Waterford 2-23 Galway 2-13
Galway’s brittleness was exposed once again as they completely imploded in the second half, allowing Waterford to canter through to their sixth successive All-Ireland SHC semi-final.
Davy Fitzgerald’s men made a mockery of many pre-match predictions by putting in a performance full of commitment, courage and classy scoring.
It was the Déise’s sheer desire to win that overawed a Galway team that had accounted for Clare and Cork in previous rounds. But that side did not turn up today in Thurles.
Shane Walsh’s first-minute goal set the tone for a much-improved display from Waterford, who took a 1-9 to 1-7 lead after a cagey first half.
Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh starred at centre-back, and Kevin Moran, Shane Walsh and the prodigious Pauric Mahony were also instrumental further up the pitch.
By the 49th minute they were coasting with an eight-point advantage. Joe Canning was Galway’s only real scoring threat in the second period, which ended with an exchange of meaningless goals from substitutes Aidan Harte and Thomas Ryan.
Up to 33,535 spectators paid in for today’s Semple Stadium double header, the general feeling amongst them that Galway would secure their first win over Waterford in 10 Championship meetings.
But the Déise quickly blew off the cobwebs from their Munster final horror show by scoring 1-1 in the first two minutes.
Eoin Kelly, who started in place of shoulder injury victim Brian O’Sullivan, went for goal from a close-in free. His effort was blocked skywards but Shane Walsh rose to bat the rebound into the net.
Moran drilled over a point from play for Fitzgerald’s charges, who switched Mullane into centre-forward as expected.
Mahony landed a right wing free in the fifth minute, which was immediately replied to by Galway midfielder Andy Smith.
A poor puckout from Clinton Hennessy allowed late call-up James Regan to close the gap to 1-2 to 0-2.
Kevin Moran and Mahony failed to convert goal-scoring chances as the frantic pace continued, with points then added by young free-taker Mahony and Ger Farragher.
Déise captain Stephen Molumphy got off the mark before his Galway counterpart Damien Hayes shrugged off ‘Brick’ Walsh to set up Iarla Tannian for the westerners’ fourth point from play.
A flurry of short passes preceded Joe Canning’s opening score from near the left sideline and just as Galway were gaining momentum, Tannian was held by Liam Lawlor for an 18th minute penalty.
Up stepped Canning to fire the Tribesmen into a 1-5 to 1-4 lead, beating Shane O’Sullivan low at the left hand post. It was a brief advantage, John Mullane and Shane Walsh initiating the response.
The sides were level again at 1-6 apiece when Canning scored on the run, and the wides mounted at both ends as the quality of hurling dipped around the half hour mark.
An eleven-minute spell of wayward shooting was brought to an end by a well-struck effort from Moran, which was cancelled out swiftly by Farragher.
However, it was a scrappy finish to the opening 35 minutes. Referee Cathal McAllister’s whistle was all the more frequent and both sides were guilty of poor approach play.
Waterford managed to lift their game in the closing minutes, grabbing a 1-9 to 1-7 advantage as Shane Walsh poined on the turn and Mahony lobbed over a free that Mullane won.
When the second half started, Waterford continued to pressurise the Galway defence. It yielded two more pointed frees from Mahony.
Shane Walsh broke away from his marker Shane Kavanagh to score from the left wing, and the scoreboard showed 1-13 to 1-7 after Mahony converted a close range free.
Suddenly, it was all Waterford. Mahony played a diagonal ball across for Eoin Kelly to jink onto his right and put seven points between the sides.
Galway manager John McIntyre introduced Cyril Donnellan and Kevin Hynes, and Canning popped over a much-needed free.
Moran cracked over his third point from play but Waterford took their wides tally to 13, giving Galway some encouragement to get back in touch.
There was no sign of that comeback though, as Mullane, Mahony (free) and O’Sullivan strung together points to make it 1-18 to 1-8.
Galway seemed to be going through the motions. Canning hit three of the next four points, his attempt on goal from a close range free being blocked out for a ‘65’.
But there was no chance of Waterford letting this one slip, despite Mullane running their wides tally up to 18.
After Galway substitute Barry Daly had got on the scoresheet, Molumphy landed a brace of points - the second created by a superb midfield catch from Shane Walsh.
Walsh then left two Galway defenders on the ground as he floated over his fourth point. Tony Óg Regan knocked over a ‘65’, following a flying save by Hennessy who thwarted Daly.
Mullane added his third point and there was still time for two more goals. Harte produced a powerful finish in the first minute of injury-time, and Ryan’s smartly-struck strike past James Skehill sealed the ten-point winning margin.
In the aftermath, an emotional Fitzgerald soaked it all in and McIntyre publicly apologised to Galway supporters for the lacklustre performance of his side.
Galway will go back to the drawing board, but for Waterford they have familiar semi-final opponents to prepare for on Sunday, August 7 - Kilkenny.
Scorers: Waterford: Shane Walsh 1-4, Pauric Mahony 0-7 (0-7f), Thomas Ryan 1-0, Kevin Moran, Stephen Molumphy, John Mullane 0-3 each, Eoin Kelly, Shane O’Sullivan, Seamus Prendergast 0-1 each
Galway: Joe Canning 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-2f, 0-1 ‘65’), Aidan Harte 1-0, Ger Farragher 0-2, Andy Smith, James Regan, Iarla Tannian, Barry Daly, Tony Óg Regan (0-1 ‘65’) 0-1 each
WATERFORD: Clinton Hennessy; Darragh Fives, Liam Lawlor, Noel Connors; Tony Browne, Michael Walsh, Kevin Moran; Stephen Molumphy (capt), David O’Sullivan; Eoin Kelly, Shane O'Sullivan, Pauric Mahony; John Mullane, Shane Walsh, Seamus Prendergast.
Subs used: Richie Foley for Kelly (65 mins), Shane Casey for Prendergast (70), Declan Prendergast for Browne (70+1), Thomas Ryan for Mullane (70+2).
GALWAY: James Skehill; Fergal Moore, Shane Kavanagh, David Collins; Donal Barry, Tony Óg Regan, Adrian Cullinane; Andy Smith, David Burke; Joe Gantley, Ger Farragher, Iarla Tannian; Damien Hayes (capt), Joe Canning, James Regan.
Subs used: Cyril Donnellan for Gantley (40 mins), Kevin Hynes for Barry (43), John Lee for Cullinane (47), Barry Daly for Smith (52), Aidan Harte for Burke (61).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)