/ GAA

Kilkenny 3-22 Galway 1-18

Updated: Saturday, 28 Jul 2007 19:43

Kilkenny's Eddie Brennan found the net today Galway's Richie Murray scored the game's opening goal
Kilkenny's Eddie Brennan found the net today Galway's Richie Murray scored the game's opening goal

A two-goal blast from Eddie Brennan helped Kilkenny kill off the challenge of Galway this afternoon and win through to their 11th successive All-Ireland semi-final.

A 42,364-strong Croke Park crowd watched the champion Cats score 2-03 without reply in the closing 10 minutes to progress through, but they were given an almighty fright over the first hour.

Richie Murray netted in the 25th-minute for a fired-up Galway side, who trailed by 0-13 to 1-09 at half-time, with Kilkenny captain Henry Shefflin scoring 0-06 from frees.

Galway fought back to lead 1-14 to 0-16 and Ger Loughnane's men were very much in contention until goals from Richie Power (50 minutes) and Brennan (62 and 66) floored them and fired Kilkenny into the last four.

While Brian Cody stuck with the side he selected midweek, Galway boss Loughnane made three changes to the team that started their recent qualifier win over Antrim, with Shane Kavanagh, Fergal Healy and Richie Murray coming in for David Tierney, Mark Kerins and Kevin Broderick.

From the off it was evident that Galway, who were hoping to repeat their epic 2005 win over Kilkenny, were going to up their game from previous weeks and go toe-to-toe with the Leinster and All-Ireland champions.

They allowed Shefflin and company precious little time to have an influence, although the Kilkenny skipper did tally up 0-08 from frees by the finish.

Galway's physical approach rattled Kilkenny at times and the Westerners' unerring shooting in the first half - they shot only a single wide - was typified by Alan Kerins who carried on from where he left off against Antrim.

The Clarinbridge clubman scored three times from play in the opening 12 minutes as Galway started in a business-like fashion. Shefflin, playing in his 38th Championship match, sent over a first-minute free to get the scoring underway.

Kerril Wade, Galway's All-Ireland U-21 winning hero of 2005, has certainly come of age as a senior this summer and the first of his seven successful placed balls arrived in the fourth-minute.

Galway then nudged 0-03 to 0-01 ahead, with Kerins profiting from an incisive Niall Healy pass and Wade cracking over his second free. Loughnane's charges continued to lead until midway through the first half when two points in as many minutes from the elusive Eoin Larkin levelled the game at 0-05 apiece.

A Shefflin free followed and then Kilkenny scored what was perhaps the point of the day when Tommy Walsh picked out Willie O'Dwyer with a precise pass, he in turn found Martin Comerford who launched over a missile of a shot to put his side two points clear.

Yet Galway kept plugging away and their hard work paid off ten minutes before the interval when a neat flick forward off the ground from Niall Healy played the onrushing Murray through on goal and he made no mistake with a powerful finish for his third major in Championship fare.

Healy then turned scorer as he notched his first point of the afternoon to send Galway into a 1-07 to 0-08 lead. Kilkenny never wobbled and had marginally the better of the remainder of the first half, with points from 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, Shefflin (0-03) and Brennan swamping efforts at the other end from Fergal Healy and Wade.

Galway were struck a sizeable blow just seconds before the break when they lost corner-back Fergal Moore to injury. However, having a replacement of the calibre of Damien Joyce always helps.

The second half took a while to ingite, with Shefflin and Kerins trading early scores and both sides' half-back lines in fine form - Kilkenny's Tommy Walsh and John Lee of Galway were both on song. Kilkenny full-back Noel Hickey also hardly put a foot wrong throughout the 70 minutes.

Controversy reigned in the 40th-minute when Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan chalked up a point from a long-range free. The umpire awarded the score despite the protestations of Kilkenny netminder PJ Ryan, who looked to have taken the sliotar down from over the crossbar without conceding the point.

Callanan's monster score levelled the game once again at 0-14 to 0-11 and the sides, who were meeting in the Championship for the fourth straight year, both visibly upped it a notch, particularly after Walsh and Iarlaith Tannian were seen to tussle off the ball.

The noise levels increased as Willie O'Dwyer punished a Galway defensive mistake with a point, Wade swung over his fourth free and 'Cha' Fitzpatrick replied with a stunning free from 65 metres out.

A brace of Niall Healy points sent Galway 1-14 to 0-16 ahead in the 49th-minute, but that was the last time that Loughnane's men held the lead.

The complexion of the game began to change when substitute Richie Power tapped home his goal after a lovely hand pass from Brennan. Credit to Galway, they battled on and managed to level the game for an eighth and a ninth time.

Wade landed a brace of frees and a brilliant '65', cancelling out scores from Derek Lyng and Fitzpatrick, before Fergal Healy's 60th-minute point squared up an end-to-end semi-final at 1-18 apiece.

Worrying gaps were beginning to appear in the Galway defence however, and Kilkenny exploited this to the fullest when Ger Mahon was marked absent in the 62nd-minute and an unmarked Brennan cantered into space to shoot low to Callanan's left and hand the Cats a 2-18 to 1-18 buffer.

Walsh teed up Brennan for a quick point and like a boxer searching for the knockout punch, Kilkenny continued to press with Power following up with another point.

Galway effectively hit the canvas, four minutes from time, when Brennan used his pace to dart clear again and he fired off his left to rocket a shot past Callanan and bulge the net for a second time.

Galway threw Eugene Cloonan into the fray but they simply had no answer to Kilkenny's electric finish. The final nails were put in the coffin when Shefflin nabbed his eighth point and midfielder Lyng strode forward to raise the final white flag.

A flattering scoreline it may have been, but there is no denying that Kilkenny's late burst would have seen off any side in the country.

Cody's side remain on course to retain the Liam McCarthy Cup, however next weekend's semi-final against Wexford could prove to be a stumbling block as the Models are sure to be all out to gain revenge for their Leinster final hammering.

For Galway, they can take heart from this performance and the fact that their manager Loughnane seems to have the makings of a team that should be challenging even more fiercely for All-Ireland honours next year.

Kilkenny: PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, JJ Delaney; D Lyng (0-02), J Fitzpatrick (0-03, 1f); E Brennan (2-02), H Shefflin (capt) (0-08, 8f), E Larkin (0-02); W O'Dwyer (0-01), M Comerford (0-02), A Fogarty (0-01).

Subs used: R Power (1-01) for Fogarty (h-t), J Ryall for Delaney (49 mins), J Tennyson for Hogan (58), M Fennelly for O’Dwyer (61).

Galway: C Callanan (0-01, f); G Kennedy, G Mahon, F Moore; S Kavanagh, J Lee, D Hardiman; F Healy (0-02), D Collins (capt); A Kerins (0-04), R Murray (1-00), I Tannian (0-01); K Wade (0-07, 6f, 1 '65'), N Healy (0-03), D Hayes.

Subs used: D Forde for Hardiman, D Joyce for Moore (both half-time), E Cloonan for Murray (52 mins), K Broderick for Tannian (58).

Referee: Dickie Murphy (Wexford).

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