Galway relishing crack at Cats

Waterford 0-12 Galway 0-15
A motivated Galway outfit were too sharp for Waterford in Walsh Park yesterday, nudging the home side out of contention for a semi-final berth in the Allianz HL Division 1A by three points.

The winning margin might have been more comfortable had Joe Canning converted some of his six wides from play but Galway were well worth their victory on a cold, blustery day in the South East.

Galway manager, Anthony Cunningham was, understandably, happy at the final whistle.

“It was good to finish it out, we had slipped in a couple of the matches. Waterford have finished all their matches very strongly and it was very tight there in the finish even though there were a couple of points in it. We’re happy.”

His Waterford counterpart wasn’t praising referee Anthony Stapleton for a patchy performance. Asked if he felt the referee had made some howlers, Michael Ryan said: “I agree with you. It’s easy to blame referees but I was surprised by a few of them, that they went against us. But those things happen in games. We’re disappointed not to be going to the semi-finals. But it’s been a good league overall. We’ve finished fourth in the group but we’ve discovered a few things about guys, a few fellas have had their character tested. Overall I’m happy enough.”

In the first-half Waterford had the wind but the fluency and drive of last week’s win over Tipperary was conspicuous by its absence. Jake Dillon (free) and a good Jamie Barron score from the wing opened their account, but from early on it was all Galway. With the home side overpowered in midfield by a driving display from Iarla Tannian, Galway had the ideal launch pad for their attacks and Joe Canning got on plenty of ball from his wing-forward berth. The visitors hit three on the trot from Davy Glennon, Niall Burke and Canning before the game took its first twist, when Glennon won a penalty on 15 minutes.

Canning went for goal, but he must have missed Paul Flynn on Laochra Gael this week – the former Waterford star stressed the importance of the pick-up, and Canning’s lift left him down slightly: Shane O’Sullivan saved the shot and Waterford lifted the siege.

They might have had a goal of their own two minutes later, a Kevin Moran delivery coming back off the post, but Maurice Shanahan was hooked as he pulled on the rebound.

Waterford’s scoring drought stretched out for the rest of the half – 22 minutes without raising a flag – while Galway, with David Collins prominent at the back, had scores from Canning (two points, one free), Tannian and Niall Burke to leave the score 0-8 to 0-3 at the break.

Waterford improved on the resumption: Maurice Shanahan (free) and Glennon swapped points before Seamus Prendergast had a sight of goal but cracked the ball over the bar. However, though handling remained a bugbear for the home side, whose players dropped balls they’d normally snap up without a thought, they narrowed the deficit to three points by the three-quarter stage thanks to Shanahan’s accuracy, 0-10 to 0-7.

The same man went for goal from a close-in free at this point in the game but Colm Callanan saved well and Waterford had two poor wides shortly after. In contrast, Galway snapped over two points from Glennon and Cyril Donnellan to make it 0-13 to 0-7 with over 10 minutes left.

Shanahan kept Galway nervous with two frees, but the westerners had a goal disallowed on 61 minutes when a Canning sideline ended in the net, with referee Anthony Stapleton calling a square-ball. A Canning free stretched Galway’s lead, and when the same man lofted a point from halfway the visitors were five up with six minutes left. Shanahan and Shane O’Sullivan cut it to three points, but the equalising goal never looked likely.

“What you want at this time of year is matches,” said Cunningham. “We have loads to work on after today and we won’t be getting carried away. We had a lot of wides and probably a couple more chances we could have finished and there is always work to do and it gives us a few weeks of work and a focus and what I told the lads there was that there is no abundance of league medals there — but what a great thing to get a crack at Kilkenny again. It’s what we want.”

The Waterford manager felt his side had lost the initiative early on. “In the first-half we never got into the game. We stood off them. They’re All-Ireland finalists last year, and if you give them time and space they’ll punish you.

“I’m happy enough with our second-half performance. There were one or two incidents in there, I thought we could have had a penalty, that we had a fair shout for one. But I couldn’t fault our lads’ commitment in the second-half.”

Subs for Waterford: P Mahony for B O’Halloran (52), S Walsh for R Barry (55), B O’Sullivan for J Dillon (61).

Subs for Galway: B Flaherty for K Hynes (blood) 7-9; D Hayes for N Burke (52), A Smith for J Cooney (56), J Glynn for C Cooney (60), J Regan for C Donnellan (68), B Flaherty for D Burke (69).

Scorers for Waterford: M Shanahan 0-7 (5fs, 1 65), J Dillon, S Prendergast, B O’Halloran, S O’Sullivan, J Barron 0-1 each.

Scorers for Galway: J Canning 0-5 (3fs), D Glennon 0-4, I Tannian, N Burke 0-2 each, C Donnelan, D Burke 0-1 each.

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