Aaron Niland once again proved why he is one of Galway’s brightest prospects in UPMC Nowlan Park on Friday evening as he inspired the Tribesmen to a comfortable defeat of Kilkenny in the final round of the Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Hurling Championship.
A close range free that found its way through a plethora of Kilkenny bodies on the goal-line midway through the second half was the Clarinbridge man’s shining moment as he notched up a remarkable 1-13.
The first seven of those points came in the first half.
It was a tight opening period with Niall Bergin’s side refusing to give in to the pressure the visitors were applying through the classy corner-forward, Jason Rabbitte and the energetic Michael Burke.
Kilkenny’s talisman Conor Doyle was precise as ever with his free-taking duties while well-taken scores from Bill McDermott and Ed Lauhoff meant there was only three points separating the teams at the interval, Kilkenny 0-06 to 0-09 Galway.
With a slight breeze behind them and a large home crowd shouting them on, there was belief that the Cats could find a way to get a positive result against their opponents.
That did not materialise, however, as Galway gained a stranglehold on the affair that Kilkenny could not halt despite their best efforts.
Three unanswered frees from Niland that were added to by Conor Gilligan and Rabbitte extended their lead to six points before a 21-yard free that found the back of the net from Niland ended the game as a contest.
Far from being a one-man show, Galway pushed on but there was no denying where the majority of their scoring-power was coming from as Niland split the posts with frees and points from play.
To their credit, the hosts did not roll over and maintained their strong work-rate and application until the final whistle.
The men in black and amber did end the game with 14-players following the late dismissal of substitute Andrew Phelan and were forced to accept that the better team had deservedly secured a routine victory.
It’s three victories from three games for Fergal Healy’s side who will now look forward to a provincial semi-final, while Niall Bergin and his management team must lift their charges for a quarter-final tie in two weeks.