Galway 1-24 Kilkenny 3-17
By Cian O’Connell at Pearse Stadium
Initially this compelling contest was chiefly about Galway’s class, but the character demonstrated in the dying embers will encourage Henry Shefflin.
Ultimately Conor Cooney’s last gasp free divided the teams at the end of an absorbing match in Salthill.
Sub plots existed, particularly the Shefflin and Brian Cody factor, but Galway eventually prevailed.
With trademark grit, Kilkenny erased a seven point gap to level. Galway edged ahead again before Kilkenny substitute John Donnelly’s injury time goal levelled matters.
Galway summoned one final attack with Tom Monaghan fouled by Paddy Deegan. Conor Cooney stayed ice cool to seal a critical win for the locals in front of 14,034 spectators.
At the outset Galway absorbed a couple of blows as Kilkenny’s Eoin Cody was splendid inside carrying a potent threat. The Ballyhale Shamrocks attacker netted a sixth minute goal following a Walter Walsh assist.
Galway, with Tom Monaghan, Joseph Cooney, and Brian Concannon effective, and boosted by two gorgeous Fintan Burke sideline cuts, led 0-9 to 1-5 when Cody turned provider for Billy Ryan to mine a second goal in the 16th minute.
The game was moving along at a decent clip with a TJ Reid free edging Kilkenny 2-7 to 0-12 ahead in the 23rd minute.
Galway replied with a splendid burst as Concannon’s pass released Johnny Coen, who planted a 24th minute goal.
Further points from Monaghan (2), Cathal Mannion, and Joseph Cooney (2) followed as Galway eventually went in armed with 1-17 to 2-8 cushion.
In the third quarter Kilkenny came thundering back. Conor Cooney added a free for Galway immediately, but Kilkenny reeled off seven points in a row to tie the match.
Substitute Alan Murphy was sharp, while Mikey Carey, Walter Walsh, and Cody also registered neat scores.
When awkward questions were being posed Galway found the answers. The Mannion brothers, Padraic and Cathal, were immense, while captain Daithí Burke led by example.
At the opposite end of the field Conor Whelan was introduced, while Concannon and Joseph Cooney remained relevant.
A 67th minute Concannon point guided Galway 1-23 to 2-17 clear, but Kilkenny refused to be perturbed. A Donnelly shot crept over the line and it appeared that the spoils would be divided.
Late on, though, Monaghan was fouled, and, under duress, Conor Cooney converted the subsequent free. Galway survived.
Scorers for Galway: Conor Cooney 0-6 (6fs), Joseph Cooney and Brian Concannon 0-4 each, Johnny Coen 1-0, Tom Monaghan 0-3, Cathal Mannion and Fintan Burke (2 sideline cuts) 0-2 each, Padraic Mannion, David Burke, and Cianan Fahy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilkenny: Eoin Cody 1-2, Alan Murphy 0-5 (4fs), John Donnelly and Billy Ryan 1-0 each, Walter Walsh and TJ Reid (2fs) 0-3 each, Padraig Walsh 0-2, Adrian Mullen and Mikey Carey 0-1 each.
GALWAY: Eanna Murphy; Jack Grealish, Daithí Burke, Darren Morrissey; Padraic Mannion, Gearóid McInerney, Fintan Burke; Johnny Coen, David Burke; Joseph Cooney, Conor Cooney, Tom Monaghan; Brian Concannon, Cianan Fahy, Cathal Mannion.
Subs: Conor Whelan for Fahy (45), Gavin Lee for Grealish (53), TJ Brennan for Coen (70).
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Mikey Carey, Paddy Deegan; James Maher, Adrian Mullen; Walter Walsh, Padraig Walsh, Cillian Buckley; TJ Reid, Billy Ryan, Eoin Cody.
Subs: Alan Murphy for Maher (31), David Blanchfield for Browne (43), John Donnelly for Buckley (55), Martin Keoghan for Ryan (66).
REFEREE: Colm Lyons (Cork).