Hurling has a unique quality to delight and mystify, and that was exactly what happened in this humdinger of a Leinster senior championship clash.
Eight minutes from the finish the outcome seemed assured after Kilkenny had put forward a most persuasive hurling argument as they blasted from level pegging into a 10 point lead in no more than nine thrilling minutes.
Galway, trailing by 3-20 to 2-13 in the 62nd minute after suffering that hammered, looked dead in the water.
Then, for a reason or reasons unknown, the Westerners detonated an explosion of late scores. After out-gunning the opposition to the tune of 3-3 to 0-2 during those closing minutes they got back for a draw in as spectacular a fashion as you could ever imagine.
How? Why? No one really knows. And who has the advantage going into the replay at the same venue on Saturday? No one knows!
For the fans this was a ‘Super Sunday’ of hurling because of the extraordinary finish. For the relevant managers, Brian Cody and Anthony Cunningham, the story was much different and there is plenty to ponder before the replay.
The tie wasn’t just extraordinary because Galway came from so far behind to earn a second shot at taking the place in the Leinster final against Dublin.
No, in additional time we were all treated to thrills and spills galore, and that was all topped off by a touch of brilliance from two of the finest talents of the era, Henry Shefflin and Joe Canning. They both landed smashing points to round off proceedings.
Shefflin, who shook off a recent leg injury in double quick time, got one look at the target in the 72nd minute and from 30 metres distance and bang on the left sideline, he arrowed over an outstanding lead point for the Cats, 3-22 to 5-15.
Kilkenny fans exploded with delight! Surely it was all over now.
The quickly taken Galway puck-out was won by the elegant Joe Canning in virtually a like position at the opposite, town end. He struck the target with an elegant strike to force the issue to a second day.
Galway fans exploded with delight! An escape!
The avalanche of late scores that had left the tie equal at 3-21 to 5-15 seconds beyond the 70 minute mark provided more excitement than anyone had a right to expect. The superb late contributions from Shefflin and Canning sent the crowd into the high heavens with excitement.
And now everyone gets another chance to enjoy a second helping. Roll on Saturday!
It is not often you see Kilkenny concede five goals – the last time was against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2005 – or surrender a 10-point lead. The fact both matters are live issues reflects a performance that was patchy, unsure, strong and nervy at different times.
There was a serious physical edge to Galway’s play during the opening half. It appeared as if they went out to test Kilkenny as both men and hurlers, one felt. More than an odd scuffle suggested no one was prepared to take a step back.
Andrew Smith, Johnny Coen, Iarla Tannian and company didn’t stand on ceremony when fronting up to the opposition. And with the deadly hurling of that wonderful talent, Daithi Burke, along with Conor Cooney, the Tribesmen laid it on the line that if they were going to fall to the Cats for a fourth time this season, it wasn’t going to be a surrender.
Into the second half team captain, Joe Canning, plundered two goals from penalties that were crucial to the outcome, and his touches and link play with colleagues were of the highest order too.
Galway bossed the opening half in a physical sense, although on the scoreboard there was no winner or loser as the teams went in for the rest level at 1-9 each.
Richie Hogan was far an away Kilkenny’s best performer during that period, when many around him struggled to find a good rhythm. He got through a terrific amount of good hurling and looked the one man who could make big things happen.
Colin Fennelly was a topper too, and Cillian Buckley closed off his wing. Padraig Walsh showed up well also.
Later as the Noresiders turned the screws during the second half, J.J. Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell, who was at his best when thundering through challenges, were marvellous and T.J. Reid found his best game. Reid was watched closely, but once he found a bit of room he was deadly. As well, goalie Eoin Murphy turned in a star show, bringing off a couple of top draw saves.
The trend for the game was set during the opening minutes when Niall Burke and Richie Hogan traded points. Five times subsequently the teams were locked in combat after both had enjoyed moments in front.
The first goal was bagged by Eoin Larkin in the 23rd minute, after he powered through after claiming a Kilkenny puck-out on the ‘40’ (1-6 to 0-7).
Galway’s big score arrived in the 30th minute via Niall Burke, who got a vital touch to a high delivery from Andrew Smith on the edge of the opposing square to edge his side 1-8 to 1-6 ahead.
A pair of Kilkenny points from Colin Fennelly, with Hogan the creator, and Padraig Walsh, with Buckley the provider of a telling pass, levelled it at 1-8 each.
Heading up to the rest Conor Cooney (free) and Padraig Walsh registered to leave it 1-9 apiece at the midway point.
Galway had slightly the better of things during the early stages of the second half, and they showed 1-12 to 1-10 in front after 39 minutes.
For a while afterwards Kilkenny suggested they were getting the upper hand. The promise was suggested by a well worked and well taken goal by Colin Fennelly. The Ballyhale Shamrocks man finished a great move that started at the other end of the field with a short pass from goalie Murphy to Jackie Tyrrell, who in turn found Mark Kelly, who sent Fennelly galloping at the target.
The arrival of Tommy Walsh on the field drew a ground shaking cheer from the crowd. His presence made a difference as it coincided with a good Kilkenny spell.
T.J. Reid shot a long range point after a foul on Kieran Joyce only seconds later. Richie Hogan then landed a prize point from his own ‘55’ after Padraig Walsh had been fouled.
Kilkenny were 2-12 to 1-12 clear. The two points mentioned were of such quality and at a time they looked set to inspire a blast off. The Tribesmen weren’t ready to let go.
On 50 minutes Galway bounced back to parity, Canning hammering home a penalty after Jonathan Glynn had been fouled when he looked sure to score a goal (2-12 each).
The teams exchanged points before Kilkenny went on a scoring spree between the 54th and 62nd minutes that took them into what most believed was a winning lead (3-20 to 2-13).
Blast of scores
Eoin Larkin and Richie Hogan started the blast of scores with points. Tommy Walsh and T.J. Reid added to the splurge. Then Aidan Fogarty contributed before Hogan and T.J. Reid at the double (goal and point) extended the divide to 10 points (3-20 to 2-13) in an almost casual manner.
The Galway revival started with a point from a 65 by Conor Cooney, after Canning has forced goalie Murphy into a spectacular diving save. Jason Flynn tacked on a point before Reid converted a free at the other end.
With 65 minutes played the divide was 3-21 to 2-15.
A minute further on Canning sent Conor Cooney through for a goal. The next score was another Galway goal, this time from Conor Cooney after a delightful cross from the left by Joseph Cooney.
We were back to a one score game.
With the clock showing 70.32, sub Jonathan Glynn got inside the Kilkenny full-back line. He was ready to pull the trigger on a sure goal chance. He was rugby tackled to the ground by Cillian Buckley.
Penalty! Joe Canning goal! A draw!
Shefflin and Canning dressed up the offering with superb late, late points.
Mighty stuff. Hurling – delightful and mystifying all in one. You bet!
Scorers: Kilkenny – T.J. Reid (1-8, seven points frees); Colin Fennelly (1-3); Richie Hogan (0-5, one free); Eoin Larkin (1-1); Padraig Walsh (0-2); Aidan Fogarty, Tommy Walsh, Henry Shefflin (0-1 each). Galway – Conor Cooney (2-7, four points frees, two 65s’); Joe Canning (2-3, goals penalties); Niall Burke (1-2); Jason Flynn (0-2); Andrew Smith, Jonathan Glynn (0-1 each).
Kilkenny – Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, J.J. Delaney (capt), Brian Kennedy; Kieran Joyce, Jackie Tyrrell, Cillian Buckley; Padraig Walsh, Richie Hogan; Walter Walsh, Mark Kelly, T.J. Reid; Colin Fennelly,
Richie Power, Eoin Larkin. Subs – Tommy Walsh for W. Walsh 42nd min; Aidan Fogarty for R. Power (inj) 50th min; H. Shefflin for Kelly 61st min; Brian Hogan for Tyrrell
Galway – Colm Callanan; Fergal Moore, Ronan Burke, David Collins; Daithi Burke, Iarla Tannian, Johnny Coen; Andrew Smith, Padraig Brehony; David Burke, Niall Burke, Conor Cooney; Cathal Mannion, Joe
Canning (capt), Jason Flynn. Subs – Jonathon Glynn for C. Mannion ht; Kevin Hynes for A. Smith 49th min; Gearoid McInerney for P. Brehony 59th min; Joseph Cooney for D. Burke 61st min; Damien Hayes for N.
Burke 61st min.
Referee – Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).
Attendance – 12,548.
Booked (yellow) – J. Tyrrell (19), R. Power (25), R. Hogan (34), C. Buckley (71) all Kilkenny; A. Smith (19), C. Mannion (25), D. Burke (28) all Galway.
Match figures – Kilkenny wides 7 (7 and 0); Galway wides 9 (6 and 3); Kilkenny frees 13 (7 and 6); Galway frees 8 (4 and 4).