Kilkenny 0-28 Galway 1-25
A lovely afternoon in UPMC Nowlan Park was the setting for a Leinster championship match which hurtled around before finally being settled with honours even, by an equaliser from replacement Declan McLoughlin, who was scoring with his first touch in senior championship hurling.
The result meant that Henry Shefflin’s first trip home with Galway ended satisfactorily, avoiding defeat in the last minute of injury time.
It was unexpected drama because Kilkenny looked home and dry, having opened up a six-point lead by the 52nd minute when Billy Ryan’s point put them 0-24 to 1-15 ahead.
The home side had turned around a match that was going against them by getting on top of the Galway puck-out in the second quarter and then after a first half that ended level, 0-16 to 1-13, targeting the third quarter against the wind and with a focused display of accuracy, built a lead.
Although there were two fine scoring tallies from Brian Concannon with 1-5 — the goal a well-timed run onto a breaking ball in the seventh minute — and Eoin Cody, who scored 0-6 from play, the spread of scorers was striking with 24 different names on the scoresheet.
The counties are odds-on favourites to contest the provincial final, an outcome made more likely by this draw.
Galway had looked more likely in the first half when the goal helped them to a four-point lead, 1-10 to 0-9 after Ronan Glennon’s 23rd-minute point but Kilkenny’s recovery eventually got them in front when Mikey Butler hit a point from his own defence for 0-15 to 1-11.
Shefflin was relieved to have rescued the match but the nagging reality is that with more accurate shooting in the second half, they could have won.
“Mixed emotions to be honest,” he said, “because we probably felt started well and played some good hurling in the first half. Probably we all felt we were in a good position at half-time and it quickly unravelled. Kilkenny really got on top. After half-time I think they had 10 shots and scored nine scores. We gave away some very careless turnovers in that period.”
Eventually, they began to find their range. Daithi Burke hoisted a huge point in the 52nd minute to get the comeback under way. Although the comeback was delayed by points from Cody and Adrian Mullen, Kilkenny were outscored 0-2 to 0-7, as Galway frantically chased the game.
In the 65th minute they were nearly in for another goal but Kevin Cooney’s shot was saved by Eoin Murphy and in the scramble, replacement Jason Flynn hit the ball over the bar to cut the margin to a point.
In a typically Kilkenny fashion, they simply ramped the lead back out to three with a point from the hard-working Darragh Corcoran and another free from Reid, who had a big influence on the second half. Ironically, he whipped a line ball wide with Kilkenny a point up and set the stage for McLoughlin.
Kilkenny manager Derek Lyng was encouraged despite the disappointment of getting caught on the line.
“They have quality hurlers. They had a good breeze behind them and they picked up score after score. There were a few times we didn’t take the right option, just to give us a cushion. I can’t fault the players. They brought a huge amount of hunger and drive all over the pitch. If we have that every day we go out, we’re going to be a hard team to play against. That was the most pleasing thing for me but we’re just going to have to pick it up again for Antrim.”
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler (0-1), Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield (0-1), Richie Reid, Pádraig Walsh; Darragh Corcoran (0-2), Conor Fogarty; Tommy Clifford (0-1), Adrian Mullen (0-2), John Donnelly (0-2); Billy Ryan (0-2), TJ Reid (0-9, 0-8f), Eoin Cody (0-6). Subs: Martin Keoghan (0-2) for Clifford (half-time), Cian Kenny for P Walsh (47 mins), Alan Murphy for Donnelly (66 mins), Cillian Buckley for Fogarty (74 mins).
Galway: Éanna Murphy; Jack Grealish, Gearóid McInerney, TJ Brennan; Pádraic Mannion (0-1), Daithí Burke (0-1), Joseph Cooney (0-1); Cianan Fahy (0-1), Ronan Glennon (0-1); Cathal Mannion (0-1), Conor Cooney (0-1), Kevin Cooney (0-1); Conor Whelan (0-2), Brian Concannon (1-5), Evan Niland (0-7, 0-6f). Subs: Jason Flynn (0-1) for C Cooney (59 mins), Fintan Burke for Glennon (61 mins), Liam Collins (0-1) for Fahy (66 mins), Declan McLoughlin (0-1) for Whelan (70 mins).
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick).