BY NIALL SHERRY,
Late point snatches draw for Tribesmen
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
UPMC Nowlan Park
Kilkenny 0-28 Galway 1-25
It was honours even when Derek Lyng’s Kilkenny clashed with Henry Shefflin’s Galway in UPMC Nowlan Park last Sunday. The game lived up to its hype with both sides hardly pausing for breath over the 70 plus minutes of pulsating action.
The Westerners had championship debutant Declan McLaughlin to thank for leaving the Marble City with a point after the forward’s late late scoring intervention. It had looked like the home side would claim maximum points when TJ slotted over a 68th minute free to leave 3 points between the rivals.
The Tribesmen dug deep and registered scores from Evan Niland and substitutes Liam Collins and that man McLaughlin to punish the Cats and some wasteful finishing late on from the home side.
There was one late change to Derek Lyng’s side with Erins Own’s Conor Fogarty replacing Shamrocks Paddy Mullen in midfield. The visitors lined out as selected with Henry Shefflin exchanging pleasantries with his opposite number before throw-in at the venue, he knows oh so well.
From the moment Limerick whistler Johnny Murphy threw the sliotar in, it was frantic from both sides with the game swinging from end-to-end. A fast start from the teams saw two points fired over in the first 60 seconds. Galway struck first; with the impressive Brian Concannon pointing from out on the left before the restart saw Eoin Murphy find Billy Ryan who passed to captain Eoin Cody who levelled matters after 40-odd seconds of play.
The next two scores came from the hosts. Some great pressure applied to the Galway defence by John Donnelly and Eoin Cody resulted in the latter slotting over his second point of the game. Next up was TJ Reid. The veteran Shamrocks Ballyhale legend was fouled and punished the opposition by rifling over the resulting free. Three minutes gone, Kilkenny were up by two points, 0-3 to 0-1.
Henry’s men struck back immediately. Netminder Eanna Murphy found Cianan Fahy unmarked from the puck out and the Ardrahan man split the posts from distance to help settle the travelling supporter’s nerves. Some lovely play close to the sideline saw Bennettsbridge’s David Blanchfield advance before passing to Timmy Clifford and the Dicksboro man sent over a fine point from out on the right.
The frantic start continued. A long ball out of the Galway defence saw Conor Whelan beat Tommy Walsh before pointing from way out on the right, a classy score to reduce the deficit to the bare minimum with 6 minutes played. The next action saw the only goal of the game scored, and there was more than a touch of fortune about it.
Adrian Mullen was challenged by Joseph Cooney, possibly illegally, but the sliotar broke to the supporting Jack Grealish who took possession. The Gort man scanned for options before delivering a long ball into the Cats defence. As players rose to claim the ball, it appeared to deflect off the hurl of Tommy Walsh into the path of the on-running Brian Concannon. The Killimordaly man powered forward before unleashing a fierce shot beyond the diving Eoin Murphy. It was a great finish, but having taken some 9 steps before shooting, the goal should have been stroked off. Small margins. That put the visitors up by 2 points with seven minutes played.
Kilkenny hit back with the next two scores. John Donnelly was expertly picked out from a restart by Eoin Murphy and the Thomastown player split the posts for a nice point. Mikey Butler then found Eoin Cody from a sideline cut and the twice crowned young hurler of the year fired over from some 65’ metres out.
There had only been two frees awarded in the first 11 minutes – a sign of the frantic nature of the game, and Johnny Murphy’s determination to try and let the game flow.
Sarsfields Joesph Cooney then sent over a long-range point for the men in maroon to edge his team ahead, before Conor Whelan notched his second score of the day after nice work by Padraic Mannion. Graigue Ballycallan’s Billy Ryan was then halted illegally by Gearoid McInerney and this gave TJ the opportunity to reduce the gap to one point.
Shefflin’s men were taking control in many areas across the pitch. This dominance was rewarded by two further scores, both from dangerman Concannon who was having a great day at the office. Cathal Mannion found the No.14 and the powerful full-forward split the posts.
Concannon almost struck another major for the westerners, only to be denied by a brilliant save from Glemore’s Eoin Murphy who somehow managed to deflect the goal bound effort over the bar. The home side responded with a nice point from wing-back David Blanchfield, after he was superbly picked out by John Donnelly who was again getting through a mountain of work for the Cats.
Galway then outscored their opponents three points to one over the next four minutes. Points from Cooney’s Kevin and Conor along with a well struck effort from Mullagh’s Ronan Glennon put the Tribesmen firmly in charge, with only a nice TJ point from play in response. TJ would also hit the next Cats score, this time a booming free from his own ‘45 splitting the Galway posts.
Adrian Mullen who was having a very quiet game by his standards then set up a fine scoring chance for his clubmate, Darragh Corcoran who hit a lovely score. John Donnelly was then fouled again and like before, TJ made no mistake from the placed ball. Donnelly then turned provider, this time for Adrian Mullen who pointed from way out on the left to level matters with just over 28 minutes played.
Brian Concannon then struck his fourth point of the day before Eoin Cody did likewise in registering his team’s 14th point of the day. Mikey Butler then collected an Eoin Murphy restart, took a few steps before rifling over a magnificent score from halfway to edge his side ahead. Thomastown’s Donnelly was then fouled again on his own ‘65 and TJ stepped up and fired over another sensational free to push the Kilkenny lead to two.
The final two scores of a pulsating 1st half came from Evan Niland. The Clarinbridge man struck over his first free of the game, before following up with a nice effort from play to level matters and leave the half time scoreline, Kilkenny 0-16, Galway 1-13.
Kilkenny emerged from the Nowlan Park dressing rooms with a spring in their step and showing one change to their line-up, with Tullaroan’s Mossy Keoghan replacing Timmy Clifford.
Lyng’s charges came out of the blocks quickly. The first point after the interval was a lovely combination of skill and pace from Billy Ryan who joined his fellow starting attackers in scoring. The same player was then fouled, and TJ popped over the free. The Shamrocks man repeated this feat a minute later after John Donnelly was again fouled. That left the Cats 3 clear with 39 minutes played. Kilkenny goalkeeper Murphy was then called into action again, this time putting his body on the line to prevent Kevin Cooney from goaling. The Glenmore man needed a little treatment but thankfully was fit to continue.
Evan Niland hit two free’s either side of a stunning point from captain Cody. Mikey Butler then played nice pass to John Donnelly and the Thomastown man rifled over from distance to leave the Cats 3 points to the good. Cian Kenny then replaced The Sash’s Padraig Walsh as manager Lyng sought to freshen things up a little. Half-time sub Martin Keoghan was having a good impact on Kilkenny’s game, and the Tullaroan attacker fired over a brace of points to cement the home sides control of proceedings in UPMC Nowlan Park. Cian Kenny then did well to set up Billy Ryan who fired over his second of the game.
Henry Shefflin urged his team to respond, and the Tribesmen hit the next 3 points, including two long range stunners from Daithi Burke and Joesph Cooney. Their main threat, Brian Concannon hit the other one, although his influence on proceedings were restricted after Mikey Butler was switched to mark the full-forward. Eoin Cody then fired over a fine point after good work by Darragh Corcoran to take his tally to 0-6. O’Loughlin’s Butler who was having a great game then found Adrian Mullen who hit a trademark point from out on the left to extend the Cats lead to five points with 56 minutes played.
Again, one of Kilkenny’s favourite sons was animated on the sideline, demanding more from his charges. His men didn’t let Henry down. Four scores on the bounce from Galway, including a pair of frees from Niland, a stunner from distance by Padraic Mannion brought the men in maroon within two points of the black and amber. Eoin Murphy then denied the Tribesmen again, Jason Flynn taking a point before John Donnelly gave a nice pass to Darragh Corcoran who rifled over a cracking point.
Gort’s Jack Grealish then saw yellow for a nasty challenge on Mikey Butler, when a red card could well have been shown. TJ Reid split the posts with the placed ball to push the home side’s lead to three points. As the game entered five minutes of additional time, Evan Niland struck over his 7th point of the game to give his side and their supporters hope.
Cappataggle’s Liam Collins then points in the 74th minute, to leave just one point between the sides. There was lots on the line, and both Mikey Butler and Brian Concannon received yellow cards from referee Murphy. Replays showed that the Galway man was lucky not to see a different colour.
Following a Kilkenny wide, Galway keeper Eanna Murphy took the puck-out and sent it long towards the Cats ‘65. Declan McLaughlin and Richie Reid tangled and fought to take possession. The nippy forward wriggled away from the Shamrocks man before striking a shot from over his left shoulder. The crowd waited, the sliotar split the posts. The next sound heard was the long whistle of referee Johnny Murphy. A frantic encounter between two good sides had finished all square, Final score, Kilkenny 0-28, Galway 1-25.
Kilkenny Scorers: TJ Reid 0-9 (8fs), Eoin Cody 0-6, Darragh Corcoran, Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly, Billy Ryan, and Martin Keoghan 0-2 each, Mikey Butler, Timmy Clifford, and David Blanchfield 0-1 each.
Galway Scorers: Brian Concannon 1-5, Evan Niland 0-7 (6fs), Conor Whelan 0-2, Padraic Mannion, Daithi Burke, Joseph Cooney, Cianan Fahy, Ronan Glennon, Cathal Mannion, Kevin Cooney, Conor Cooney, Jason Flynn, Liam Collins, and Declan McLoughlin 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield, Richie Reid, Padraig Walsh; Darragh Corcoran, Conor Fogarty; Timmy Clifford, Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly; Billy Ryan, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody.
Subs: Martin Keoghan for Clifford (HT), Cian Kenny for P Walsh (46), Alan Murphy for Donnelly (65), Cillian Buckley for Fogarty (70+3).
Galway: Eanna Murphy; Jack Grealish, Gearoid McInerney, TJ Brennan; Padraic Mannion, Daithi Burke, Joseph Cooney; Cianan Fahy, Ronan Glennon; Cathal Mannion, Conor Cooney, Kevin Cooney; Conor Whelan, Brian Concannon, Evan Niland.
Subs: Jason Flynn for C Cooney (58), Fintan Burke for Glennon (60), Liam Collins for Fahy (65), Declan McLoughlin for Whelan (68).
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick).
>> SHERRY SAYS…
Well, that was a bit of a rollercoaster! While it may not have hit the heights of the Limerick vs Clare game the evening before, Kilkenny vs Galway had its own plots and sub-plots. Henry arrived back in Kilkenny with a team geared up to repeat its Salthill victory of 12 months ago, but it was his nephew Eoin Cody that stole the show with a real scintillating captain’s performance.
The Shamrocks Ballyhale man was the standout player, and rightly took the MOTM award at the end having notched 6 wonderful points from play. His fellow clubmen, TJ Reid, Adrian Mullen and Darragh Corcoran contributed 0-13 to their county’s total of 0-28.
The game certainly flowed – referee Johnny Muphy did his best to let both teams go at it. The Galway supporters and their manager were not altogether happy with some of the Limerick whistler’s decisions, but overall, I think his performance allowed the spectacle to develop. If anything, there could have been a couple of red cards dished out to men in maroon and their goal scorer Brian Concannon, took as many steps as an Olympic long jumper before shooting beyond Eoin Murphy, who by the way had an outstanding game between the sticks.
Derek Lyng will have been disappointed not to take maximum points from this group game, but I’d say both these teams may well face-off in a Leinster Final in due course.
Next up for the Cats is a trip north to take on the Saffrons of Antrim in Corrigan Park. The early season meeting in February proved a little trickier than it should have. The black and amber will need to be focused and professional and make sure they come back over the border with maximum points.
It’s building nicely.