Galway 1-20 Wexford 1-10
By Brendan Larkin
GALWAY'S glut of underage hurling talent was very much to the fore in Semple Stadium on Saturday, where the under-21 side cruised into the final of this year's All-Ireland with an emphatic victory over listless Wexford.
Picking from two All-Ireland winning minor teams of 1999 and 2000 and coached by the same man who steered them to those minor successes John Hardiman, Galway, looked extremely sharp, full of running and possessed a number of outstanding players, of whom midfielder Ger Farragher was head and shoulders above the rest.
The Castlegar youngster, who won the Irish Examiner Junior Sports Star Award two years ago, showed his prowess as a freetaker, scoring 13 points, two of them magnificent efforts from side-line cuts. While Farragher was undoubted the star of the show, Galway also had excellent players in goalkeeper Adrian Diviney, who made a number of great saves, Shane Kavanagh at full-back, Conor Dervan at centre-back, and the pacy Damien Hayes and Kevin Brady in attack.
Team coach John Hardiman said his side got it a little easier than he expected and that there was a lot of work still to be done before the All-Ireland final in three weeks' time.
"We got a rather fortuitous goal just after half-time that, if you take that out of it, there wasn't a whole lot in the scores," he said.
"Wexford came back to within five points of us and our keeper had to make a couple of saves to deny them a goal that might have made all the difference.
"For all the dominance we had over the hour, we never seemed to get into a flow. There was no rhythm to our play, Maybe the stop-start nature of the game didn't help, but no pattern developed at all, and that is something we'll have to work on for the final. Farragher's form was excellent and some of his scores were breathtaking. He's a fantastic hurler both on and off the field. It was essentially a team performance, but we'll have to improve if we are to trouble Limerick in the final.
"The final will be a different ball game entirely. The atmosphere will be greater, the tempo will be much higher and I just hope our lads can cope with all of that."
The game was level only once, in the second minute at 0-1 apiece, before Farragher's showed his expertise with a succession of well taken points to open up an 0-7 to 0-1 lead after 20 minutes, and the paltry attendance of 2,209 got little to shout about, apart from Farragher's exceptional free-taking.
Wexford needed a goal if they were not to be completely overwhelmed and it finally came in the 25th-minute when Barry Lambert's effort appeared to cross the line but Rory Jacob following up made sure.
However, it failed to lift the Model County and, Galway with Farragher and Damien Hayes showing the way, went on to lead 0-11 to 1-2 at the
Whatever chance Wexford had of making a game of it completely disappeared seconds after the restart when their keeper Matty White deflected a harmless shot by Adrian Cullinane into his own net.
That goal put nine points between the sides, a true reflection of Galway's overall superiority, and while Wexford continued to battle on bravely, mainly through the excellent free-taking of Barry Lambert, they could never breach a rock-solid Galway defence, where Diviney, Kavanagh and Dervan were particularly impressive.
The only thing of note for the remainder of the game was the unfortunate neck injury to Wexford's Thomas Hawkins, who had to be stretchered off, but thankfully, it proved to be nothing serious.
Wexford manager said he was bitterly disappointed, not so much at losing, but by the failure of his team to do themselves justice.
"We knew coming down we were up against a very good Galway that was coming off the back of two winning minor All-Ireland teams, and it shows just far behind we are at this level.
"From my own personal point of view, Galway have the best underage system in the country, and have the titles to prove that. Our performances in Leinster weren't great and we just couldn't improve on that for today's game which is most disappointing.
"If Wexford are to make any shape at this level, we've got to be winning
minor titles in the preceding three years. Winning breeds confidence, which is something we are sadly lacking at the moment at all levels."
Scorers - Galway: G. Farragher 0-13 (0-10 frees, 0-1 65); A. Cullinane 1-1; M. Coughlan 0-3; R. Murray 0-2; D. Hayes 0-1. Wexford:. B. Lambert 0-7 (0-6 frees, 0-1 65); R. Jacob 1-0; MJ Furlong, E. Quigley, S. O'Neill 0-1 each.
GALWAY: Adrian Diviney; B. Mahony, S. Kavanagh, F. Moore; Aidan Diviney, C. Dervan, MJ Quinn; G. Farragher, D. Forde; R. Murray, M. Coughlan, A. Cullinane; D. Hayes, K. Brady, D. Green. Subs. JP O'Connell for Aidan Diviney; J. Culkin for K. Brady; F. Kavanagh for D. Green.
WEXFORD: M. White; P. O'Donoghue, D. O'Connor, T. Hawkins; S. O'Neill, K. Rossiter, J. O'Connor; D. Stamp, W. Doran, D. Mythen; R. Jacob, B. Lambert, J. Goggins. Subs. L. Gleeson for O'Donoghue; E. Quigley for Doran; A. O'Leary for Goggins; N. Goff for Lyng; K Kavanagh for Hawkins.
Referee, G. Harrington (Cork).