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Galway's collapse, impact of Richie Hogan - Kilkenny Galway talking points

We take a look at the talking points after Kilkenny stormed past Galway to reign supreme in Leinster again.

1. Another second-half collapse by Galway against Kilkenny

MORAL OF THE story after today’s Leinster final: Write off Kilkenny at your peril.

Riche Hogan celebrates a score Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 2016 Leinster SHC final looked a lot like the 2015 All-Ireland final between the same teams. Things start out with promise as Galway pressurise Kilkenny and physically assert themselves on the game. The Cats appear flat in the first-half but only trail by three at interval. Kilkenny turn up the heat after the restart, coming out on top in the rucks and skirmishes as Galway’s attacking threat becomes completely toothless. Galway lose shape and the champions run out comfortable winners.

History repeated itself and despite all the talk about Tipperary, Waterford and Clare this season, Brian Cody’s men proved one thing – Kilkenny are still the standard bearers in the country and they are not finished yet. Not by a long shot.

Collapsing in the second-half is becoming an all too familiar occurrence for this Galway group. They quite clearly have not learned from the mistakes they made in last year’s All-Ireland final when they carried a three point lead into the second half. This isn’t an issue of fitness, it’s clearly a mental one. There’s only so long you can keep losing to the same opponents and not suffer psychologically.

Michael Fennelly and Joey Holden celebrate after the game Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Galway had a lack of leaders after half-time and several big names failed to show up again in Croke Park. In their last three championship meetings with Kilkenny, Galway have been outscored by 1-44 to 2-20 in the second-half of those games.

The squad made their bed last winter by ousting Anthony Cunningham, a man who brought them to two All-Ireland finals. With Michael Donoghue in charge, it was the same old story as the Tribesmen flattered to deceive after half-time. They went through the motions and showed no stomach for the fight when the game was in the balance. At some point you have to look past the management and question the players. Why does this keep happening?

When you change the manager but the same old failings show up, maybe it’s not the one in the bainisteoir bib who is responsible. Maybe it’s the players that’s the problem.

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Richie Hogan, TJ Reid, selector Martin Dempsey and Walter Walsh Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

2. Impact of Richie Hogan

If there was ever a time you’d forgive Richie Hogan a bad performance it was today. The 2014 Hurler of the Year was returning from a broken hand when he pulled his hamstring at training last week. He was summoned from the bench at half-time and entered a game where Kilkenny were struggling to impose themselves. But Hogan turned this tie on its head with one of the great displays from a substitute we’ve seen at HQ.

No county outside of Kilkenny could keep a player of Hogan’s quality in reserve. His impact was more far-reaching than the five points he contributed from play.

When you bring on a replacement you want him to get on the ball early and settle quickly into the game. Within ten minutes of his introduction, Hogan had posted three points. All of a sudden Kilkenny looked like a different animal.

An important side-effect of Hogan’s introduction was that Cody moved TJ Reid out to half-forward. Reid’s influence in the first period was limited to placed balls but switching him to the middle third provided the Ballyhale Shamrocks forward with a new lease of life.

Reid controlled the game from further out the field, winning plenty of possession and providing the platform for Hogan to do the damage inside. Daithi Burke, who had kept Reid quiet in the first-half, followed him outfield but he couldn’t keep up with Reid in open country.

Burke’s absence from the full-back line also left Galway more vulnerable inside and Hogan capitalised on that.

Galway had their match-ups spot-on in the opening half, but Cody made the key switches after the break. Another smart move by Cody was to move Walter Walsh to corner-forward. Walsh had been well marshaled by Gearoid McInerney in the first-half on the wing, but it was a mismatch in the second period when Walsh moved inside.

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Brian Cody Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Brian Cody’s remarkable provincial record

Brian Cody has become the most successful provincial manager of all-time. The unfortunate thing for Kilkenny’s rivals is their dominance shows no sign of abating. Cody retired as a primary school principal last year, giving him even more time to devote to inter-county management.

Not many teams across any sport can turn their performance around at the flick of a switch like Kilkenny did in the second-half. They were 0-13 to 0-10 down at the break after a limp start to the game. After the restart they were almost unrecognisable.

What was said at half-time? There was no repeat of Jackie Tyrell’s impassioned half-time speech from last year’s All-Ireland final according to skipper Lester Ryan.

“Last year we had great stories coming out about Jackie Tyrrell breaking hurls in the dressing room but not this year,” Ryan told RTE Radio 1 after the game.

“[Brian told us to] take your time and think about yourself. There was no banging hurls or banging walls.

“[He told us] just to think about what you’ve given so far and what you need to give in the second-half. That’s all it was, just a realisation that in 35 minutes time we were either going to be getting the cup or going home heartbroken.”

It worked. Kilkenny scored 1-7 in the 15 minutes after the restart to blow the Tribesmen away

Jonjo Farrell continued his break-out campaign  by scoring 1-4, while Hogan and John Power made a massive impact after the break. Cody showed his trademark ruthless streak by whipping off Eoin Larkin and Colin Fennelly after 35 minutes.

Conor Fogarty had a fine game at midfield and his incisive run set up Farrell’s critical goa. Kilkenny’s entire half back line dominated in the second-half set-up countless attacks as Cillian Buckley and Padraic Walsh mopped up the breaking ball.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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