Strong willed Kilkenny turned up the heat during the closing 20 minutes or so to burn off the deadly challenge of Galway in a high class Leinster senior hurling final in Croke Park yesterday.
In the end the Cats won by 1-25 to 2-15 to claim what was their 70th victory in the Leinster championship as they advanced to the All-Ireland semi-finals on August 9.
The county complete the senior/minor double when the under-18 side also retained the Leinster title, beating Dublin by 1-17 to 1-15 with points from Conor Hennessy and Edward Delaney during the closing two minutes.
The senior clash was a tough affair as the two sides let rip from the off. There was nothing between them during the opening quarter when the scores were level three times, the last at 0-5 each.
Kilkenny put a bit of daylight between themselves and the opposition when a rush of points from Richie Hogan, Colin Fennelly and Conor Fogarty were followed by a 27th minute goal from T.J. Reid to open out a fair divide of 1-10 to 0-6.
An absolute wonder goal from Joe Canning, one of the best ever seen in Croke Park, helped drag Galway back into the match and at the break they were a mere 1-11 to 1-8 behind.
Things got even better for the Tribesmen 90 seconds into the new half when sub Jason Flynn burst through for a goal to level the game (1-11 to 2-8). The next four scores were equally divided, but after Colin Fennelly grabbed a minor to edge the Leinster and MacCarthy Cup holders 1-14 to 2-10 in front in the 41st minute, Kilkenny never looked back.
During the following 13 minutes the winners out-scored Galway by 0-6 to 0-1 to take a firm grip on the game as the likes of Cillian Buckley, Paul Murphy, T.J. Reid, Ger Aylward, Richie Hogan and Eoin Larkin turn on the power.
With less than a quarter of an hour remaining, Galway were looking up from the wrong end of a 1-20 to 2-11 lead and they were under serious pressure. They hit back for a hat trick of points from Canning (2) and the hugely effective Cyril Donnellan but when Kilkenny won the puck-out after the latter’s score and Richie Hogan flashed the ball over the bar at the Hill 16 end it was all over for the Westerners, who now divert into the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Scorers: Kilkenny - T.J. Reid (1-9, five frees, one 65); Richie Hogan, Eoin Larkin (0-4 each); Ger Aylward (0-3); Colin Fennelly, Walter Walsh (0-2 each); Conor Fogarty (0-1). Galway - Joe Canning (1-8, six points frees); Cyril Donnellan (0-3); Jason Flynn (1-0); Fergal Moore, David Burke, Jonathan Glynn, Cathal Mannion (0-1 each).
Referee - James McGrath (Westmeath).