While there was whispers of it at half time, there was no doubt at the final whistle. A replay would not be needed.
With so many marquee retirements last year and a short run in the championships, questions were always going to be asked of Kilkenny heading into today’s final. The feeling on the ground talking amongst fans on the street as you got closer to Sunday was that Galway were in with a chance – a serious chance. There were big things happening in Galway, something in the water, the appetite and fire was there like never before.
It took a second day out in Croke Park in 2012 but after a thrilling second half performance by Brian Cody’s men this afternoon, Kilkenny are returning Noreside on Monday afternoon with the Liam McCarthy cup for the 36th time.
Quite literally, this was a game of two halves.
A game of two halves
The first half belonged to Joe Canning. The Portumna clubman scored half of Galway’s 14 point haul in the opening 35 minutes while TJ Reid’s goal in the first quarter hour – Kilkenny’s only of the game – kept the Cats in it at half time, trailing 0-14 to 1-08.
Galway corner back Johnny Coen was lucky not to see red in the first half, clotheslining Colin Fennelly, leaving his arm out for a high tackle with the Ballyhale Shamrocks man bearing down on goal.
Michael Walsh called it border-line for yellow or red, referee James Owens going for the lesser charge and Galway’s first booking of the day in the first half. Galway’s Aidan Harte had no joy with Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly and was called ashore midway through the first half to be replaced by team captain David Collins.
Upping things a gear
The second half was a completely different affair. Conor Fogarty and TJ Reid found earlier scores and Kilkenny looked a completely different side, dropping deeper, throttling the Galway offence and stopping any kind of ball coming towards Joe Canning or Jonathan Glynn.
Such was the case that Galway failed to score inside the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Cats outscoring the Tribesmen by 7 points in the first 18-20 minutes of the second half, a difference that would be maintained closer to the end of the second half.
David Collins picked off a piledriver from the middle of the field to keep scores on the board for Galway and while Conor Whelan had a great strike from an awkward angle ruled over by Hawk-Eye, Kilkenny looked completely transformed.
Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly added two second half points, Richie Hogan, Eoin Larkin and Pádraig Walsh (incidentally Kilkenny’s only forward to point) all getting on the score sheet, at one stage leading by seven points having trailed by three in the first half.
A late Joe Canning goal in additional time was nothing more than a consolation and wasn’t at all reflective of Galway’s second half performance, 4 points from play all they were allowed by a driven, determined and unshakeable Kilkenny side.
While injuries had kept Richie Power on the bench throughout the season, the Carrickshock man made an appearance late in the second half coming on for Richie Hogan, almost adding to Kilkenny’s increasing tally. Jackie Tyrrell, having gone through a late fitness test this week “just wasn’t there to play today” said Brian Cody in his post-match press address despite having “fought like a dog” to be fit in time for Sunday.
John Power was a late substitution for Glenmore’s Ger Aylward, leaving the field with a 3 point haul.
In his first proper All-Ireland, Ballyhale Shamrock’s Joey Holden lifted the Liam McCarthy cup for Kilkenny, a 36th time for the county, adding to a great day for the All-Ireland senior club champions.
All Irl SHC Final Galway 1-18 Kilkenny 1-22 (FT) No 36!