Kilkenny see off strong Galway challenge
KILKENNY 1-26 GALWAY 0-22
There was an all too familiar feel about Kilkenny's 71st Leinster hurling championship final win at Croke Park.
As is their wont the Cats blew away Galway in the second half . Yet again the visitors from the West endured another complete systems meltdown in the second half of a major championship assignment against the All-Ireland title holders.
So Brian Cody continues to set new records. This was the manager's 15th provincial title since 1999 and the fourth hat-trick during his reign.
Granted, not too many hurling bosses have the luxury of springing a former Hurler of the Year off the bench at half time. But the arrival of Richie Hogan changed the course of the contest.
Hogan hit five points from play in a virtuoso second-half performance which saw Kilkenny outscore their opponents 9-3 in the closing 20 minutes.
Frankly it was another archetypal Kilkenny v Galway match. The challengers threw down the gauntlet for 45 minutes.
But from the moment Kilkenny's new scoring sensation Jojo Farrell found the net after being set up by the excellent Conor Fogarty to level the contest there was a sense of inevitably about the outcome.
Galway did rally briefly and Kilkenny only managed to outscore them 4-3 in the next eight minutes and it took a magnificent goal line clearance from Conor Fogarty to deny Galway subsitute Cyril Donnellan a goal.
But with Fogarty and Michael Fennelly taking over at midfield, the Kilkenny full back line winning the aerial battle and Hogan becoming increasing influential Galway simply withdrew into their shell and the game was over long before the final whistle.
At least we now know that it wasn't the fault of ex-Galway team boss Anthony Cunningham that the team collapsed in exactly the same fashion in the second half of last year's All-Ireland final. After a messy revolt Cunningham departed but new boss Micheal Donoghue hasn't found the winning formula.
But no blame can be attached to him; the players must shoulder the blame (again) for this loss. The leaders were missing when Kilkenny went into overdrive. The fact that their talismanic figure up front Joe Canning failed to score from play tells its own story.
Galway are still, of course, guaranteed a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final but their last quarter collapse will haunt them so much that it is difficult to see them recovering to win the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2016.
Before an attendance of 29,377 there was a plethora of positional changes on the Galway side. As expected Joe Canning switched to full forward and Galway attempted to isolate him inside on Joey Holden.
But Kilkenny quickly countered by dropping their two corner backs Paul Murphy and Robert Lennon back which effectively meant that it was 3-1 whenever Galway pumped long balls into the sector which, of course, meant that the tactic was largely redundant.
Individually though Lennon and Murphy were in trouble in their individual battles as Conor Whelan and in particular Cathal Mannion – who hit four points from play in the first half – made telling impacts.
The first 20 minutes was very even; the teams were level on five occasions as they shared 12 points. Galway had real problems winning their own pucks winning only five of Colm Callanan's 14 restarts in the first period.
But it scarcely mattered such was the dominance of the Galway half back line and in the second quarter Galway's pressure began to tell as they hit four unanswered points to lead by 0-10 to 0-6 five minutes before half time.
As in the 2012 All-Ireland final two enforced errors from Galway in the closing minutes of the period handed two easy points to Kilkenny. So despite being outplayed for much of the half they trailed by just two at the break (0-12; 0-10)
Kilkenny's most ineffectual forwards, Eoin Larkin and Colin Fennelly were withdrawn at the break and the rest is history. While TJ Reid was the game's top scorer with a 0-10 contribution, 27-year-old Jojo Farrell continued to blaze a trail on his debut season.
Having hit 1-6 against Dublin he added 1-4 against Galway and made life very uncomfortable for both Johnny Coen and substitute Fergal Moore.
But the message from the Kilkenny camp is that you must stand the heat in their kitchen longer than 45 minutes in order to harbour ambitions of beating them. Galway were ringing for the emergency services much too early!
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, R Lennon; P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley; C Fogarty (0-3), M Fennelly (0-1); W Walsh (0-2), C Fennelly, L Ryan; J Farrell (1-4) TJ Reid (0-10, 7f, 1 65), E Larkin Subs: R Hogan (0-5) for Larkin ht; J Power (0-1) for C Fennelly ht.
Galway: C Callinan; P Mannion, Daithi Burke, J Coen; A Harte, J Hanbury, G McInerney; David Burke, D Glennon (0-1) N Burke, J Cooney (0-2) Conor Cooney (0-3); C Whelan (0-3) J Canning (0-6, 6f), C Mannion (0-5). Subs C Donnellan (0-1) for J Cooney 50m, F Moore for Coen 53m; J Flynn for N Burke 57m; A Smith (0-1) for D Glennon 60m; P Killeen for Hanbury 66m.
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)