If this is a taste of what is to come later in the championship, hurling supporters from right across the country can look forward to a plethora of intercounty clashes of the highest quality throughout the summer.
Following an outstanding display between Clare and Limerick the night before, the so-called “weaker” championship needed its two leading All-Ireland contenders to put on a show for the watching public on a warm Sunday afternoon in Kilkenny City.
And that is exactly what they got.
The game started with an intensity level yet to be seen in this year’s Leinster championship with Eoin Cody superbly knocking over two scores following an equally fine point from Galway full-forward Brian Concannon.
Ardahan’s Cianan Fahy responded for the visitors with another point from play while a TJ Reid free and a well-hit strike in front of the watching crowd on the far side of the UPMC Nowlan Park pitch to give Kilkenny an early 0-04 to 0-02 lead.
Despite a strong start from the Cats’ full-back line, Galway blitzed them in a blistering two-minute period as Conor Whelan and Concannon both pointed before the lively full-forward ran on to a breaking ball and clinically dispatched past Eoin Murphy to restore his side’s lead.
In a non-stop opening ten minutes, both sets of players continued to entertain the large crowd as John Donnelly and captain Eoin Cody brought the team’s level once more at Kilkenny GAA headquarters.
The free-flowing affair helped maintain a good atmosphere in the stands as they witnessed more perfect efforts from Joseph Cooney Concannon and Whelan, while a second free from 2015 Hurler of the Year Reid left two points between the sides after the first quarter, Kilkenny 0-07 to 1-06 Galway.
The star of that opening period continued to wreak havoc for the hosts as Concannon’s direct running led to another goalscoring opportunity that was parried over the crossbar by Eoin Murphy to bring the Killimordaly man’s individual tally to 1-03.
Two Conor Cooney points that were direct replies to scores from David Blanchfield and Reid kept the Tribesmen in front by three points as Kilkenny failed to garner some much-needed momentum with half-time looming.
Ronan Glennon opened his account when he gathered a low ball and split the posts with ease but the Leinster champions did not wilt despite their troubles as two Reid frees ranging in distance and difficulty levels reduced the deficit.
His Shamrocks teammates Darragh Corcoran, Eoin Cody, and Adrian Mullen added to those frees while yet another point from Concannon meant the teams could not be separated after 30 minutes, Kilkenny 0-14 to 1-11 Galway.
An incredible attempt from within his own half from corner-back Mikey Butler edged the home team ahead on the cusp of the break while Reid and the unusually quiet Evan Niland exchanged late frees to leave the scoreboard reading Kilkenny 0-16 to 1-13 Galway at the interval.
Kilkenny’s momentum continued into the second half as a first score from Billy Ryan and two frees from the ever-reliable Reid pushed Kilkenny into a three-point lead, while two Niland frees managed to keep Henry Shefflin’s men within touching distance.
Thomastown’s Donnelly doubled his tally following a fifth point from the devastating Cody that extended the margin to four points with just over 20 minutes remaining, Kilkenny 0-22 to 1-15 Galway.
Martin Keoghan, who was introduced at half-time in place of Timmy Clifford, looked as though he had something to improve as he took very little time to add two points to his name while another effort from Graiuge Ballycallan’s Ryan saw last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists move into the biggest lead of the game, 0-24 to 1-15.
Galway finally grabbed their first score from play in the second half through centre-back Daithi Burke and the traveling supporters were further inspired when they saw Cathal Mannion and Concannon eat into the considerable deficit with back-to-back points.
That did not dent Kilkenny’s confidence, however, as Ballyhale Shamrocks duo Cody and Mullen made sure that a two-score gap remained between the sides despite a third and then fourth successful free in the second half from Niland.
A long-range point from half-back Padraic Mannion and another point immediately afterward from substitute Jason Flynn made it a one-point game with just under five minutes of normal time left with all the momentum seemingly with the away team.
That was stemmed from scores from Corcoran and Reid as the five minutes of additional time began with Kilkenny ahead by two points.
Some bad wides from both teams ensued as the stakes of this result became apparent to everybody packed into one of the most iconic GAA grounds in the country.
A fitting arena for a classic as Liam Collins left the game on a knife edge when he dissected the posts with a good effort.
Galway manufactured one more opportunity as substitute Declan McLoughlin levelled as both sides shared the spoils.