Kilkenny snatch Leinster title at the death after thrilling final against Galway

Kilkenny Snatch Leinster Title At The Death After Thrilling Final Against Galway
Leinster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin 11/6/2023 Galway vs Kilkenny Kilkenny’s Eoin Cody lifts the Bob O’Keefe Cup Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
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Kilkenny 4-21 - 2-26 Galway

For the last two months, Leinster’s pedestrian and going-through-the-motions fare has lived quietly in Munster’s overbearing shadow. With a sensational closing act in this afternoon’s showpiece event, the lesser province wrestled back the narrative.

This Leinster final was six minutes into injury time when play seemed to spend an eternity in the corner where the Canal End meets the Hogan Stand. Fatigued players from both parishes were unable to make any meaningful contact.


Eventually, a stripey shirt got the sliotar across and in front of Galway's large rectangle. Padraic Mannion kicked possession into the path of Cillian Buckley. The Kilkenny sub dodged and ducked before delivering the game-winning goal to take silverware straight out of Galway’s grip. The maroon army collapsed in disbelief.

In the words of Kilkenny captain Eoin Cody when accepting the Bob O’Keeffe Cup, “there’s plenty of hurling in Leinster”.

For a patched-up Kilkenny, the victory and the breathing space it gives them is way more important than any provincial four-in-a-row. They were without the injured Mikey Carey, Richie Reid, and Adrian Mullen. Martin Keoghan departed midway through the first half. Avoiding the All-Ireland quarter-final gives them extra time to get bodies right.

For Galway, they will be absolutely sick. After reeling in an eight-point deficit in the final quarter to go two ahead in injury time, not to hold out will be hard to bounce back from.


That eight-point gap emanated from a Mikey Butler goal on 40 minutes and a six-in-a-row of points not long after. Butler’s goal was assisted by half-back David Blanchfield, his second green flag assist of the final. It left Derek Lyng’s side 3-17 to 1-15 in front on 49 minutes.

Galway refused to go as many expected they would. Sub Jason Flynn hit the net on 50 minutes. The final pass came from Conor Whelan. He led the comeback. He finished with 1-6 from play.

An injury-time three-in-a-row from Kevin Cooney, Evan Niland (free, for a foul on Cooney) and Brian Concannon had the westerners on the verge. But they never got up the steps. Henry Shefflin’s reign remains without silverware. They might not get a better chance than this.

A schizophrenic first half somehow ended on an even keel. The moods of both teams swung wildly. Blazing hot followed by freezing cold. And vice versa. There were no sharp turns in momentum. There were instead large periods of untouched dominance by one side, which eventually gave way to a large period of untouched dominance by the other crowd.


Trying to reach a diagnosis or explain the big, unruly swings in energy and impetus was futile carry-on.

In the first 24 minutes, there was only one occasion where the two teams swapped scores. That was in the third and fourth minute when TJ Reid answered Conor Whelan’s opener.

The opening exchanges were Galway’s. Shefflin’s lads led 0-6 to 0-1 after seven minutes. There was no usual sluggish crawl out of bed here. Five different Galway scorers. Even the defence, unlike against Dublin, were up and galloping early. Fintan Burke blocked Cian Kenny, Padraic Mannion was out in front of Eoin Cody. The latter was the game’s intriguing duel.

A Martin Keoghan goal on eight minutes said it was Kilkenny’s time to lead this dance. It marked the beginning of a 1-5 burst in an eight-minute spell.


The Cats could have had up to four green flags in this black and amber period. Eanna Murphy produced a fine save to deny Eoin Cody on one of those occasions after Cathal Mannion had blithely pucked possession away.

From 0-6 to 0-1 down to now 1-6 to 0-6 in front. And on we went to the next mood swing. 1-3 from the Tribes without answer.

Cathal Mannion made up for his earlier mistake with a long diagonal ball which the everywhere Whelan went round the back of the house for and goaled on 17 minutes. He added another white flag shortly after, with the busy Kevin Cooney also getting among the maroon scorers.

Kilkenny were back level with a 24th-minute goal from sub Walter Walsh. His fetch, run, and finish was reminiscent of his 2012 All-Ireland final demolition job on the same opposition. Walsh had come in for the injured Martin Keoghan.


Proceedings settled down a bit from here. The two teams finally began to trade scores. There was finally a bit of to-and-fro. Niland and TJ swapped frees. All square at the short whistle, 2-9 to 1-12.

The entertainment barometer rose and rose upon the change of ends. Leinster took its time in wiping the sleep from its eyes. But its electric finish matched what we witnessed below in the TUS Gaelic Grounds a few hours earlier.

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