Kilkenny win 36th All-Ireland title

Kilkenny captain Joey Holden lifts the Liam MacCarthy cup
Kilkenny captain Joey Holden lifts the Liam MacCarthy cup


FOR the eleventh time in sixteen seasons Kilkenny are All-Ireland hurling champions. Come September the Cats invariably find a way to secure the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

This is not the greatest Kilkenny team that Brian Cody has ever assembled. It wasn't even the best performance from their particular bunch. Still, they found a way to secure the biggest prize in hurling against a Galway side that frankly failed to make any impact in the second half.

Cody, of course, is the constant in all of Kilkeny's 11 All-Ireland successes since the turn of the century. Such is the county's rate of success that Henry Shefflin's position as the most decorated All-Ireland winner of all time is under threat from two of his team mates!

Eoin Larkin and Jackie Tyrrell – who didn't feature due to a stress fracture – were each collecting their ninth Celtic Cross – just one short of Shefflin record total of ten.

For Galway the famine goes on. What will disappoint them most was their alarming second half fade out. Their three-point half-time lead (0-14; 1-8) didn't fully reflect how superior they had been, particularly in the second quarter.

Displaying the characteristics one normally associated with the Cats, Galway had physically dominated their opponents. Sure, they got a couple of fortunate calls from the referee but the fact that they recorded 14 scores compared to nine for Kilkenny underlined the extent of their dominance.

It was against this background that their second half capitulation was all the more surprising. They simply could never get any traction after the break in a contest that lacked fluency and was very stop-start in nature.

By the 42nd minute Kilkenny had drawn level and although Galway substitute David Collins briefly put the Tribesmen ahead again once Kilkenny went ahead in the 47th minute they never looked like relinquishing that advantage.

Kilkenny simply worked harder than Galway after the break; they formed a six-man barrier across their half-back line and completely dominated the Galway puck out with Conor Fogarty, Padraig Walsh and Cillian Buckley outstanding in winning primary possession.

Their control of the game was underlined by the fact that the only Galway forward to score from play after the break was Conor Whelan.

Indeed, apart from Whelan and Canning - who hit 1-1 from placed balls - no other Galway forward scored in the second half and no team can expect to win an All-Ireland by scoring 1-4 in the second period.

Against expectations Kilkenny opted not to send TJ Reid to the edge of the square. Instead, their tallest player Walter Walsh was dispatched there where he formed a two-man full-forward line with Ger Aylward.

Iarla Tannian ended up marking the elusive Reid with Daithi Burke keeping tabs on the Kilkenny playmaker Richie Hogan. Initially Kilkenny's tactics appeared to be working.

After a tentative start which Galway shaded (0-5; 0-3) primarily due to the free-taking of Joe Canning, Kilkenny struck for the game's first goal.

Hogan won the puck out before linking up with Walsh who used his strength to hold off John Hanbury and then tee up TJ Reid for a goal.

But it was Galway who dominated the rest of the half. They were aggressive particularly in their half-back line and successfully targeted Eoin Murphy's puck outs, winning 9 out of 20.

Kilkenny were forced into fouling and with Jason Flynn's long-range shooting on target - he converted three monster frees in the first half - Galway foraged ahead.

The Cats found it difficult to win frees and the decisions of referee James Owens clearly infuriated Kilkenny boss Brian Cody who confronted linesman James McGrath. Kilkenny had more grounds for complaint just before the internal when Johnny Coen took out Colin Fennelly who looked set to create a goal chance.

Coen was lucky to escape with a yellow card and the Tribesmen looked in with a real chance of securing the silverware at half time when they led 0-14 to 1-08.

What will annoy them most when they reflect on their performance is that they did a lot of things right. TJ Reid failed to score a point from play - though arguably he was the most influential player on the field - while Richie Hogan was substituted despite scoring 0-2.

But the qualities that have made Kilkenny so difficult to beat since the turn of the century carried them over the line: work rate, ruthlessness, ability to take their chances, denying their opponents space and creating plenty themselves.

Collectively and individually Kilkenny won all the battles as the referee was less inclined to blow for Galway frees.

Kilkenny had already secured their 36th title long before Joe Canning's late goal put a gloss on the scoreboard.

Overall, it's a final which won't live long in the memory but Kilkenny won't care as they retain their title despite losing marquee players such as JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan and Shefflin at the end of last season.

Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh (0-1), K Joyce, C Buckley; M Fennelly (0-2), C Fogarty (0-1); W Walsh (0-2), R Hogan (0-2), TJ Reid (1-7, 5f, 2 65); G Aylward (0-2), C Fennelly (0-2), E Larkin (0-2). Subs: R Power for Hogan 61m; J Power for Aylward 62m

Galway: C Callanan; J Coen (0-1 og), J Hanbury, P Mannion; A Harte, Daithi Burke, I Tannian; A Smith, David Burke (0-1); J Flynn (0-4, 3f), C Donnellan (0-1), J Glynn; C Whelan (0-2) J Canning (1-8, 5f), C Mannion. Subs: D Collins (0-2) for Harte 23m; C Cooney for Smith 56m; G Lally for Donnellan 64m; S Moloney for Flynn 66m.

Referee: J Owens (Wexford)