GALWAY 1-12 KILKENNY 2-8
By John Harrington at Croke Park for gaa.ie
An injury-time point from substitute Enda Fahy sealed a hard-fought win for Galway over Kilkenny in today’s Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Hurling Semi-Final at Croke Park.
After a tight, tense struggle the balance was tipped in Galway’s favour in the closing minutes by the impact of their bench.
Before Fahy’s winner, another substitute, Donal Mannion, hit the equaliser for the Tribesmen and earlier had won the penalty that brought them back into the game after a jet-heeled run.
The penalty was converted by the excellent Jack Canning, who is a nephew of Joe and bears more than a passing resemblance to his uncle in the way he carries himself on the pitch and strikes the ball.
It was Galway who scored the first point of the match after just 30 seconds, and it was Canning who landed it brilliantly from a tight angle wide on the right.
But Kilkenny were quick to settle too, scoring a goal after three minutes.
It was delightful finish, as Jim Ryan rose high amongst a thicket of players to catch the ball and then drove towards goal before firing the sliotar to the back of the net.
The rest of the first-half struggled to live up to that explosive start to the game though.
A heavy shower of rain meant the players were having to cope with a slippy sod and sliotar, and that seemed to affect the quality of hurling.
Canning was one of the few players who was making light of the conditions though, and two more brilliant points from him kept Galway within touching distance of the Cats.
As the half progressed though, Kilkenny started coming out on top in most of the physical exchanges and the manner in which they hunted the Galway ball-carriers in attack was reminiscent of the Kilkenny senior team in their pomp.
But even though they were dominating possession, they were struggling to make it count at the business end of the field.
Team captain Adrian Mullen has been their go-to guy in attack all year, but he was being well-marshalled by Galway’s captain Darren Morrissey, so that dulled Kilkenny’s attacking edge.
Mullen did have one good chance when he cleanly struck a ground-shot towards goal, but Galway goalkeeper Darach Fahy pulled off a brilliant diving save.
So even though they were the dominant force, Kilkenny could only manage to bring a 1-6 to 0-6 lead into the dressing-room at half-time.
Galway started the second-half brightly as Conor Walsh landed a free and then Canning hit his fourth point of the day after a brilliant catch.
But it looked like Kilkenny had then seized the initiative again when they struck for their second-goal of the match.
When Galway failed to clear their lines Eoin Cody fired off a shot on goal, and though it was well saved by Darach Fahy, the Kilkenny corner-forward was able to bat the rebound to the back of the net.
Critically, Galway hit back with a goal of their own just two minutes later.
Mannion won the ball on the ’45 yard line and set off on an explosively quick run that took him all the way to the Kilkenny square before he was felled illegally.
Canning stepped up, and drilled the ball low and hard to the back of the net to bring Galway within one point again.
The remaining 25 minutes of the game was ferociously contested as both sets of backs hurled manfully.
It was the Galway attack who started to threaten more in the latter stages of the match though.
Corner-forward Sean Bleahane thundered into the contest with two really classy points, and then those two subs Mannion and Fahy applied the final flourish.
It was a fine win by the young Tribesmen, and they now advance to the All-Ireland Final where they will play either Cork or Dublin.
Scorers for Kilkenny: Eoin Cody 1-1, Adrian Mullen 0-4 (3f), Jim Ryan 1-0, James Brennan 0-1, Niall Brassil 0-1, Eoin O’Shea 0-1
Scorers for Galway: Jack Canning 1-4 (1-0 pen), Sean Bleahane 0-3, Conor Walsh 0-2 (2f), Conor Molloy 0-1, Donal Mannion 0-1, Enda Fahy 0-1
KILKENNY: Dean Mason; Tommy Ronan, Michael Carey, Darragh Walsh; James Brennan, Conor Flynn, Jordon Molloy; John Dowd, Niall Brassil; Eoin O’SHea, Conor Heary, Jim Ryan; Eoin Cody, Adrian Mullen, Sean Ryan. Subs: Daithi Barron for Sean Ryan (48), Jack Kelly for Eoin O’Shea (51), Niall Brennan for Jim Ryan (57)
GALWAY: Darach Fahy; Caimin Killeen, Daniel Loftus, Darren Morrissey; Ronan Glennon, Conor Caulfield, Mark Gill; Conor Fahey, John Fleming; Martin McManus, Conor Walsh, Ben Moran; Sean Bleahane, Conor Molloy, Jack Canning. Subs: Donal Mannion for Conor Molloy (34), Shane Ryan for John Fleming (34), Conor Elwood for Ben Moran (46), Enda Fahy for Martin McManus (53).
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)