Galway win dramatic Wild Geese Trophy
Wild Geese Trophy
GALWAY 4-23 KILKENNY 3-26
Galway win free-taking competition 4-3
By John Harrington
Galway claimed the inaugural Wild Geese Trophy after a dramatic comeback against Kilkenny in the Spotless Stadium, Sydney.
The Tribesmen looked down and out when they trailed by 14 points towards the end of the first half.
But they were a transformed team in the second, and a late, great goal from substitute Joe Mooney levelled a cracking match at the death which meant it had to be decided by a free-taking contest.
Galway converted four of their five attempts from the 65 yard line whereas Kilkenny could only manage three from four so they lost a match they had looked like winning for most of the contest.
The teams were level at three points apiece after a cagey enough opening ten minutes, but thereafter Kilkenny really took the initiative.
A tigerish defence where debutant Huw Lawlor impressed at full-back gave them a good platform to build on, and as the half progressed they really began to dominate in the middle third of the field too.
James Maher and Liam Blanchfield were proving to be a dynamic midfield partnership, while Richie Hogan sparked at centre-forward.
Hes had a tough two years with persistent back injuries, but he looked back to his best here as he gave the normally unflappable Gearoid McInerney serious strife with his movement and accurate shooting.
Two points each from Maher and Hogan had Kilkenny 0-7 to 0-5 ahead by the 15th minute, but they were only warming up.
Maher and Hogan hit another each in quick succession to move Kilkenny six points clear within another five minutes, and then they landed the heaviest blow of the match yet when Ger Aylward hit his and Kilkennys first goal.
Galway goalkeeper Fearghal Flannery got his hurley to the sliotar, but couldnt stop it squirming into the bottom corner of the net.
Six minutes later Aylward had his second goal, and it was a thing of beauty.
John Donnelly did well to catch a high ball and then even better to pop a perfect hand-pass into the path of Martin Keoghan who picked out Aylward.
The angle was tight, but Aylward is a predator in these sorts of positions and finished coolly to the far corner.
Richie Hogan followed up quickly after that with a free, and Kilkenny were leading by 2-14 to 0-6 and in complete control.
Galway manager Michel Donoghue responded by bringing on Brian Concannon and Davy Glennon for Conor Whelan and Joseph Cooney, and both men would go on to have a big impact on the game.
Before they did though, it was Cathal Mannion and Niall Burke who chiefly inspired a Galway revival in the final few minutes of the first half.
Mannion struck two classy points and Burke bagged a goal that meant Galways deficit was a more manageable eight points at the break, with Kilkenny leading by 2-15 to 1-10.
The tide turned against them though in a ten-minute spell between the 40th and 50th minute when Galway outscored them by 1-5 to 0-1 to reduce the gap to just three.
The goal was scored by the Tribesmens best player on the day, Cathal Mannion, after he was put through by Johnny Coen, and came after lively sub Concannon had hit a quick-fire brace of points.
It looked like Galways comeback might be derailed when Joe Canning was red-carded for a high tackle on Enda Morrissey on 54 minutes, but instead his departure seemed to fire up his team-mates.
Davy Glennon scored their third goal of the match to leave just a point between the teams, but Kilkenny looked to have survived that wobble when they went straight down the field and scored one of their own through the excellent Walter Walsh.
Galway just refused to die, though, and were driven forward time and again by the inspirational duo Padraic Mannion and Aidan Harte.
The Tribesmen traded point for point with Kilkenny down the home straight and were rewarded for their perseverance when Mooney smashed a brilliant equalising goal to the roof of the net.
And so, to the free-taking contest. Kilkenny started flawlessly by converting their first three from three whereas Jason Flynn missed for the Tribesmen.