Shefflin’s charges get the breaks to reel in Kilkenny

Galway 2-23

Kilkenny 0-29

THERE was no shadow boxing in Salthill on Sunday. Say what you like about the lack of jeopardy when Galway and Kilkenny clash in the round-robin stages of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship, neither team wants to concede a psychological advantage ahead of a probable provincial showdown.

This was a full-blooded encounter in front of a disappointing crowd of just over 9,600 at Pearse Stadium. There was no holding back, no compromise in an intense struggle which went all the way to the wire – and still we had no winner.

That scenario was a relief for Galway, but disappointing for Kilkenny. Nearly all the pressure was on the hosts to achieve a morale-boosting victory, especially with the Cats hit by untimely injuries to All-Star goalkeeper Eoin Murphy, defender Mikey Carey and key attackers Eoin Cody and Adrian Mullen.

It meant Kilkenny almost had a free shot at the Tribesmen and they certainly rose to that challenge, controlling large parts of the match and producing a typically defiant effort against the strong wind in the second-half. Their half-forward sector went to town as Martin Keoghan, John Donnelly and Tom Phelan struck 11 points from play between them.

Kilkenny’s midfield pairing of Cian Kenny (3) and Richie Reid (2) also did a lot of damage on the scoreboard and the way they repeatedly opened the Galway defence was alarming at times. They scored 22 of their 29 points from play, while the team’s ability to create space for their shooters just had to be admired.

Frankly, Kilkenny were unlucky not to win. Galway’s second goal from Brian Concannon was of the fortunate variety; one of Cathal Mannion’s four first-half points was wide, while referee Thomas Walsh somehow penalised TJ Reid for overcarrying when he was blatantly fouled late in the contest.

That decision led to substitute Aaron Niland closing the gap to one in stoppage time before he set up Conor Whelan for a dramatic equaliser in the 75th minute. If the roles were reversed, the Tribesmen wouldn’t have been happy.

In the circumstances, Galway did well to get a result. Sure, the men in maroon created more goal chances, including when championship debutant Aidan Tallis made a quality save from Cathal Mannion in the 12th minute, but apart from the opening quarter, they were often chasing Kilkenny’s tails.

Pictured: Galway’s Conor Whelan is chased by Kilkenny’s Mikey Butler during Sunday’s Leinster Senior Hurling Championship round-robin clash at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O’Shaugnessy.

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