us early on.

“At times we were almost trying too hard. We weren’t relaxed. You need to be relaxed as well as full blooded. A bit of composure was lacking at times in the first half.

Resolve tested

“That came better in the second half. We were very, very good for a lot of the second half. The resolve was tested. The spirit was tested. We weren’t found wanting.”

Were the Kilkenny players confused or thrown out by Galway’s tactical approach?

“They don’t play a straight forward game, if you like,” Mr Cody said as he sucked in air. “They have their tactics. That is fair enough. They have to be tried to be countered as well.

“We had a good spell for a portion of the game. They had a good spell for a portion of the game. Now we start all over again.”

Yet you have to wonder how much such a big effort will take out of the players.

“It is a strange feeling for the players,” the manager admitted. “Usually you come to a match and you go home feeling fantastic after winning or feeling absolutely deflated after losing. But you are going home with a decision reached.

“A draw is not what people thought the outcome would be, but it is not the worst alternative either.”