Late comeback not enough as Cats claim victory again

Kilkenny 4-21 Galway 2-26

An heroic fourth quarter comeback by the Galway senior hurlers was not enough to reclaim the Bob O’Keeffe Cup on Sunday in Croke Park as Kilkenny snatched victory from their grasp in the most devastating fashion possible, with Cillian Buckley’s goal the last action of an enthralling contest.

Having clawed their way back from eight points down to lead by two deep into injury time, Henry Shefflin’s side appeared poised to claim provincial honours for the first time since 2018, but Kilkenny dug deep when all appeared lost and Buckley broke Galway hearts with a somewhat fortuitous effort that somehow bobbled into the bottom corner.

Galway will have plenty of regrets that they didn’t deal with that situation in a far more clinical, or even cynical manner, but Shefflin’s arduous task this week will be to shift the group’s focus on to the upcoming challenge of a quarter final date on Saturday week, where they will more than likely face Tipperary.

The positives to take from the game were the character and resolve shown by the entire team to pull themselves back into contention. When John Donnelly split the posts on 50 minutes it was Kilkenny’s sixth point in a row and Galway appeared to have no answers.

Conor Whelan, though, was in no mood to surrender, and with an astute handpass into Jason Flynn’s path he set up Galway’s second goal only a minute later, having scored Galway’s first in the opening half. The Kinvara man ended with 1-6 and was rightly acknowledged as the game’s best player.

Further scores by Whelan and Evan Niland got Galway right back in the hunt before Kevin Cooney landed a couple of audacious scores from out on the Cusack Stand sideline. Kilkenny were now missing chances and a Niland free on 73 minutes edged Galway in front for the first time since the opening quarter.

Concannon made it a two-point game with another super effort, but ultimately it was Kilkenny captain Eoin Cody who stood on the steps of the Hogan Stand and lifted the provincial title for the fourth successive year, with Galway supporters left shellshocked by the outcome.

Earlier, Galway had been boosted by the return of Cathal Mannion to the team. He slotted in alongside Joseph Cooney in midfield, and the men in maroon were out of the traps in lightning fashion, building a 0-6 to 0-1 lead in no time.

Kilkenny, despite missing a few key players through injury, responded gamely with goals from Martin Keoghan and Walter Walsh putting them on the front foot with the Galway defence looking under pressure on multiple occasions. Kilkenny were winning most of the aerial battles, and Galway were slightly flattered to be level at the break.

Their excellent shooting efficiency throughout, though, was key to keeping them in the mix. If they can replicate that against their next opponents then there could be every right to be hopeful of a semi-final appearance against Limerick, who edged out Clare in the Munster final.

GALWAY: É Murphy; J Grealish, G McInerney, D Morrissey; P Mannion, D Burke, F Burke; J Cooney (0-1 ), C Mannion (0-1 ); T Monaghan, C Cooney, K Cooney (0-3 ); C Whelan (1-6 ), B Concannon (0-3 ), E Niland (0-12, 8fs ). Subs :J Flynn (1-0 ) for Monaghan (47 ), S Linnane for Cooney (60 ), T.J. Brennan for Morrissey (64 ).

Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin ).

 

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