By Patrick Earley
Hurler of the Year in 2014, it hasn’t been the easiest of rides for Richie Hogan over the past couple of years but the Danesfort man proved once again that class is permanent as his 25 minute cameo off the bench proved decisive in flipping this game on its head and turning a five-point deficit in the final quarter into a two-point win.
Galway were in the driving seat after a superbly managed third quarter. Their ill-discipline had helped keep Kilkenny in the game for the majority of the opening half which the Tribesmen won 0-13 to 0-12 but they cut that out in the third quarter, limiting the Cats to just 0-2 which they counter-acted with 0-5 of their own.
Then, Brian Concannon opened his account when action resumed after the water break and Shane O’Neill’s men appeared to have finally forced their will in the Cats. Daithi Burke and Joseph Cooney were hurling up a storm at the back, keeping Colin Fennelly and TJ Reid on the periphery but Hogan’s introduction sparked something in Kilkenny. Well, his first significant involvement certainly did.
Trailing 0-20 to 0-15, Hogan latched onto possession from Padraig Walsh’s delivery after both Gearoid McInerney and Galway goalkeeper Eanna Murphy failed to do so and then, facing away from goal, Hogan showed the most brilliant of wrists to pick and flick into the empty net.
Still though, Galway held the edge but only for seconds as, from the next play, TJ Reid finally got himself some space and a one-on-one which he exploited to devastating effect, finishing superbly past Murphy to flip this game on its head.
The Galway response was commendable with three points on the spin through Joe Canning (two, one free) and David Burke to edge two in front but from there to the finish, it was all Kilkenny who outscored the Tribesmen 0-5 to 0-1, including the final four scores of the match to win by two.
Galway had defended heroically but looked to be tiring in the final quarter. Reid managed to engineer more space to manoeuvre, while Hogan could and probably should have had a second goal when left inside all alone but this time, Murphy came off his line to apply enough pressure to force Hogan to blast just over.
Conor Browne levelled the tie before Keoghan and Hogan landed the winning scores to secure a first Leinster title since 2016 for Cody’s Cats, another game where Hogan came off the bench to inspire Kilkenny to victory against guess who?
For Galway, the road back to the All-Ireland final just got a whole lot harder with a quarter-final to come next weekend followed by a semi-final another week later should they even get there and truth be told, they have no one to blame but themselves.
12 wides they struck over the course of the game along with two efforts off the post compared to Kilkenny’s five – they simply weren’t clinical enough.
Jason Flynn got through one-on-one with Eoin Murphy in the 49th minute but couldn’t beat the Glenmore ‘keeper who saved for a ’65 although the shot looked to be heading wide in any case. Hogan and Reid made no mistake when afforded their opportunities up the other end. That’s the difference.
This Leinster final win meant more than probably any other for Cody after the longest spell his team endured without claiming the Bob O’Keefe Cup in his time in charge. They now look the most likely team to stop Limerick for the second year in-a-row.
The opening half was nip-and-tuck as you’d expect with these two evenly matched teams. The Galway attack couldn’t quite spark to life like they did against Wexford while for Kilkenny, it was the likes of Eoin Cody and Martin Keoghan up the left flank doing most the damage.
They were level four times and Galway never trailed with the Tribesmen finding their scores easier to come by than the Cats though much of that was down to Galway’s persistent fouling down the other end which made it easy for Reid who landed eight placed balls in the opening half.
Level at 0-14 apiece after 40 minutes, Galway seized the initiative with four on the spin all from Joe Canning (two frees, one ’65, one sideline) and when Concannon and Flynn landed further score after the water break to stretch five clear, they looked well on their way.
But they didn’t envisage the influence Hogan was set to play and his goal proved the decisive moment in an all-too familiar climax for Galway against the Cats.
Scorers: Galway – J Canning 0-14 (0-9 frees, 0-1sl, 0-1 ‘65), C Whelan, J Coen, David Burke 0-2, C Mannion, J Cooney, B Concannon, J Flynn 0-1.
Kilkenny – TJ Reid 1-10 (0-9 frees); R Hogan 1-2, C Browne, M Keoghan 0-2, J Donnelly, E Cody, P Walsh, L Blanchfield 0-1.
Galway: E Murphy; S Loftus, D Burke; S Cooney; G McInerney, J Cooney, F Burke; P Mannion, J Coen; J Canning, C Mannion, C Cooney; B Concannon, N Burke, C Whelan.
Subs: A Harte for Loftus (ht); J Flynn for N Burke (40); David Burke for C Cooney (59); A Tuohy for Coen (69); S Linnane for S Cooney (70);
Kilkenny: E Murphy; C Delaney, H Lawlor, T Walsh; P Walsh, C Buckley, C Browne; R Leahy, C Fogarty; J Donnelly, M Keoghan, TJ Reid, M Keoghan; W Walsh, C Fennelly, E Cody.
Subs: R Hogan for W Walsh (45); L Blanchfield for Fennelly (51); R Reid for Fogarty (56); N Brassil for E Cody (60); A Murphy for Leahy (inj 61);
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).