STATS: Galway rule the Nowlan Park sky and beat Kilkenny at their own game
Galway 3-20 Kilkenny 2-22
Galway are back on track.
Despite a spirited late rally from 13 man Kilkenny, Galway held onto claim a Nowlan Park cracker by the bare minimum in the best game of the hurling championship so far.
Brian Concannon, Cathal Mannion, Joseph Cooney and Daithí Burke were all outstanding for Galway who were deserving winners despite some justified Kilkenny grievances with the referee.
As for Kilkenny, TJ Reid is still on a different level. He turned in one of the most impressive individual performances you're likely to see with 2-11 to his name by the end of it and the words on everyone's lips after were 'how can a man play so well and still lose a game?'
He may have lost but TJ Reid of @BallyhaleGAA put in one of the most imperious performances you're ever likely to see.
2-11 (2-5 from play) We are unbelievably lucky to witness this man hurling pic.twitter.com/4C5duuoh8o
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) June 9, 2019
The answer lies somewhere in the Kilkenny clouds. Whereas the Cats usually dominate teams in the air especially in their own back yard, Galway with Johnny Glynn, Joseph Cooney and Padraig Mannion all soaring higher - were unbeatable there today.
But what a game of hurling it was. 36 and a half minutes passed by in a dizzying flash as TJ Reid and Cathal Mannion lit Nowlan Park up with some tremendous individual hurling.
TJ might not win every ball first time but he sure as hell wins them on the way down. Padraig Mannion knew all about that.
As for Mannion, the Ahascragh Foghenagh mad had a party all by himself in the Kilkenny sun. He started off on Padraig Walsh but by half-time he had spent time on all three members of the Kilkenny half-back line - and had taken all three of them for six of the finest from play.
He was far from on his own out there though as Galway put in a performance like we hadn't seen from them for two years. Conor Whelan was like a raging bull inside and his hard earned individual goal wasn't the only time he left Kilkenny backs on the ground. Paul Murphy will be having nightmares in his early shower.
Almost every-time though, that man Mannion was involved. He set up Concannon for one, Flynn for another. Galway went into the break leading by three on a scoreline 1-13 to 1-10.
But the Tribesmen took off in the second half. Conor Whelan was again causing problems for Paul Murphy - the corner forward's interception on his marker along the sideline was a real momentum shifter early on. Brian Concannon was a Galway hurler coming of age, his point on the opposite sideline was exceptional.
Billy Ryan responded with a very skilful point to keep Kilkenny alive but the contributions from those outside of TJ Reid and Richie Leahy were too few and far between for Cody's liking.
Johnny Coen hit a tremendous point, Johnny Glynn was making hay in the clouds.
Indeed, those stats from the airspace made for interesting reading. Usually Kilkenny's strong point, Galway won 11 contested aerial balls in comparison to Kilkenny's nine. Johnny Glynn was accountable for four of those while Joseph Cooney and Padraig Mannion won a couple each as Galway's half back line took over. For Kilkenny it was again all TJ - he won seven of their nine balls here in this regard - a phenomenal statistic in the air to go with a phenomenal all-round performance.
How a man can hurl so well and still come out on the losing side is a mystery. It's a credit to these Galway men. Johnny Coen's beautifully taken goal after a lovely flick from Flynn would have broken any team's spirit but Kilkenny are a different breed.
Despite losing Murphy and then Aylward to red cards, they kept on fighting and managed to score the last five points of the day. Richie Leahy, TJ and Ryan did the most of it for them but by the end Galway had done enough.
Darren Brennan (0-1f) Paul Murphy, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Conor Fogarty, Padraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan (0-1) Alan Murphy (0-1) Richie Leahy (0-2) Adrian Mullen, Billy Ryan(0-3) TJ Reid (2-11, 0-5 frees, 0-165) Bill Sheehan (0-2) Colin Fennelly, Ger Aylward.
Richie Hogan for Adrian Mullen (31), Joey Holden for Tommy Walsh (44), Jason Cleere for Alan Murphy (49) John Donnelly for Bill Sheehan (57)
Colm Callanan; John Hanbury, Daithí Burke, Aidan Harte; Padraic Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Joseph Cooney; Seán Loftus, David Burke (0-1) Cathal Mannion (0-8, 0-1f)) Jonathan Glynn (0-1), Adrian Tuohy(0-2) Conor Whelan (1-2) Jason Flynn (0-3, 0-2f) Brian Concannon (1-2)
Johnny Coen (1-1) for Loftus (HT) Davy Glennon for Adrian Tuohy (58) Niall Burke for Concannon (63)