BY NIALL SHERRY
Injury time drama in Salthill showdown
Leinster Senior Hurling ChampionshiP
Pearse Stadium, Salthill,
Galway emerged 1-point victor’s following an enthralling encounter at Pearse Stadium last Sunday, where drama was certainly in no short supply. It appeared that Kilkenny had secured a share of the spoils when John Donnelly’s injury-time shot, deflected off the home keeper and across the line to bring the sides level at a windy Salthill.
The home sides goalkeeper, Éanna Murphy could have been forgiven for dropping his head and wishing that the Pearse Stadium turf would swallow him up, but he did exactly the opposite, and took a quick re-start. His searching puck-out was arrowed in the direction of Tom Monaghan, who had been outstanding over the course of the near-75 minutes of action.
Kilkenny centre-half back Paddy Deegan charged towards the unmarked Monaghan and strongly contested the Galway puck-out. The O’Loughlin’s man appeared to flick the ball away from his tribesman opponent, but Cork whistler Colm Lyons adjudged the challenge illegal and awarded the contentious injury-time free to the westerners. St Thomas’s Conor Cooney stepped up and slotted over what was his 6th point from the placed ball, and arguably his most important to secure a famous one-point win for Henry Shefflin’s side.
Let’s go back to the start of proceedings in Salthill. The crowd, a little over 14,000, was less than many had predicted would attend to witness the master vs the apprentice. But those that did, were given full value for money as both sides contributed to a game that felt like a ‘winner takes all’ encounter.
Captain for the day, Eoin Cody elected to play against the wind in the opening period, and Galway were quick off the mark as they raced into a 3-point lead, including two in the first minute, thanks to scores from the Mannion’s, Padraic and Cathal, along with one from Killmordaly forward, Brian Concannon.
The Cats got on the score board shortly after, thanks to a nice point from Tullaroan’s Padraig Walsh. Another Walsh, Tullogher-Rosbercon’s Walter then struck over a lovely point having taken possession from Eoin Cody and going on one of his trade mark runs, to reduce the gap to just one, with just under four minutes on the clock.
Brian Cody’s side then struck what was to be the first of three majors on the day, in the fifth minute. Walter had dropped deep for the Galway puck-out and collected the ball before firing a lovely pass to the illusive Eoin Cody. The Ballyhale man out-fought and out witted a number of maroon-shirted defenders, including his then marker, Jack Grealish, before unleashing a one-handed strike which gave goalkeeper Éanna Murphy no chance. This put the visitors two ahead and left manager Shefflin scratching his head, following his side’s fast start.
Eoin Cody’s pace and movement was causing the Galway defence problems, and the diminutive attacker was then fouled as he looked to escape the clutches of his marker. TJ stepped up to take his first free of the day, but he somehow struck his effort wide, much to the disbelief of all in attendance.
Galway free-taker Conor Cooney then punished this miss by slotting over a free from deep inside his own half, demonstrating the significant wind advantage that his side had at their backs in the first half. Another great catch from Walter allowed him to drive forward, show great stick work and rifle over fine point in the ninth minute. Another of the St Thomas’s contingent, Fintan Burke, then showed great skill and technique, when he pointed from a sideline cut out on the left, to leave just one between the teams again.
From the puck-out, Eoin Murphy found centre-forward Padraig Walsh, who wasted no time in splitting the posts, and again show why he has been deployed further up the pitch this season. Tom Monaghan then fired over a lovely point, his first of the day, as the home crowd found their voices. Placed ball specialist, Conor Cooney then sent over a monster free from his own ‘45 to level things up on 12 minutes. Some sloppy play in the Kilkenny defence was then punished by Cianan Fahy, who raised a white flag, before Fintan Burke repeated his sideline cut exploits when he sweetly struck over a carbon copy to put Galway two points ahead.
TJ Reid who was struggling to get into the game, then pointed his first free of the day, against the wind, to keep his side in touch. Kilkenny’s second major of the day then followed. A lovely pass from Mikey Carey was collected by the electric Eoin Cody who set-off for the Galway goal. As the defence closed in, Cody had the presence of mind to strike a hard pass to the supporting Billy Ryan, who cut inside his man before dispatching a firm low shot beyond the keeper to the back of the tribesmen’s net. The Cats now led by two.
Galway number 14, Brian Concannon then showed some nifty stick work and wrist movement to fire over a point from what appeared to be an impossible angle, close to the end line to leave just the minimum between the sides, with almost 17 minutes played. Scoring efficiency was very much Galway’s strength, as they had scored from all eight attempts in the opening quarter. Another long-range free from Conor Cooney deadlocked matters again.
The home side were working really hard, they had the look of a Brian Cody – managed Kilkenny. Hunting in packs, aggressive in the tackle and covering every blade of grass, there was no doubt that Galway were up for this game, and wanted to deliver for Ballyhale’s Henry Shefflin. Sarsfields Joseph Cooney then capitalised on a rare Paddy Deegan mistake and fired over a point, to edge the hosts ahead. One point could well have been three, had it not been for the scrambled Kilkenny defence.
Padraig Walsh then battled hard to secure possession, before passing to TJ, who fired over his first and only score from play. Reid then pointed from the placed ball after his club mate, Eoin Cody was again the subject of some over-aggressive tackling by the Galway defence.
The tribesmen then raised their only green flag of the day with almost 24 minutes on the clock. Again, some unusually sloppy play in the Cats defence, starting with keeper Eoin Murphy’s loppy hand-pass, saw Shefflin’s charges take possession. Cianan Fahy found Brian Concannon, who passed to late inclusion, Johnny Coen, and the Loughrea man fired beyond Murphy in the Kilkenny goal. With the wind at their backs, and their tails up, Galway smelt blood and set about ravaging their more illustrious opponents.
The impressive Tom Monaghan then powered forward from midfield and slotted over a fine point. This was quickly added to with points by corner-forward, Cathal Mannion and midfielder Joseph Cooney, who intercepted an under-hit pass from Eoin Murphy that was meant for Mikey Carey, before adding to his side’s points total. This was yet another example of the sloppy play that was contributing to the rising number of turnovers forced by Shefflin’s team. Five points down, Brian Cody had seen enough and made a change with just 30 minutes on the clock. Glenmore’s Alan Murphy replaced St Lachtain’s James Maher in midfield, as the Kilkenny boss sought to toughen things up in the engine room.
To compound his somewhat mixed performance, TJ then struck another wide via the placed ball. Something didn’t seem right with the legendary hurler’s game. It was now some eight minutes since the Cats troubled the umpire’s flags. Craughwell’s Tom Monaghan then registered another fine score for the home side, before his midfield partner in crime, Joseph Cooney rifled over a lovely point from half way.
Galway led by seven in the 34th minute. Kilkenny needed a score, and it would be last year’s captain, Adrian Mullen that provided it. The Shamrocks star showed great strength and battling qualities before striking over a fine point, as the first half entered additional time. Referee Colm Lyons then blew for the interval with a score line, Galway 1-17, Kilkenny 2-8.
Henry Shefflin will no doubt have been reasonably satisfied by his charges first half efforts. They had outscored the Cats, 1-8 to 0-3 in the 2nd quarter. More worrying for Brian Cody would have been the fact that 1-10 of the oppositions half-time total came from turnovers. Galway were doing a Kilkenny on Kilkenny.
As the sides emerged from the Pearse Stadium changing rooms, there was one noticeable absentee, TJ Reid. Conahy Shamrocks Tom Phelan had been sent on to replace the Ballyhale man. Alan Murphy had been practicing free-taking before the home side took to the field and this was clearly the reason.
The tribesmen opened the scoring in the second period, thanks to a monster free struck by Conor Cooney, inside his own ‘65. This would be the only score the home side would muster until the 56th minute. Alan Murphy then slotted over a cracking point from play, as Brian Cody became increasingly animated on the sideline. You could clearly see the manager asking his players to lift the intensity.
Kilkenny’s outfield Murphy then struck a long range free from his own ‘65, after Adrian Mullen was fouled. From the Galway puck out, Walter picked up possession and showed his growing confidence by striking over a stunning long-range point. Alan Murphy then fired over another free, again from around his own ‘65, as the Cats sought to claw-back the westerner’s lead. David Blanchfield was then introduced in place of the Village’s Conor Browne. Galway also sprung star-man Conor Whelan from the bench, as they looked to use the Kinvara man’s attacking prowess to see them home.
The powerful direct running of Tom Monaghan almost produced a second Galway goal on 45 minutes. It took a save of the highest order from All-Star goalkeeper Eoin Murphy to deny the free-scoring midfielder. Kilkenny then pointed via Walter Walsh after good work from Graigue-Ballycallan’s Billy Ryan. There was just 2 points between the sides with 47 minutes of blood and thunder gone.
Young Irelands Mikey Carey then hit a magnificent point to make it a one-point game. The home supporters began to shift a little uneasily in their seats. The sides were level for the fourth time on 55 minutes when Eoin Cody pointed after some lovely play. Kilkenny had tagged on seven points, to just the one from the home side. Thomastown’s John Donnelly entered the fray, in place of Dicksboro’s Cillian Buckley.
Shefflin’s men then got just their second score of the half in the 56th minute. Bustling full-forward Brian Concannon sent over a nice point to help settle the Galway nerves. Midfielder Cooney then sent over a lovely point from out on the left, before Conor Cooney pointed after taking Fintan Burke’s short side line cut. The men in maroon had now edged 3 points ahead. Kilkenny substitute Tom Phelan was then illegally stopped as he made for the Galway goal. Alan Murphy popped over the resulting free and his 4th score since being introduced in the first half.
Conor Cooney, who had been near flawless from the dead ball, then struck an almighty free from near enough his own ‘45, into the wind to bring the home crowd to their feet. The Noresiders then sent on Mossy Keoghan in place of goal scorer, Billy Ryan as they sought to add a touch more physicality to their attack. Eoin Cody, who appeared to be on his 100th marker of the day, was again fouled and Alan Murphy pointed from the placed ball on 66 minutes to leave his side trailing by 2 points.
Free-taker Cooney then turned provider, as he set up Concannon for his 4th point of the game to leave Henry’s men three ahead as the game entered 3 minutes of additional time. Surely Kilkenny’s race was run. As the saying goes, Kilkenny are never beaten, till their on the bus home. A long ball into the Galway defence resulted in a little bit of pinball, before Eoin Cody emerged with the ball. The Cats most dangerous attacker on display somehow managed to pop a pass to John Donnelly and the Thomastown star struck a fierce shot towards the home sides goal. In his attempt to block Donnelly’s effort, keeper Éanna Murphy diverted the shot to his own net. Goal. The sides were now level again. Surely time was up.
The Galway keeper restarted the game while the Kilkenny travelling support rejoiced. Then came the most contentious decision of the game, as Cork referee Lyons signaled for a free to the home side for what he deemed to be a foul on Tom Monaghan by Paddy Deegan. Conor Cooney stepped up and after a slight delay, slotted over the pressure free to give his side a 1-point victory in Salthill. Final score, Galway 1-24, Kilkenny 3-17.
Scorers for Galway: C Cooney (0-6, 0-6 frees); B Concannon, J Cooney (0-4 each); T Monaghan (0-3); J Coen (1-0); F Burke (0-2 sidelines), C Mannion (0-2 each); D Burke, P Mannion, C Fahy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilkenny: E Cody (1-2); A Murphy (0-5, 0-4 frees); T Reid (0-3, 0-2 frees), W Walsh (0-3 each); B Ryan, J Donnelly (1-0 each) P Walsh (0-2); M Carey, A Mullen (0-1 each).
Galway: É Murphy; D Morrissey, Daithí Burke, J Grealish; P Mannion, G McInerney, F Burke; J Coen, David Burke; T Monaghan, C Cooney, J Cooney; C Mannion, C Fahy, B Concannon.
Subs: T Killeen for Grealish (temporary, 40-41); C Whelan for Fahy (45); G Lee for Grealish (53); TJ Brennan for Coen (72).
Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, T Walsh; M Carey, P Deegan, C Browne; J Maher, A Mullen; W Walsh, P Walsh, C Buckley; E Cody, B Ryan, TJ Reid.
Subs: A Murphy for Maher (30); T Phelan for Reid (HT); D Blanchfield for Browne (43); J Donnelly for Buckley (55); M Keoghan for B Ryan (66).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).
>> SHERRY SAYS…..
The Salthill showdown. Shefflin vs Cody. May Bank Holiday weekend. This was the fixture that everyone looked to when the draw was made for the group stages of the Leinster Championship.
In terms of excitement, energy, aggression, skill and the usual twists and turns of championship hurling, this game had it all…and then some!
Kilkenny went against the wind in the opening period and found themselves 6 down at the interval. The wind advantage was probably worth the lead that Henry’s men had gained. Having said that, had it not been for a couple of uncharacteristic misses from TJ, the Cats may have been a little closer at the break.
From the throw-in, TJ didn’t look like his normal self. His manager pulled him ashore at half time. The Shamrocks man had notched 3 points in his 35 minutes of action. Don’t worry, TJ will be back.
The most dangerous of Kilkenny’s attackers was captain for the day, Eoin Cody. This was the most encouraging sight for the black and amber faithful watching the Salthill spectacle. Cody must have had nearly all the Galway defenders marking him at some stage of this epic contest. It was only when Henry Shefflin deployed Padraic Mannion on the Ballyhale attacking star did Cody’s influence lessen.
The introduction of Alan Murphy proved instrumental in Kilkenny getting back into the game, especially in the second half. The Glenmore man has been unlucky not to start the last couple of games. His free-taking was exemplary and he ended up hitting 0-5 in total.
Along with Eoin Cody, I feel Walter Walsh was the next best in terms of his overall contribution to his side’s attacking threat. It really is a delight to see the Tullogher-Rosbercon man fit and firing, and looking like the player we all know was there. His powerful runs, aerial ability and non-stop work-rate make Walter a must on the current starting XV.
In defence, the O’Loughlin’s spine of Lawlor and Deegan did well and this will be encouraging was we get deeper into championship hurling. Tommy Walsh and Mikey Carey have shown enough to suggest that they will become regular fixtures in the Cats defensive unit.
Ok, I think it’s now time to address the major talking point of last week’s Salthill encounter, the ‘elephant in the room’. Paddy Deegan DID NOT foul Tom Monaghan for the injury-time free that gave Galway the chance to snatch victory.
Colm Lyons, for my money, had done a really good job for the majority of the game. He played some, good advantages, tried to allow the game to flow and let the players get stuck-in, as should be the case in championship hurling.
I for one would demand that Paddy Deegan goes for the next ball in exactly the same manner.
Well done to Galway. Hopefully we will see you again.