Waterford end Wexford’s giddy summer run at Páirc Uí Chaoimh

Tadhg de Búrca’s sending off the only blemish for the Déise in their four point win

Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan celebrates scoring a point in  the All-Ireland Hurling quarter-final against Wexford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan celebrates scoring a point in the All-Ireland Hurling quarter-final against Wexford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Waterford 1-23 Wexford 1-19

The new hurling orthodoxy of the Sunny South East drew a crowd of over 31,000 to the gleaming reimagined stadium by the Lee.

Safe to say the famous stadium has seen better hurling games. That won’t matter to Waterford. They were in control of a grimly rhythmic All-Ireland hurling quarter-final, which was end to end and not much in between. Waterford were in control throughout and the only blemish on their day was the straight red card issued to Tadhg de Búrca in the 66th minute. The Clashmore man has mastered the deep sweeping role over the past two seasons and his loss is a huge blow.

“We came with a job to do and we got the result,” was the matter of fact summary by Austin Gleeson afterwards.

“That was the main thing. Whatever the draw is, it is going to be a tough draw.”

From the opening minutes of the game, Waterford sought the direct route towards goal, raining long ball in for Michael Walsh, Kevin Moran and Gleeson to make of them what they could.

Plenty, it turned out: Moran had 1-2 from play by half-time and Walsh was a handful for more than just Liam Ryan, winning three frees which Pauric Mahony translated into points.

With Darragh Fives sitting in front of a fullback line already supplemented by De Búrca in his customary loose sweeping role, Waterford played their familiar direct, combative game.

Midway through the first half, they threatened to overwhelm Wexford, moving into a comfortable 0-8 to 0-4 lead when another foul on Walsh led to a booking for Rory O’Connor. O’Mahony missed the relatively simple free and it was a let off Davy Fitzgerald’s side.

They responded with their best period of hurling, with precise passes from Eoin Moore finding Paul Morris and Diarmuid O’Keeffe in enough space to find their range. Wexford were right there on the half hour even if there was a sense their full-back line was beginning to creak under the Blitzkrieg of pressure.

Two of Waterford’s points came from the supply line of goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe and a loose sideline cut was immediately hoovered up by Gleeson, who swivelled and struck his first from play. That score presaged further trouble in the Wexford back line: Stephen Bennett, busy and aggressive from the beginning, closed in on a loose clearance and flicked the ball for Moran to chase down. One on one with Mark Fanning, Moran didn’t blink and kept his strike low and accurate.

Davy Fitz materialised on the sideline, hands on hips, looking puzzled. The irresistible energy and motion of Wexford’s journey in early summer looked like foundering on Waterford’s unblinking approach.

Against Waterford, a five-point gap is a daunting climb. Wexford started brightly after the break, full back Liam Ryan bundling forward to hit a point on the break and when Lee Chin broke free in the 43rd minute to take a point after a wonderful run by Rory O’Connor, the Wexford crowd erupted.

But Waterford have learned the lessons of many hard winters and summers. They didn’t deviate from the plan here; battling for the 50-50, punishing fouls anything scoreable through Pauric Mahony and a monster free from Gleeson in the 47th minute and sending Maurice Shanahan in once Walsh had exhausted himself. The Lismore man responded with two emotionally charged points and even if Waterford were unable to move into a higher gear, they were comfortable in keeping Wexford at arm’s length.

After all the high adventure of the league and championship; after a beautiful season of Davyness, it was a perplexing way to exit the contest. A goal might have lit a bonfire: it did arrive, when Jack O’Connor rapped home the ball from Jack Guiney’s free. But that was virtually the last act of this quarter-final.

Overall, they had no answer. Derek McGrath sent in Brian O’Halloran and was rewarded with two gorgeous individual scores as Waterford continued to fire on sight. Apart from that Moran goal, Waterford did not really look to trouble Mark Fanning. Instead, they shot on sight.

So they move into the All-Ireland semi-finals as the most rugged and obdurate of the four remaining teams. Debate will intensify as to whether they can overcome the lauded gifts of the other three with their rigorous and austere game. Let them talk. Waterford are where they want to be.

WATERFORD: 1 Stephen O’Keeffe; 4 Noel Connors, 3 Barry Coughlan, 5 Tadhg de Búrca; 9 Conor Gleeson (0-1), 2 Shane Fives, 7 Philip Mahony; 8 Jamie Barron, 10 Kevin Moran (1-3); 15 Darragh Fives (0-1), 6 Austin Gleeson (0-3, one free), 11 Pauric Mahony (0-9, all frees); 14 Michael Walsh (0-1), 13 Shane Bennett, 12 Jake Dillon (0-1).

Subs: 21 Maurice Shanhan (0-2) for Dillon (45 mins), 20 Brian O’Halloran (0-2) for Shane Bennett (46 mins), 24 Stephen Bennett for Walsh (54 mins), 23 Colin Dunford for Barron (62 mins), 19 Tommy Ryan for Stephen Bennett (47 mins).

WEXFORD: 1 Mark Fanning; 2 Willie Devereux, 4 James Breen, 3 Liam Ryan (0-1); 17 Eoin Moore (0-1), 6 Matthew O’Hanlon (jt-capt), 7 Diarmuid O’Keeffe (0-2); 22 Rory O’Connor (0-1), 11 Lee Chin (jt-capt; 0-3, two frees); 15 Paul Morris (0-1), 19 David Redmond, 14 Conor McDonald (0-1); 8 Shaun Murphy, 12 Jack Guiney (0-6, all frees), 20 Podge Doran.

Subs: 9 Aidan Nolan (0-1) for Redmond (29 mins), 10 Jack O’Connor (1-2) for Morris (41 mins), 13 Harry Kehoe for McDonald (59 mins), 21 Shane Tompkins for Doran (64 mins).

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