Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U-21 Championship Semi-Final: Kilkenny 4-16 Galway 2-15
Goals proved crucial for Kilkenny as they defeated Galway in Thurles to set up an All-Ireland U21 final clash against Clare.
Kilkenny deservedly won by seven points in the end, but they needed a cool final five minutes to see out the victory after Galway struck two goals in quick succession to briefly threaten a comeback.
Three goals in the first half had put Kilkenny seven clear at the break, and a fourth goal shortly after the restart put them ten ahead of the Tribesmen.
Galway battled on, but with 15 minutes to go the gap was still 10 points as Kilkenny kept responding to Galway points with points of their own.
However, Anthony Cunningham’s side struck two goals in five minutes, from Davy Glennon and Joseph Cooney, and when Tadhg Haran followed up the goals with a point, the gap was just three with more than five minutes left on the clock.
But Kilkenny showed outstanding composure and class in the final stages, and hit four unanswered points before the end to seal their progression to the decider.
Kilkenny held a seven-point lead at the break after a helter skelter first half in which barely 60 seconds passed at any stage without a score.
It was 0-2 apiece early on, Cillian Buckley and Kevin Kelly cancelling out two Niall Burke frees, but it was the final 20 minutes of the half when the game really exploded into life.
Inspired by a couple of beautiful Burke scores, Galway led 0-5 to 0-2, but Kilkenny got level when Ollie Walsh went on a run and saw his weak shot fumbled into the net by Galway goalkeeper Fergal Flannery.
The sides continued to trade scores, but Kilkenny were gradually gaining the upper hand, and a fine score fro Ger Aylward, who finished with 1-3 from play, put them two ahead.
The lead was five when John Power finished crisply to the net after a swift Kilkenny break, and although Glennon responded with a good point for Galway, a third Kilkenny goal wasn’t far behind.
The impressive Aylward got it, striking sweetly to the net with his back to goal, and inspired by this score, Kilkenny enjoyed a decisive run of points.
Padraig Walsh, Aylward and Kelly all powered over scores in quick succession to put ten between the sides, and suddenly Kilkenny were threatening to go out of sight.
But Galway finished the half well, and frees from Burke (2) and Haran left them with a seven point deficit to try and chip away at for the second half.
However, their task was made extremely difficult after the restart when Power buried a penalty to the net following Brian Flaherty’s foul on Aylward.
After 45 minutes, Kilkenny still led by 10 but Glennon’s powerful burst towards goal and kicked finish to the roof of the net gave Galway some hope.
Then, Cooney made the comeback look a distinct possibility when he managed to squeeze a shot past Kilkenny goalkeeper Dylan Walsh following a brilliant individual run.
But Kilkenny didn’t panic, and led by Buckley and Aylward, they got the points they needed to set up the final clash against Clare.
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Scorers for Kilkenny: J Power 2-1 (1 pen), G Aylward 1-3, K Kelly 0-6 (4f), O Walsh 1-0, C Buckley 0-2, P Walsh 0-2, W Walsh 0-2
Scorers for Galway: N Burke 0-9 (6f), D Glennon 1-2, J Cooney 1-0, T Haran 0-2 (1f), J Glynn 0-1, R Commins 0-1
Kilkenny: D Walsh; J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy; L Harney, R Doyle, J Lyng; G Brennan, O Walsh; K Kelly, P Walsh, C Buckley; W Walsh, J Power, G Aylward.
Galway: F Flannery; B Flaherty, D Burke, J Grealish; J Coen, D Burke, J Cooney; P Brehony, T Haran; R Commins, N Burke, J Regan; C Cooney, J Glynn, D Glennon.