In 2020, Kilkenny lost the Leinster Final to Wexford after topping the group. Now, after just one game they are back to compete in the final again. On the other hand, Galway suffered a disappointing season last year when they failed to progress from Leinster. The 2017 All-Ireland Champions lost out on points difference in a very competitive Leinster group. Recently, Galway showed they are out to right that wrong by defeating Wexford in Croke Park to advance to the final. Shane O’Neill’s team demonstrated their ambition with a strong performance after a long absence.
In their opening Championship game Kilkenny came up against Dublin. The Dubs had come past Laois strongly and were at the advantage of having a competitive game under their belts. However, Kilkenny didn’t need any time to ease themselves into action.
Brian Cody’s team showed no signs of rust. In fact, by half-time they had established a remarkable 15 point lead and looked destined to waltz into the final. However, Dublin were not ready to go down without a fight. They came roaring back in the second half and Kilkenny just couldn’t find a way to extend their lead. By the 71st minute, Dublin had completed a remarkable comeback.
Surprisingly, it was the corner-back Huw Lawlor who emerged as the matchwinner for the Cats. His long-range free in the 74th minute ensured there wasn’t another Championship upset on the cards. It finished 3-20 to 2-22. Billy Ryan, TJ Reid and captain Colin Fennelly were the goalscorers for Cody’s team. Reid ended up with a personal tally of 1-10 and was influential in the first half. All three Kilkenny goals came in the first half. Hence, Brian Cody will be frustrated at his side’s inability to kick-on after the break.
Cody made 5 changes to the team that lost the All-Ireland final last year for this game. So, it will be interesting to see if he keeps faith in this side for the game on Saturday evening.
In contrast, Galway won’t have many complaints about their victory over last year’s Leinster Champions Wexford.
By the full-time whistle there was 17 points between the teams and the performance reflected the comfort of the scoreline.
Shane O’Neill’s men won the battle in the middle third which never allowed Wexford to get to grips with the game. Their domination was capitalised on with efficiency in front of goal.
What was most impressive for Galway was the balance that the team seems to have found between 2017 veterans and newer faces such as Brian Concannon, Fintan Burke, Sean Loftus, and Eanna Murphy. The Galwegians grew in confidence as the game went on. By the end, they had slashed their odds for winning the Championship.
O’Neill’s team seem very much determined to make up for the poor Championship they had last season. A win over last year’s runners-up to progress to a semi-final would be a big statement.
The winner of this tie will earn themselves a two-week break before the All-Ireland semi-final. Whereas, the loser of this one is out again the following week to play one of the winning qualifiers.
RTÉ are showing the GAA game live from Croke Park.
Galway’s performance against Wexford has them 8/11 favourites for this one versus Kilkenny’s 11/8. A draw is 9/1.
Kilkenny (Leinster SHC v Galway): Eoin Murphy; Conor Delaney, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Cillian Buckley, Padraig Walsh, Conor Fogarty; Richie Leahy, Conor Browne; John Donnelly, Martin Keoghan, Walter Walsh; TJ Reid, Eoin Cody, Colin Fennelly.
Subs: Darren Brennan, Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Ciaran Wallace, Darren Mullen, Alan Murphy, Richie Reid, Richie Hogan, Ger Aylward, Liam Blanchfield, Niall Brassil.
Prediction: Galway. If they can replicate the performance they put in a fortnight ago the Connacht team will be considered real All-Ireland contenders again. Meanwhile, the near-miss against Dublin might have just sewn some doubt into Cody’s team.
Leinster Hurling Final: Kilkenny vs Galway, Saturday, 14th November, 18:15 (Croke Park).
It's Leinster GAA Hurling Final Week ⚾
— Leinster GAA (@gaaleinster) November 9, 2020