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Leinster SHC: terrific Tribesmen make history
08 July 2012
Kilkenny's Noel Hickey and Conor Cooney of Galway during the Leinster SHC Final at Croke Park
Galway have been crowned Leinster hurling champions for the first time after stunning Kilkenny at Croke Park this afternoon.
Hammered by the same opponents by 25 points in the Allianz League barely three months ago and having conceded 7-27 against Westmeath and Offaly en route to the provincial decider, Anthony Cunningham's men produced an inspired performance to overwhelm the All-Ireland champions and to take the Bob O'Keeffe across the Shannon for the first time. No-one saw this result coming, least not Kilkenny who were left shell-shocked and mesmerised by a sensational first half display by the Tribesmen, which paved the way for their historic success.
Aided by a third-minute goal from the outstanding Joe Canning, who finished with a personal tally of 1-10, the underdogs raced into a 1-6 to 0-0 lead after 17 minutes. A second goal from David Burke had them perched on a 2-8 to 0-1 lead after 23 minutes, and they were full value for their 2-12 to 0-4 advantage at the break.
Kilkenny, who could only manage one point from play in the first period, rallied in the second half with goals from Richie Hogan and Henry Shefflin, but couldn't get any closer than eight points against a Galway team who had brilliant performances from one to 15. The only pity was there were just 22,171 spectators at a damp GAA headquarters to witness such a momentous occasion, which will go down as one of the highlights of the Irish sporting year.
Niall Burke shot the Tribesmen into an early lead after David Herity was forced into making a good save from a Conor Cooney delivery. But Joe Canning gave the Kilkenny 'keeper no chance moments later when he blasted home from point blank range after brilliantly fielding a long delivery from Damien Hayes.
Burke knocked over his second point to leave it 1-2 to 0-0 with barely four minutes on the clock. Galway continued to dominate possession, but had to wait until the 13th minute for their next score which came from a Canning free. A foul on Andy Smith presented the Galway full forward with another free which he duly converted.
Canning then brought his tally to 1-3 with a monstrous free from his own '65 after referee James McGrath had brought forward the ball 13 metres for Kilkenny dissent. It got even better for the underdogs when corner back David Collins hit a rare score to leave them - unbelievably - 1-6 to 0-0 ahead.
Kilkenny finally opened their account in the 19th minute when Shefflin - who had their only scoring chance prior to that - pointed a free which was awarded for a tug on Richie Power's jersey. But the momentum remained with the Connacht men as Canning raised another white flag following a foul on Cyril Donnellan.
The All-Ireland champions were forced to replace corner forward Colin Fennelly - who was an injury doubt beforehand - with Aidan Fogarty and they were left with a huge mountain to climb when Donnellan's first point was followed by a fantastic goal from David Burke, who ghosted in behind the Kilkenny defence to rattle the right hand corner of David Herity's net, and leave Galway 2-8 to 0-1 in front after 23 minutes.
Kilkenny's woes continued as Shefflin was surprisingly off target from a free. Paddy Hogan was replaced by Michael Rice, and they were caught napping again when Canning's sideline found David Burke for his first point.
Cyril Donnellan then took centre stage with two quick-fire points to extend Galway's lead to 2-11 to 0-1. Richie Power registered Kilkenny's first point from play after 31 minutes, only for Canning to reply with a glorious effort. Shefflin clawed back two points from frees before James Skehill prevented a Kilkenny goal in the last action of an extraordinary first half.
Kilkenny needed a good start to the second half, but instead Galway got it when Donnellan fired over his fourth point straight from the throw-in. Despite trailing by 15 points at this juncture, Kilkenny refused to throw in the towel as Shefflin (free) and substitute Michael Rice narrowed the gap. The Cats were given real hope in the 43rd minute when Richie Hogan cracked home a goal after Richie Power had fielded brilliantly to leave the score 1-6 to 2-13.
The action was fast and furious at this stage as David Burke replied with a spectacular point as he lost his footing on the wet surface. Canning tapped over another free before shooting a superb individual point from play to restore Galway's 13-point lead, 2-16 to 1-6.
With 48 minutes on the clock, Kilkenny were handed another lifeline when Henry Shefflin rose above James Skehill and two Galway defenders to flick Richie Hogan's crossfield ball to the net. Once again, Damien Hayes had an immediate reply for the winners, but Shefflin wasn't giving up the ghost and scored three points in-a-row (two frees) to reduce the arrears to eight, 2-9 to 2-17, with 17 minutes to go.
Galway dug deep again, however, to push out their lead to 10 points thanks to a free and one from play by Canning. Richie Power narrowed the gap before Shefflin brought his tally to 1-8 with six minutes remaining.
No-one was leaving their seats as Kilkenny continued to probe for openings, only to be kept at bay by a resolute Galway defence in which wing back Johnny Coen excelled. Substitute Matthew Ruth missed a late goal chance for the Cats whose seven-year grip on the Bob O'Keeffe Cup had long slipped before Cyril Donnellan and Canning applied the coup de grace to a sensational Galway performance.
Scorers: Galway: J Canning 1-10 (0-7f), D Burke 1-2, C Donnellan 0-5, N Burke 0-2, D Collins, D Hayes 0-1 each. Kilkenny: H Shefflin 1-8 (0-7f), R Hogan 1-0, R Power 0-2, M Rice 0-1
Galway: James Skehill; David Collins, Kevin Hynes, Fergal Moore (capt); Niall Donoghue, Tony Og Regan, Johnny Coen; Iarla Tannian, Andy Smyth; David Burke, Niall Burke, Cyril Donnellan; Conor Cooney, Joe Canning, Damien Hayes. Subs: Jonathan Glynn for Cooney (53 mins), James Regan for Tannian (57), Tadhg Haran for N Burke (61), Joseph Cooney for Donnellan (71).
Kilkenny: David Herity; Paul Murphy, Noel Hickey, Jackie Tyrrell; Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Richie Doyle; Cillian Buckley, Paddy Hogan; Henry Shefflin, TJ Reid, Eoin Larkin (capt); Colin Fennelly, Richie Power, Richie Hogan. Subs: Aidan Fogarty for Fennelly (23 mins), Michael Rice for P Hogan (27), Matthew Ruth for Reid (57).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)
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