The incident packed Nowlan Park encounter provided the crowd with just about everything apart from that much needed Kilkenny victory. Along with the defeat has come the realization that their league ambitions have now surely disappeared.
In order to have any chance of reaching the final, Kilkenny would have to win their remaining games against Limerick and Waterford and hope other results go their way. It’s more realistic to attempt to get their house in order before trying for that fifth-in-a-row All-Ireland title.
As always, manager Brian Cody refuses to get in any way downhearted, no doubt conscious that some of the big names will soon return. He said: “It wasn’t a great performance by us and Galway deserved to win. But it’s not the end of the world. It’s one extra game if we get to the league final, that’s it. We approach every game with the intention of winning. We have been beaten three times, so obviously we don’t deserve to be in the league final.”
The frustrating aspect for Cody is that Sunday’s Nowlan Park encounter is a match Kilkenny could so easily have won. The game ended with Galway’s replacement goalkeeper, Colm Callanan, diving to keep out TJ Reid’s goal bound shot.
Then again, Galway would have felt very hard done by had they lost out; it was that sort of game. Galway were much the better team in the first half, establishing a 0-13 to 0-9 advantage.
But the Tribesmen then gave signs of another second half collapse, similar to the one experienced against Tipperary a few weeks ago. The match seemed to have turned when Galway goalkeeper James Skehill was caught in possession and TJ Reid tapped the ball into the net for a gift goal.
Suddenly the situation had changed with Kilkenny scoring 1-6 and conceding just one point to lead 1-16 to 0-14. But the introduction of Galway subs Kevin Hynes, Iarla Tannian and Richie Cummins was to have a big impact, as did the dismissal of Kilkenny wing-back Paddy Hogan for a second bookable offense in the 47th minute.
Tannian scored 2-1, Hynes contributed two points, while Cummins also caused major problems for the Kilkenny defense. To add to the drama, Galway goalkeeper Skehill was knocked unconscious after an accidental collision with Aidan Fogarty.
Fortunately, Skehill regained consciousness later, but there was considerable concern as the game was held up for eight minutes. That, however, was about the only time the action stopped.
Galway hit back with points from Ger Farragher and Hynes before Tannian got in for his first goal to reduce the deficit to 1-18 to 1-17. There was nothing in it until the finish, with Tannian taking advantage of some great work from Cummins to secure his second goal and put Galway 2-20 to 1-21 up.
In those dramatic closing stages the defending champions got back to within a point of Galway, but sub goalkeeper Callanan’s save in the final minute from TJ Ryan was to end their hopes. And the good news for Galway is that while Kilkenny’s chances of making the final seem to have gone, they are very much in the running.
They are now just a point behind leaders Cork, a very satisfactory situation for manager John McIntyre. He said: “To beat Kilkenny in the manner we did is a big turning point psychologically. It is always good to beat Kilkenny, especially down here, but we are also conscious that all it does is put another two points on the board.”
Cork stayed in front by virtue of a 0-17 to 1-11 Parnell Park victory over Dublin. They were never extended by a Dublin outfit which once again failed to deliver.
Tipperary and Waterford stay in third and fourth spot following a 1-19 to 2-16 draw at Semple Stadium. Waterford’s Eoin Kelly pointed an injury time free to earn his side a deserved share of the spoils after trailing 1-17 to 1-12 at one stage.
In the remaining game, Limerick somehow put their problems behind them to very nearly upset Offaly. In the end they went down by a point, 2-17 to 3-13, but at least the performance did something to boost the reputation of the troubled county.