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John Gardiner: 'Great goal but Galway need much more from Joe Canning'

The views of The42′s hurling analyst on the weekend’s action.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IT WASN’T KILKENNY’S greatest performance overall but still good enough to win today’s Leinster hurling final.

Galway came with the performance we expected from them. They were well in the game and tore into Kilkenny, trying to match them physically in that first 20 minutes.

The difference was that Kilkenny were still able to pick off their scores whereas Galway had to work that bit harder to trouble the scoreboard operator.

Both defences appeared to be on top but Kilkenny had that extra bit of class and craft to keep things ticking over.

And yet Galway scored goals at ideal times, just before and after half-time.

With all of the possession they had and the good work their backs did, they just lacked that bit of composure to play the ball nicely into their forwards and get Joe Canning on the ball a bit more.

They’re still a relatively good position ahead of the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

They didn’t go up and get blown out of the water. You’d usually expect Kilkenny in the first half to throw some knockout punches but Galway hung in there.

TJ Reid celebrates scoring a goal TJ Reid was in top form for Kilkenny. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Kilkenny are so good at absorbing body blows and holding off the opposition. Galway are still well set for the rest of the season but Kilkenny and Tipp are still ahead of the chasing pack.

Galway lead the posse pursuing the big two and the rest are playing catch up after that.

Joe’s goal is worth mentioning. It was a super effort and a great ball from Andy Smith from left to right.

Joe still had so much work to do but he took the ball on the turn and finished beautifully.

Only a handful of players could score a goal like that but while it’s hard to be critical of the guy, Galway still need more out of him.

Having said that, if he was playing in that Kilkenny team we’d be talking about an all-time great.

He’s not getting the opportunities to win medals and could end up in the shadows of guys with far less ability.

All eyes were on the battle between Joe and Joey Holden, who did well for Kilkenny.

Joey Holden lifts the cup Joey Holden lifts the Bob O'Keeffe Cup for Kilkenny. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

This was a step up for Holden and Ger Aylward, to see if they could follow on from promising displays against Wexford.

Aylward picked off his few scores and Holden stood firm on the edge of the square. There can be no issues with his display as he was safe under the 50-50 balls.

The only fella under any real pressure was Jackie Tyrrell and I don’t know why that was. Other than that, Kilkenny seemed comfortable, dogged at the back and never left exposed bar the two goals.

The biggest difference was Kilkenny’s ability to win ball. Cyril Donnellan won a few for Galway, as did Joe, but Kilkenny have TJ Reid, Richie Hogan, Ger Aylward and Eoin Larkin capable of doing it.

Some of the Kilkenny players might not be the sweetest of hurlers but Brian Cody loves workrate and they have it in abundance.

On Saturday night, meanwhile, Cork got their campaign back on track in the qualifiers against Wexford. I’m still not convinced about this team.

Conor Lehane celebrates scoring the first goal of the game Conor Lehane was good for Cork but huge question marks remain over the team. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

There was a massive fadeout in the second half and why on earth did Wexford opt to play against the wind after winning the toss?

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What they needed was a good start, hang in there and be close with ten minutes to go.

From Cork’s viewpoint, it looked like the game was over at half-time and Conor Lehane was annihilating the Wexford full-back line.

I mentioned in a previous column how I couldn’t believe how Cork left Patrick Horgan on Noel Connors in the Munster semi-final against Waterford.

He was out around the half-forward line on Saturday and this suited him much better.

Cormac Murphy was another player under pressure against Waterford but he had a fine gme, as did Mark Ellis.

Cork will have to improve for next weekend and if they don’t hang in the game for 70 minutes, they’ll bow out.

Davy Fitzgerald Davy Fitzgerald's Clare are the most dangerous team left in the qualifiers. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The most dangerous team remaining in the qualifiers is Clare.

I just feel that with the way Davy Fitzgerald lets them up, they remain a little restricted.

If he lets them off the leash, they could be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

Monday morning’s draw will make for interesting reading and next Saturday will throw up two cracking qualifiers. Four will become two as Cork, Clare, Limerick and Dublin await their championship fate.

It’s finally hotting up but Kilkenny remain the team to beat in the race for Liam MacCarthy.

Awesome Kilkenny claim another Leinster senior hurling crown

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John Gardiner

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