Kilkenny and Galway will have to do it all over again in Thurles next Sunday.
A draw between the two sides leaves us with some conclusions to mull over before the replay.
This was far from a classic encounter between hurling powerhouses
Watching at home on television, you wouldn’t have thought there was much of a crowd in Croke Park given the lack of atmosphere.
In reality, over 40,000 turned out, the only problem was that they hadn’t much to shout about. There was much to admire about this game, the fielding, the hooks, the blocks, the ferocity; but there was never any spark – it never really ‘took off’.
When the scoreline is 0-8 to 0-7 at half-time, you know the game doesn’t really hold much entertainment for the spectators. Now this was a clash that was level on numerous occasions, and like any good hurling match, the momentum kept swinging from one team to the other. But take a look at the Munster final between Cork and Clare, and there’s no comparison. That game was breathless from the start with some incredible scores and goals – something that the Leinster final dearly lacked.
So while the highlights will be filled with some wonderful pieces of skill, don’t expect to see many wonder points.
You won’t get much past this Kilkenny defence
One player who impressed in particular was Padraig Walsh.
Many were skeptical when the Tullaroan man was moved from wing-back to the number three jersey following the departure of JJ Delaney, but Walsh has grown into the role and his battle with Conor Cooney and Niall Burke was very entertaining. Like his brother before him, Walsh showed that he is very assured under the high ball while twice he made a break, earning a free.
Beside him, Paul Murphy was just as influential.
On the occasions that Galway threatened the Kilkenny goal, Murphy was there to make vital interceptions. It is no easy task keeping Cathal Mannion quiet but the Danesfort man did just that today. He has the experience to remain cool and collected in that full back-line and he also has that effect on those around him. Murphy is fast becoming one of Kilkenny’s most indispensable players.
The Cats are over-reliant on TJ Reid
Against Galway in the round-robin in May, Kilkenny only had three names on the scoreline.
Today they had eight, an improvement that no doubt pleased Brian Cody. Billy Ryan created a number of chances, scoring two points while substitute John Donnelly hit a point not long after being introduced. Only two of their forwards were held scoreless, Martin Keoghan and Richie Leahy. But of their 18 points scored, TJ Reid had 0-10 to his name, seven from placed balls.
Once again, Reid was the hero for the Cats, his superb late point was the one that earned the draw. Once again, he dragged them back into contention in this Leinster championship.
Cody is experimenting with a number of younger players as Kilkenny look to build their squad for the future, so it is only natural that they look to the more experienced players in the big games. But with Richie Hogan only returning from injury and Colin Fennelly dropping to the bench today, that responsibility is falling squarely on the shoulders of TJ Reid.
They need to start bringing the likes of Walter Walsh and Ger Alyward more into play, or they won’t prove much of a tough task for defences.
Both teams proved they are beatable
There was a certain level of aura around this fixture. Galway, reigning All Ireland champions and heavy favourites to retain the title and Kilkenny, league champions who you can never write off until someone has walked up the steps of the Hogan Stand.
Not many teams would be pitted as favourites against either of these teams but as this game proved, Galway and Kilkenny have their weaknesses. Play was very sloppy from both sides at times with numerous misplaced passes, poor first touches and unforced errors. Galway showed that ill-discipline is still a major issue in their play, TJ Reid knocking over seven points from play while neither camp will be happy when they see the wide camp.
When you look at the teams left in the competition, especially the likes of the Munster teams who have a number of highly competitive matches under their belts, is the All Ireland Final as easy to predict as first thought?
Do Galway have the best forward unit in the country?
We have seen some brilliant displays from forwards today, from John Conlon with Clare to Cork’s Patrick Horgan. These teams have some of the best individual forwards in the country but what sets Galway apart is the way they play as a unit.
The movement they create is reminiscent of Tipperary’s style of play in 2010, designed to confuse the defender and drag them out of position. But these Galway forwards are also hugely physical and every one of them can not only win the dirty ball, but finish it with finesse. There attacking play which used to centre around Joe Canning is now focused on delivering efficient ball to the likes of Conor Cooney and Conor Whelan leaving the likes of Canning and Joseph Cooney to attack from further out.
They are one of the most potent forward lines in the country at the moment and with the ability to bring on the likes of Johnny Glynn and Jason Flynn from the bench, they are a huge threat to any team.