Under-par Waterford get past Wexford to set up clash with Cats
In a poor game at Semple Stadium Wexford’s truckload of wides cost them semi final place
Waterford’s Michael Walsh with Matthew O’Hanlon and Liam Ryan of Wexford during their All-Ireland quarter-final encounter. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
A late rally is no match for the championship backlash, Waterford rebounding from their Munster final capitulation to book their place in an All-Ireland hurling semi-final for the second successive year.
It wasn’t always pretty or indeed convincing, as Wexford tested both their heads and nerves and very nearly undid all of Waterford’s hard work in the first half: still, it wasn’t nearly enough to claw back the deep deficit established early on, and in end Waterford held out like a team that both wanted to and needed to.
Seven points up at half-time, the winning margin of 10 points may flatter Waterford somewhat given Wexford got it back to five points, on 55 minutes, at which point Waterford appeared to have suffered a serious lapse in concentration.
That they recovered, and impressively too, had all the hallmarks of a team determined to make amends for their 21-point defeat to Tipperary in the Munster final earlier this month.
Played out between warm sunshine and blustery showers, it was at times also played with the sort of abandon that comes with two teams standing over the trapdoor of their season.
Waterford laid out their intentions from the throw-in, and never looked back: they hit three opening points in quick succession, even before Wexford had a shot on goal: Maurice Shanahan from play, Pauric Mahony from a placed ball, before Michael “Brick” Walsh completed a neat pass from Jamie Barron to add his first from play.
Wexford, spirits soaring after qualifier wins over Offaly and then Cork, looked nervous and a little slack too. Lee Chin calmed some nerves by hitting their opening score after five minutes, but it came very much against the run of play, Waterford adding three more points in equally quick succession, including a trademark long-ranger from Austin Gleeson.
Wexford rallied briefly, as Conor McDonald finally found his scoring range, before David Dunne hit a lovely point from the verges of the right sideline. Then, as if on cue, Waterford tagged on another three without reply, going 0-9 to 0-3 in front, and suddenly it seems Wexford’s back were pushed straight up against the wall.
Still, that first half was played out with lots of blocking, lots of hooking, and lots of misfiring too, either wide of the posts or worse still short of it – especially in front of the Wexford goal – and Waterford’s shooting went from bad to worse as the first half progressed. Waterford finished those opening 35 minutes with 13 wides in total.
So, into the second half then, and while Waterford picked it up where they left off, Wexford suddenly got a grip on the game, hitting five points without reply to reduce the gap to five, 0-15 to 0-10, the best coming from corner back Eanna Martin.
That only seemed to wake up Waterford, however, Brian O’Halloran scoring an excellent point off the bench, before Mahony, who finished with 0-8, restored the margin to a comfortable level, and with that Waterford held on, knowing full well a bigger test awaits in the semi-final.
WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; T de Búrca, A Gleeson (0-2), Philip Mahony; J Barron (0-2), D Fives; K Moran (capt), S Bennett (0-2), M Walsh (0-2); P Curran, Pauric Mahony (0-8, six frees), M Shanahan (0-2). Subs: C Gleeson for D Fives (12 mins), J Dillon (0-1) for Shanahan (49 mins), B O’Halloran (0-2) for Curran (55 mins), Stephen Bennett for Shane Bennett (60 mins), C Dunford for Walsh (72 mins)
WEXFORD: M Fanning; E Moore, M O’Hanlon (capt), L Ryan (0-1); D O’Keeffe, P Foley, E Martin (0-1); J O’Connor (0-1), E Conroy; L Og McGovern, L Chin (0-2), H Kehoe; P Morris, C McDonald (0-5, four frees), D Dunne (0-1). Subs: A Kenny for Conroy (27 mins), N Kirwan for Kehoe (45 mins), S Donohue for Moore (51 mins, inj), A Nolan for Conroy (64 mins), J O’Connor for McGovern (68 mins).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).