Kilkenny and Galway will have to do it all again as the sides played out a draw this afternoon in Croke Park.
This was, by no means, a thrilling game, the crowd in Croke Park having until late in the first half for the match to ignite. It was a typical dogged encounter from two teams desperate to win every ball. Debutant Billy Ryan sent an early chance wide as the Cats enjoyed much of the shooting space but frustratingly, they were unable to capitalise.
There were a number of intriguing head-to-head battles, most notably Daithi Burke against Walter Walsh and Padraig Walsh and Niall Burke. Fergal Horgan was kept busy as tackles were flying from forwards and defenders alike. Conor Whelan eventually got Galway off the mark while Eoin Murphy knocked over a long-range free for the league champions.
Galway seemed unsure in their game plan, with no real structure to their play early on. Their clearest chance came when the Galway forwards crowded the Kilkenny square forcing Murphy into two brilliant saves. Hawkeye eventually deemed that Joseph Cooney had scored a point which the Kilkenny goalkeeper thought he had saved. Perhaps Kilkenny’s standout player in the first 35 mins was Padraig Walsh with the Tullaroan man giving an exhibition of fielding under the high ball. Twice he made a break, winning two frees for his side.
While there was plenty of skill on display, both managers will be frustrated at the low scoring in the first half, Brian Cody in particular with a one point margin at half-time doing them no justice, Kilkenny with nine wides. One positive however was the performance of Ryan who scored two points in the very defensive first half.
Galway started the second half much more brightly. Joe Canning scored an early free before some superb defending from Daithi Burke allowed the Portumna man to make another super strike, despite being under huge pressure. By the 41st minute, all of Galway’s forwards had scored as Conor Cooney added a point to level the game. But ill-discipline from the Tribesman began to creep into their game and on two occasions they were punished for back-talk allowing Reid to add more easy scores.
Galway had another chance on goal soon after as Conor Whelan made a blistering run but brilliant defence from Paul Murphy allowed Kilkenny to clear. After a breathless period, Ger Aylward turned a clearcut Galway chance into a Kilkenny score. Brilliant work-rate from Richie Leahy and Ryan produced some wonderful chances but neither were able to capitalise. Soon afterwards, it was Kilkenny with a goal chance but Tuohy and Burke combined to clear the danger and just as Aylward did, Cathal Mannion scored to swing the momentum back in his side’s favour.
As the clock ticked towards 55 minutes, the crowd of over 40,000 found their voices as Galway began to find their rhythm. Canning and Niall Burke added further points while Gearoid McInerney continued to quieten the Cats. TJ Reid brought the game back to just one point as Cody emptied his bench employing the likes of Liam Blanchfield and Richie Leahy. But it was the Galway substitute, Johnny Glynn who made an immediate impact, using his height and physicality to set up Niall Burke for another superb point. But Kilkenny refused to back down, James Maher reducing the gap once again.
A mistake from Eoin Murphy allowed Joseph Cooney to extend the lead as the game entered the last, frantic minutes. The Galway fans were on their feet as Canning added another free but Kilkenny were far from done. John Donnelly and Enda Morrissey pointed before TJ added a brilliant strike from play to take the game to a replay.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy (0-1, 1f); Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan; Joey Holden, Cillian Buckley, Enda Morrissey (0-1); Conor Fogarty, James Maher (0-1); Martin Keoghan, TJ Reid (0-10, 7f), Richie Leahy; Billy Ryan (0-2), Walter Walsh (0-1), Ger Aylward (0-1).
Substitution: Liam Blanchfield for Keoghan (48) John Donnelly (0-1) for Leahy (57) Richie Hogan for Aylward (58) Conor Fennelly for Ryan (63)
Galway: James Skehill; Adrian Tuohy, Daithi Burke, John Hanbury; Padraic Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Aidan Harte; Johnny Coen, David Burke; Joseph Cooney (0-2), Joe Canning (0-6, 4f), Niall Burke (0-4); Conor Whelan (0-2), Conor Cooney (0-1), Cathal Mannion (0-3).
Substitution: Johnny Glynn for C Cooney (57) Brian Concannon for C Mannion (65) Jason Flynn for Whelan (69)