Wexford show grit as Waterford flop

Wexford 1-20 Waterford 0-18

And, it it showed in the demeanour of manager John Conran after a marvellous Guinness All-Ireland second round qualifier in a packed Nowlan Park on Saturday evening.

Proud to the point of being bullish in terms of what their victory signified for Leinster hurling, Conran attributed it primarily to the character displayed by his players, among whom substitute Larry Murphy was one of several who had a huge influence on the outcome.

In real terms, the last eight minutes of the first half arguably marked the most crucial stage of the game team captain Paul Codd at last began to contribute, goalkeeper Damien Fitzhenry brought off a fantastic save from Dan Shanahan and Rory Jacob scored a cheeky goal.

To quote Conran, the opposition was 'ground down' in the second half. The skill and confidence of their young stars, allied to the inspired leadership of Dave Guiney, Darragh Ryan and Liam Dunne, produced a potent mix which simply overpowered Waterford. For Conran, who conceded that the Leinster final performance had 'galled him', coming back from being six points in arrears (as they did against Offaly in the Leinster semi-final) testified to their character. "They had a lot to prove since the Kilkenny game. We know we are a good team. We prepared very well and we were very hungry," he commented.

Noncommittal about his future except to state that he would ' still be involved in hurling next year' Waterford manager Justin McCarthy as good as admitted that this was a serious setback for his team. "We had ambitions to go back to Croke Park, but Wexford were a very good team. You have to give them credit, they outplayed us in the second half. We were as hungry as anybody coming in here to prove ourselves. We had to put the Munster final behind us, but it didn't happen."

After a tentative start, Waterford settled down to play impressively and make steady progress. They were particularly effective in the full-back line, where Declan Prendergast was to excel in the left corner until Rory Jacob began to penetrate, and a feature of their forward play was a return to form (reflected in his shooting) by Ken McGrath in the centre. Dan Shanahan was to be regularly involved on the right wing and John Mullane, inside him, was also a big threat. Notably, however, Paul Flynn could make no headway against a very tenacious Dave Guiney.

In contrast, Wexford found it very difficult to penetrate and there was to be no real improvement until after Larry Murphy came on in the 24th minute for Adrian Fenlon. By then, Waterford were five points clear and before McGrath added another score, excellent 'keeper Stephen Brenner made a good save from Rory Jacob.

Paul Codd made an immediate impact after moving out to the centre. He picked off two fine scores from play before pointing a close-in free won by Murphy, but also had two bad misses at a time when they were costly. However, their luck changed when Rory Jacob who credited Larry Murphy with making 'a big difference' brought them level with a goal in the 36th minute.

While Waterford regained the lead through Dave Bennett to turn over 0-10 to 1-6 in front, Wexford had broken through the psychological barrier. A perceived lack of regard for them gave added motivation and it was to be reflected in their confident play. Within a minute of the resumption they were level and in front for the first time a minute later from two Codd frees conceded by the unfortunate Tony Browne, who never managed to settle into the game.

Wexford defended superbly, with Declan Ruth much more forceful in the centre, Guiney virtually unbeatable under pressure, and Doc O'Connor and Liam Dunne forming a strong left flank. The net result was that Flynn remained largely anonymous (even after moving out to the wing), McGrath saw little of the ball and Mullane wasn't too involved even though he was to hit over two good scores before leaving the field. The second of those, in the 50th minute, had scores level and six minutes later Shanahan had Waterford briefly back in front.

Rory Jacob and 'Hopper' McGrath were splendid in the corners, Larry Murphy was a constant threat and substitute Mitch Jordan used his experience to make a telling contribution. Fergal Hartley, in possibly his last championship game for the county, stood up well to the pressure except that he was unable to limit Codd when he roamed outfield to win ball.

Over the last quarter, as they outscored their opponents by eight points to three, Wexford were rampant. Once they sensed that victory was in their grasp, there was no way they were going to be denied.

*Willie Barrett seemed to experience an initial difficulty in keeping order, when there was a surprising 'needle' in the game, but his mistakes were few and overall did a good job of refereeing.

Scorers for Wexford P. Codd 0-8 (0-2 frees, 0-1 seventy), R. Jacob 1-3, M. Jordan 0-3, L. Murphy and M. Jacob 0-2 each, D. Stamp and A. Fenlon 0-1 each.

Waterford: J. Mullane and K. McGrath 0-5 each, P. Flynn 0-3 (0-2 frees), E. Murphy 0-2, D. Bennett, M. Walsh and D. Shanahan 0-1 each.

WEXFORD: D. Fitzhenry, D. Guiney, D. Ryan, D. O'Connor, D. Stamp, D. Ruth, L. Dunne, L. O'Gorman, R. McCarthy, B. Lambert, A. Fenlon, M. Jacob, C. McGrath, P. Codd (capt.), R. Jacob.

Subs: L. Murphy for Fenlon (24th minute), M. Jordan for Lambert (second half), T. Mahon for O'Gorman (58th), M.J. Furlong for McGrath (71st).

WATERFORD: S. Brenner, B. Greene, TS Feeney, D. Prendergast, E. Murphy, F. Hartley, J. Murray, T. Browne (capt.), P. Queally, S. Prendergast, K. McGrath, D. Bennett, J. Mullane, S. Prendergast, P. Flynn.

Subs: A. Moloney for Queally (47th minute), E. McGrath for Mullane (injured, 51st), E. Kelly for S. Prendergast (56th), M. Walsh for Browne (61st).

Referee: W. Barrett (Tipperary).

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