Leinster GAA Hurling Championship Final: Galway 2-21 Kilkenny 2-11
Galway claimed a historic first-ever Leinster GAA Hurling Championship title with a remarkable win over Kilkenny at Croke Park on Sunday.
Kilkenny were bidding for an eighth successive provincial title, but the Tribesmen enjoyed a stunning first half, totally dominated after Joe Canning hammered home a third minute goal.
Galway raced into a 1-6 to 0-0 lead with Kilkenny taking a full 20 minutes before Henry Shefflin finally hit their first score of the game.
Three minutes later Galway snatched a second goal through the livewire David Burke and led by 2-12 to 0-4 at the break.
Inevitably, the Cats came back in the second half when Galway’s ferocity and relentless workrate abated slightly, with Richie Hogan and Henryt Shefflin hitting goals in the 44th and 49th minutes.
But Kilkenny had left themselves too much to do and Galway held out for a thoroughly deserved win. Cyril Donnellan, who hit five points from play, and the peerless Canning guided the Tribesmen home in the closing stages, as they eventually ran out 10-point winners.
After what Kilkenny had done to Cork in the Allianz League final and then to Dublin in the Leinster semi-final, Galway had spoken of the need to make a positive start. They were electric from the very first whistle.
Niall Burke had them ahead inside two minutes with a score from play. The first goal quickly followed,Joe Canning fielding a high ball and smashing to the roof of the net. Galway were relentless in the opening stages, their two-man inside forward line constantly switching, while Damien Hayes made hay in his free role around the middle of the pitch. Galway were dominant in every area of the field. Joe Canning stitched three frees in a row together and David Collins sent over a beauty after great work by Conor Cooney as they led by 1-6 to 0-0.
Henry Shefflin finally registered Kilkenny’s first score in the 20th minute, but Galway were by no means done. Joe Canning andCyril Donnellan snuffed out Kilkenny's threatened revival with points before second Galway's goal, on 23 minutes. A clearance up the line was pounced on by David Burke, who sprinted onto the ball and drilled a low shot past Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity
Galway were humming, and David Burke and Cyril Donnellan were at the centre of all that was good about their play. Donnellan was inspired, hitting two points from play to give his side a 2-11 to 0-1 lead on the half hour mark.
By this stage, Kilkenny boss Brian Cody had brought on Michael Rice and Aidan Fogarty in a desperate bid to stem the relentless maroon tide. Richie Power finally hit their first and only point from play in the first half on 31 minutes, before Shefflin added two late frees.
Kilkenny did have one late goal chance, in the final play of the first half, when Eoin Larkin found some space and ran at the heart of the Galway defence, before passing to Cillian Buckley. However, Galway goalkeeper James Skehill came racing off his line and snuffed out the danger as Galway led by 2-12 to 0-4 at the end of a remarkable first half.
Donnellan picked up where he left off at the start of the second half, rifling over his fourth point of the day inside a minute of the restart.
But Kilkenny hit back by finding their first pocket of form in the game. A Shefflin free was quickly followed by a Michael Rice effort from play. The precious goal they craved soon followed.
Galway’s Andy Smith and Tony Óg Regan both lost the ball cheaply while in possession, and Kilkenny counter-attacked, with the ball eventually launched into the full-forward line where Power gathered it superbly and fed Richie Hogan, who smashed past Skehill.
Galway negated that goal by scoring the next three points, Canning proving a steadying influence with two crucial scores. Still, 13 points seemed like a precarious lead, and when the Cats hit a second goal, Galway looked like they might be in some bother. Richie Hogan did brilliantly to retain the ball under the Hogan Stand and sent a diagonal ball in for Shefflin to come crashing through a thicket of bodies and steer it to the bottom corner of the net.
Kilkenny had the gap down to eight points by the 55th minute when they hit three scores without reply, all from Shefflin, before Canning once again soothed Galway’s nerves, which were further frayed by a string of wides in the final quarter, with two quick scores.
The expected Kilkenny comeback never really materialised, and fittingly it was left to Donnellan and Canning to register the final scores of a remarkable game.
Kilkenny Scorers: H Shefflin 1-8 (0-7f), R Power 0-2, M Rice 0-1, R Hogan 1-0
Galway Scorers: N Burke 0-2, J Canning 1-10 (0-7f), D Burke 1-2, C Donnellan 0-5, D Collins 0-1, D Hayes 0-1,
Kilkenny: D Herity; P Murphy, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, R Doyle; C Buckley, P Hogan; H Shefflin, TJ Reid, E Larkin, C Fennelly, R Power, R Hogan. Subs: A Fogarty for Fennelly (23), M Rice for P Hogan (27), M Ruth for Reid (58).
Galway: J Skehill; D Collins, K Hynes, F Moore; N Donoghue, T Regan, J Coen; I Tannian, A Smyth; D Burke, N Burke, C Donnellan; Cooney, Canning, Hayes. Subs: J Glynn for Cooney (52), J Regan for Tannian (57), T Haran for N Burke (61), J Cooney for Donnellan (71).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)