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Dublin: 21 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019
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Even in defeat, TJ Reid gave one of his greatest ever displays yesterday

Kilkenny’s talisman almost dragged his team over the line with a sublime haul of 2-11 against Galway at Nowlan Park.

TJ Reid celebrates scoring a goal TJ Reid celebrates scoring a goal. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

GALWAY’S SUPERB VICTORY over Kilkenny yesterday was a significant result for Micheal Donoghue’s side given the Joe Canning-sized hole in their attack.

Their forward division struggled in his absence in recent weeks. The Tribesmen scored a paltry 0-16 against Wexford in the previous round, but they produced a far slicker attacking display against the Cats – finishing with 3-17 from play.

Conor Whelan – their most consistent scoring threat so far this summer – and Brian Concannon shot 1-2 apiece, while Cathal Mannion clipped over eight points from midfield. 

It’s completely understandable that Galway’s attack would struggle when a player of Canning’s class is removed from their forward line. How would Limerick fare without Aaron Gillane or Cork minus Patrick Horgan?

TJ Reid’s heroics in Nowlan Park yesterday underlined just how important he is for Kilkenny, as if we didn’t know already.

TJ Reid before the game Reid before the game. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

He was extremely unlucky to find himself on the losing side. With only one other home forward contributing more than two points from play (Billy Ryan) there are question marks around their over-reliance on the Ballyhale Shamrocks ace.

His 2-12 tally almost single-handedly helped Brian Cody’s men past Dublin a month ago and he fired 2-11 against Galway in what must go down as one of the greatest ever individual displays at the historic venue.

Indeed, both Ken McGrath and Tommy Walsh wondered afterwards if it was Reid’s best game for the black and amber. That’s quite the statement given the number of times he’s performed heroics for the county in the past.

Reid

He had 18 possessions on Sunday, a high number for a half-forward, and scored 2-4 from play. He completed nine of his 10 passes to team-mates and converted seven of his nine shots from placed balls.

In total, Reid’s shooting accuracy was 85% and both his wides were from at least the 65m line.

Galway started off with Padraic Mannion man-marking the number 12, but after Reid took the All-Star wing-back for two points early on, Gearoid McInerney assumed the responsibility.

McInerney had hardly switched onto the 31-year-old when the sharpshooter had the ball in the net for the first time. Constantly switching positions, Reid was stationed on the right flank when a long delivery towards Colin Fennelly wasn’t dealt with by Mannion. 

McInerney and Aidan Harte challenged Fennelly, while Reid ghosted unmarked in behind – taking the chance that the ball would come his way. Fennelly obliged, holding off the two Galway defenders and handpassing into Reid for a drilled finish past Colm Callanan.

Nothing highlighted Reid’s importance to the Kilkenny cause as he put his county on his back in the second-half.

When Paul Murphy was sent-off on a second yellow card for persistent fouling in the 49th minute, Cathal Mannion stroked over the free to push Galway 1-19 to 1-13 clear. Kilkenny looked in serious bother and Cody wore a concerned expression on the sideline.

As he did for the previous two puck-outs, goalkeeper Darren Brennan launched his restart on top of Reid in the left-half forward position. He muscled his way in front of Gearoid McInerney and fetched the ball from the sky, before somehow spinning away from two men and slotting over the bar. 

Reid1 Source: RTE

(Click here if you can’t view the clip above)

Galway responded immediately with Brian Concannon’s goal to push them seven clear, but at the far end McInerney was struggling to handle Reid.

Fennelly hit with a point and then Reid won a free he converted himself. Five minutes, the three-time All-Star later rattled the back of the Galway net for a second time. 

On this occasion, Brennan’s wind-assisted puck-out was spilled into Reid’s path as McInerney found himself caught under the ball and screened by Mannion.

The Ballyhale man had the presence of mind to spot John Hanbury coming in on his blindside and take an extra touch to bring him one-on-one with Callanan. He simply doesn’t miss chances like that. 

Kilkenny scored 1-9 after Murphy’s dismissal, of which Reid contributed 1-6 as Galway repeatedly fouled when the Cats ran at them.

The hosts finished with 13 men following Ger Aylward’s second yellow card and kept Galway scoreless after Johnny Coen’s 60th-minute goal, but were unable to steal a late equaliser.

Kilkenny now head for the cauldron of Wexford Park on Saturday night knowing that avoiding defeat will set-up a rematch with Galway in the Leinster final.  

As for Reid, he’s now scored a whopping 5-35 in his three championship games to date, averaging over 16 points per game. Out of Kilkenny’s 7-67 tally so far this summer, Reid has contributed 57%.

He is 11 points clear of his nearest challenger, Cork’s Patrick Horgan (2-33), in the All-Ireland SHC scoring charts.

When all is said and done, he could well go down as the best Kilkenny hurler of all-time.

After biding his time in the early years on the bench, Reid has blossomed into one of the greatest performers in the history of the sport, a rare superstar who gets better as the stakes get higher.

As long as he’s in their ranks the Cats remain in the hunt for the Liam MacCarthy. No other contender rely on their star man as much as Kilkenny do with Reid, but when you’ve got the best hurler in the land on your team, what else can you do?

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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