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Galway's attack dazzles, Kilkenny's remarkable spirit and All-Ireland challenges await

Galway march on as Leinster champions while Kilkenny head to the All-Ireland quarter-final stage.

David Burke with the Leinster senior hurling trophy after Galway's victory.
David Burke with the Leinster senior hurling trophy after Galway's victory.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Galway’s unbeaten run continues

11 championship outings for the Galway senior hurlers since their narrow 2016 All-Ireland semi-final reversal to Tipperary and they are still to suffer a defeat. Last Sunday was the first time that they had not won a game in that time frame but that draw preceded a victory today that will fuel their belief for the Croke Park clashes ahead.

Micheál Donoghue will be pleased at how his side handled this game, the explosive start where they looked set to obliterate Kilkenny when racing 1-9 to 0-1 ahead after 19 minutes and the composed finish when they pointed their way to victory after seeing the Cats approach within a single point on the scoreboard. A second successive provincial crown is a fine springboard for them as they enter the All-Ireland series.

2. Kilkenny’s spirit surfaces once more

The cast of names on the pitch may change – and particularly over the last couple of seasons as star names have departed and young blood enters the fray – but Brian Cody continues to send resilient Kilkenny outfits into action. The outlook was bleak when they only mustered a single point in the opening 20 minutes of action and had conceded 1-9. With two minutes of the first half remaining, they were 12 points in arrears. Yet as daunting a scenario as it seemed they had to face, Kilkenny’s drive never wavered.

They got the boost of a Ger Aylward goal before the interval and then blew holes in the Galway rearguard to bag two more goals in the third quarter. Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly made their presence felt when introduced, while Cillian Buckley, James Maher and TJ Reid powered the team forward. Defeat was Kilkenny’s lot as Galway reasserted their authority in the finale but there was plenty to admire again in the competitive streak that burns inside the Kilkenny camp.

Michael Donoghue with Brian Cody Micheál Donoghue with Brian Cody at the final whistle in Thurles. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Attack dazzles for Galway in replay

In the 10 championship ties that Galway have played before today since the start of 2017, they have only failed twice to raise 20-plus white flags. The first occasion was when striking 18 points in this year’s opener against Offaly but they rifled home five goals that night. The second occurrence was last Sunday when Kilkenny’s feat in restricting them to 0-18 was impressive.

During last year’s All-Ireland winning run, Galway’s average points total was 27.6 across five games in a campaign that did not yield a goal. Their point-scoring ability is a chief weapon in their armoury but after their high standards dipped last Sunday, normal service resumed today. By the interval alone Galway had shot over 16 points and after a lull in the third quarter, they fired over eight of the game’s last ten points from the 55th minute onwards.

Cathal Mannion wreaked havoc with a 0-6 haul while Joe Canning and Conor Whelan both weighed in with 0-4 apiece from open play. Galway had nine different scorers, profited from the focal point Jonathan Glynn offered at the edge of the square and in general showcased how lethal they can be up front when they hit their stride.

Paddy Deegan and Conor Whelan Kilkenny's Paddy Deegan challenges Galway's Conor Whelan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. Quick turnaround facing Kilkenny

There is little time for Kilkenny to dwell on their heroics in turning this encounter into such a contest after that wretched opening to the match. They must switch their focus from retrospective glances at Leinster to consider the looming challenge of Limerick next weekend in an All-Ireland quarter-final tie.

Kilkenny have held the whip hand of late in ties against Limerick – triumphing in a 2012 quarter-final, 2014 semi-final and 2017 qualifier. Those have been stern examinations of their credentials though and Kilkenny’s recent schedule is not of major assistance now. Partaking for a third weekend in a row will be punishing after this pair of hectic battles against Galway. It’s a challenge they will seek to rise to.

5. Champions at head of pack entering All-Ireland series

James Owen sounded the final whistle in Semple Stadium this afternoon to draw a line under the provincial hurling fare for 2018. The new round-robin formats in Leinster and Munster have delivered a bunch of pulsating contests but culminated in a familiar pair clutching silverware as Galway and Cork retained their crowns.

They will sit back to see what duo emerges next weekend as Clare, Wexford, Kilkenny and Limerick slug it out. The All-Ireland series sees the stakes raised considerably with the absence of 2016 champions Tipperary and 2017 finalists Waterford, indicative of a shift that has occurred.

The four All-Ireland quarter-finalists will be keen to revive their seasons while Cork are unbeaten and gunning to atone for last August’s semi-final stumble. But today’s showing in Thurles was confirmation that Galway are the pace-setters. The reigning champions look to be at the head of the pack as the final six enter the All-Ireland arena.

Galway hold off Kilkenny in second-half thriller and are crowned Leinster champions

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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