Kilkenny ready to hunt down Tipp
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody received the best possible sporting tonic yesterday as he recovers from heart surgery when his side sent out a clear signal that they have no intention of being parted from their Allianz League and All-Ireland titles.
And in beating Galway rather more convincingly than a 1-24 to 1-17 score line might suggest, the Cats not only strode into a league final meeting with Tipperary on May 5 but convinced their absent manager that competition for places is now keener than ever.
It was perhaps appropriate the man of the match Lester Ryan, a midfield powerhouse throughout, should have articulated this.
"When you get into this side now, you want to hold onto the jersey. There are a lot of players in the queue for places including some big names," said Ryan.
The legendary Henry Shefflin is certainly the most illustrious of these but yesterday his renowned scoring wizardry was not missed as instead Eoin Larkin (0-9), Richie Hogan (0-4), Colin Fennelly (1-1) and Ryan himself (0-3) revelled in a clinical scoring blitz.
Cyril Donnellan's third minute goal had offered Galway a vision of glory but following the loss of Fergal Moore with what appeared to be a serious neck injury – the game was held up for nine minutes – the Tribesmen's challenge was slowly but surely strangled.
By half-way Kilkenny had one foot in the final when they led by 0-15 to 1-6, Larin by then having pocketed eight points and Fennelly's goal early in the second half basically ended Galway's hopes of mounting a recovery.
Kilkenny's regal bearing was such that the odds on Cody's men retaining their league and All-Ireland titles have shortened – that is, if they were ever of any discernible length in the first place.
With a performance that never flew beyond ordinary in the other semi-final, Tipp delivered a stark reminder to ambitious Dublin that they still have a long way to travel before their dreams approach anything akin to reality.
The 4-20 to 0-17 final scoreline did not flatter the winners in the least – how could it indeed when a brace of goals within the first 10 minutes from Shane Bourke and Patrick Maher helped to sweep them into a 2-3 to 0-1 lead.
Thereafter their dominance was never threatened, Seamus Callinan landing a third goal from a penalty and tacking on five points in an imperious first-half solo show that had much to do with his team's 3-11 to 0-8 interval lead.
Simon Lambert and Conor McCormack were sacrificed early doors for Paul Ryan and Ryan O'Dwyer by frustrated Dubs' boss Anthony Daly and although the former joined Danny O'Callaghan, David Tracey and and Joey Boland in harvesting points, these represented mere hiccups within Tipperary's cast-iron resolve.
Callinan brought his impressive haul to 1-7, Jason Forde garnered 0-5 while Pa Burke and Lar Corbett left an indelible imprint on the contest.
A fourth goal on the stroke of full-time merely rubbed salt into Dublin's already gaping wounds.