Three things we learned from Galway/Kilkenny
A last gasp free from Joe Canning means wesaw a first drawn All-Ireland hurling final since 1959. Fans were enthralled, Cody was fuming and King Henry showed his class.
By Declan Whooley
A draw left both sets of supporters with a sense of anti-climax at the final whistle and they now have three weeks to stew over the game. Galway showed that the Leinster Final was no fluke with a dominant display in the first-half, while a Shefflin-inspired performance dragged Kilkenny back into the contest before a grandstand finish. Here is what we learned from yesterday.
King Henry v The Joe Show
The pre-match billing rightly centred on the influence that both sharpshooters would have on their respective sides and the two men did not disappoint. Undoubtedly the two most important men on either side, Shefflin single-handedly dragged an under-performing side to the brink of victory before Canning saved the day with a coolly-taken free to take a share of the spoils.
Canning will be relieved after missing a crucial free just before, and both men will be disappointed to have scored just one point from play. Indeed both players hit a few uncharacteristic wides but still ended up with 12 points a piece and the Portumna man’s goal in the first half was taken with aplomb on the largest stage of all.
Shefflin was creative influence in a mis-firing attack and his touch to set-up Fennelly, which was saved by James Skehill, was exceptional. Despite being at either end of their playing careers, Shefflin and Canning stamped their class on the final and know there is still room for improvement.
Blunt attacks need sharpening
The aforementioned Canning and Shefflin will take many plaudits, but this is in part due to the fact that their fellow forwards were very poor on the day. TJ Reid and Niall Burke aside, the other four Kilkenny forwards contributed just four points. The four remaining Galway attackers did not score at all.
Even though Niall Burke had an excellent first half and scored a vital goal in the second, Brian Hogan dominated in the air and Burke was withdrawn. The four Galway subs brought into the attack did not contribute to the scoreboard and even one of these was himself replaced.
Kilkenny were unusually toothless and did not score from play until the 18th minute. Both camps will be pleased with their defensive efforts but such a poor return from the attack again in three weeks could see the All-Ireland dreams fade away.
Barry Kelly was consistent if not always right
The biggest gripe players and managers alike have against referees is inconsistency and the man in the middle could not be accused of this charge. Brian Cody may have been incensed with the last free, and it certainly looked like it was played for, he blew for every similar incident throughout the match.
Some of the yellow cards however were questionable. JJ Delaney was very fortunate to last the first half without a caution when the Cats were under serious pressure, while in the second, two Kilkenny players were shown yellow for two off-the-ball incidents while their Galway markers were absolved of all blame. Fergal Moore’s caution seemed excessive for the crime. All in all it was a solid display from Kelly in a pressure-cooker environment, though Cody may not be of the same opinion.