Waterford huff and puff and blow Galway away in a storm
Snow showers and sunshine made conditions next to impossible at Walsh Park
Waterford’s Jamie Barron in action against Galway’s Cathal Mannion during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B encounter. Photo: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Waterford 1-18 Galway 2-13
Should we talk about the weather? After a game of two different storm force wind directions – one half played with it, one against it – it was bound to prove decisive.
So it did, Waterford huffing and puffing and eventually blowing Galway away with the winning goal at the tail end of the second half, suitably whipped into the net by Shane Bennett. It completed a 10-point turnaround after Waterford played against that wind for the first half, and no less than they deserved for standing up to the properly bitter end.
Of all field games, hurling is perhaps most influenced by the elements, and Walsh Park presented them in Planet Earth abundance: that storm force wind, icy hail, rolling thunder, briefly fabulous sunshine plus the odd bolt of lightning, it wasn’t the ideal dress rehearsal for their Munster championship dates in May, the home crowd within the 3,371 attendance departing warm-hearted nonetheless.
Originally postponed because of a waterlogged pitch last Sunday, the playing surface held up – just about – the result now completing the quarter-final pairings: Waterford (losing top place to Dublin on points difference) await the toss of a coin before learning where they will play Clare next Sunday, while Galway, already assigned a home venue, will host Wexford at Pearse Stadium.
“I don’t think people realise how hard it was out there, playing against the elements, and in hindsight we did okay in the first half, to be just 10 points down,” said Paraic Fanning, the Waterford manager not yet entirely numbed by the sideline chill.
“Being in Walsh Park, we wanted to get the win here, the lads knew that. We want to win every game we play, but we’ve a few big games coming up here now in May, in the championship, and we want to create the impression this is a hard place to win, and we’re a hard team to beat, and we’re certainly working towards that. You can see the value of home matches again, because the home crowd helped us, so very happy to come back like that, showing the bit of character as well.”
Even with the elements on the side, Waterford faced a horizontal mountain going into the second half, trailing Galway 2-11 to 0-7: Jason Flynn deftly finished Galway’s first goal on 10 minutes, maximising Shane McNulty’s small lapse in the Waterford defence, and a flurry of Galway points then followed in quick succession.
On 32 minutes, by then a snow flurry reducing visibility to around zero, Joe Canning carved his way through the Waterford defence and spotted Brian Concannon inside him, when no one else did, his sweet pass then duly completed into the next. After just three goals in the four league games so far, Galway had two in the first half, and were up 2-11 to 0-7. If it was a sprint it might be deemed wind-aided.
Waterford hadn’t scored since Stephen Bennett’s free in the 17th minute. Could the wind account for those 10 points? More, as it turned out, as Waterford outscored Galway 1-11 to 0-2 once the elements were turned in their favour. Truth is they turned a bit more spirit in their favour too.
“We wanted to cement that quarter-final spot,” added Fanning, clearly settling well into his debut season as manager. “We have used 33, 34 players, and like any team, we want to try and to as well as we can, will push as hard as we can, because there is that break before the championship. That was probably only the second really tough game we’ve had, no disrespect to the other teams, because our first three games were that bit easier. We need these matches.”
With nine regular starters still out of action, Fanning has been blooding plenty of players too, Shane Bennett’s return this season adding considerable to that forward line alongside his brother Stephen, who finished with 0-10, nine frees, having taken the place-ball duties from Pauric Mahony.
Peter Hogan also showed up for plenty of inside ball, winning the key position four minutes into the five minutes of injury to set up Bennett’s winner. It was perfectly late, coming as Waterford chased down hard throughout the second half, appearing as if they may just out of time. Instead Galway ran out of time to launch any counter-attack, their second half tally limited to a Canning free on 55 minutes, and a Niall Burke point on 60 minutes.
“Obviously very difficult conditions, we haven’t played in something like that for a long, said Galway manager Micheál Donoghue. “Inevitably that made for a game of two halves, and that’s how it turned out.
“It is very,very hard to play against it, we were just pinned back for that second half, couldn’t get up the field. But still I wouldn’t fault our lads they were just a bit unfortunate to concede late on. We can’t control the conditions, but even trying to win our own puck-outs was very hard. But still a home quarter-final to look forward to, next week, and delighted that’s at home as well.”
Canning is looking as sharp as ever for early March, and while Cathal Mannion didn’t quite hit his midfield heights of late, Conor Whelan showed great appetite for ball throughout, as did Niall Burke and Flynn, before his was called ashore.
Even with no promotion to fight for, the commitment from both teams was impressive, especially late in the second half when Carlow referee David Hughes at point looked at the heavens above and wondered: what else? Waterford’s winner at least one memorable answer.
WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; S McNulty, N Connors, D Lyons; C Lyons, Philip Mahony, K Moran; J Barron (0-3), C Dunford; M Walsh, M Kearney (0-2), Pauric Mahony (0-2); P Hogan, Stephen Bennett (0-10, eight frees), Shane Bennett (1-1).
Subs: J Henley for Lyons (46 mins), A Gleeson for Walsh (51 mins), S Roche for Dunford (52 mins), C Roche for Connors (65 mins, inj), J Prendergast for Moran (66 mins).
GALWAY: F Flannery; J Grealish, R Burke, A Harte; K Hussey, P Mannion, G McInerney; C Mannion, S Loftus; J Canning (0-7, six frees), C Whelan (0-2), N Burke (0-3); D Glennon, J Flynn (1-1), B Concannon (1-0).
Subs: S Bleahene for Flynn (53 mins), S Linnane for C Mannion (55 mins), P Killen for Grealish (64 mins), S Kilduff for Linnane (69 mins, inj), J Hanbury for Burke (73 mins).
Referee: David Hughes (Carlow).