Kilkenny are Leinster champions despite Canning wonder goal

SportBy Sean McGoldrick
Kilkenny's TJ Reid celebrates after scoring his side's first goal
Kilkenny's TJ Reid celebrates after scoring his side's first goal


Kilkenny chalked up their 70th Leinster championship success and their 14th under Brian Cody when they outclassed Galway in Croke Park.

Galway did score more goals than the reigning title holders but finished second best in virtually every other battle - both individually and collectively.

The victory means that the defending All-Ireland title holders continue their remarkable sequence of All-Ireland semi-final appearances - they have appeared in every penultimate tie bar one (2013) since 1996.

Galway, meanwhile, await their fate in the quarter final draw. Their season is by no means over. Even though seven points separated them at the death the final was competitive throughout.

Crucially, on the couple of occasions that Galway threatened to turn the screw Kilkenny simply upped the tempo and picked off points to put distance between themselves and the challengers.

The final did feature a wonder goal from Galway's Joe Canning in the 32nd minute when in a single flowing movement he turned in a graceful 180 degree arc to collect a dropping ball from Andy Smith before rifling to the net.

The goal cut the deficit to two points. Typically though Kilkenny responded with an Eoin Larkin point before the break to take a three-point lead (1-11; 1-8) into the second half.

Galway got the perfect start to the second half. A rare error from Jackie Tyrrell who left his man to contest a dropping ball along with Joey Holden and Joe Canning backfired when the sliotar squirted loose to first-half substitute Jason Flynn. He smashed the ball to the Kilkenny net 77 seconds after the break.

Sides level; game on - or so we thought. Typically Kilkenny got the next score, a TJ Reid free and although Cyril Donnellan hit a purple patch hitting two long range points - suddenly the Galway scoring rate from play dropped off the radar.

As is their wont Kilkenny flooded their defence with bodies and frustrated Galway. The outstanding Richie Hogan played like a quarter back and Galway couldn't find a way through.

Between the 41st and 57th minutes Kilkenny restricted Galway to a brace of Joe Canning frees while they scored seven points to take control of the final again.

Even though they only deployed four forwards, they were clinical on the break while TJ Reid's free-taking was immaculate.  

Two points on the spin from Canning - who overall probably shaded his tussle with Joey Holden but spent a lot of time away from the danger zone - and Donnellan cut the deficit to a goal with eight minutes remaining.

Typically the next score was a magnificent point from Hogan and Kilkenny squeezed the life out of the Galway challenge in the closing minutes, outscoring them 4-1 to win as comfortably as their seven-point margin suggests.

Better still for Brian Cody, he has plenty to work on prior to the semi-final. They hit 13 wides - eight in the first half - and it was their concession of frees that kept Galway in touch in the first half.

Tactically, Cody won the battle with Anthony Cunningham. Aidan Fogarty operated as a sweeper in the first half; Eoin Larkin withdrew to the half forward line and Kilkenny's two man full forward line of TJ Reid and Ger Aylward always looked to have the measure of their respective markers Padraig Mannion and Johnny Coen.

Galway always looked vulnerable at the back and the failure of their half forwards to win more of their own pucks out - particularly in the first half when they lost 9 of 20 - meant that they were unable to put sufficient pressure on the Cats' defence.

Ultimately the game panned out much as had been anticipated. On the day when Cork exposed a weak underbelly in All-Ireland football champions Kerry there are no such concerns about the well being of the 2014 All-Ireland hurling title holders.

The official attendance was 32,954.

Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, J Tyrrell; P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley; W Walsh (0-2), C Fogarty (0-1); J Power, R Hogan (0-4), C Fennelly (0-2); TJ Reid (1-9, 5f 1 65), G Aylward (0-3), E Larkin (0-4). Subs: S Prendergast for Tyrrell 50m; M Kelly for Power 58m; M Ruth for Fennelly 70m.

Galway: C Callinan; J Coen, P Mannion, J Hanbury; F Moore (0-1), Daithi Burke, I Tannian; A Smith, A Harte;  David Burke (0-1), C Donnellan (0-3), J Glynn (0-1); D Glennon, J Canning (1-8, 7f), C Mannion (0-1). Subs: J Flynn (1-0) for Glennon 26m;  J Cooney for Harte 39m; P Brehony for David Burke 59m; N Healy for Mannion 61m 

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)