Galway ended with a victory margin of six points, but it could easily have been doubled. Both Waterford goals, scored by Eoin Kelly, were of the gift variety, and the most telling indictment of the overall effectiveness of a leaderless attack was that only the first of those goals and a late point from Seamas Prendergast were registered by forwards.
The defeat has well and truly buried any lingering hopes they harboured of regaining a title they won two seasons ago and their remaining group games against Limerick and Cork will now be all about avoiding relegation.
Ironically, Waterford got off to the better start with Shane O’Sullivan exercising early dominance at midfield and maintaining that good form right to the end. It was O’Sullivan’s point inside 45 seconds that gave them the lead, and when Kelly obliged with another from a free the home side were off to the proverbial flyer.
However, inspired by the magnificence of Ollie Canning in defence, they took little time to wipe out that early deficit.
David Tierney and the outstanding Niall Healy had them level inside five minutes and once Joe Canning pointed his side into the lead with the first of his nine point haul, Galway went on to dismantle the home challenge.
Eoin Kelly did respond with a brace of pointed frees but the winners were already tightening their grip in all of the key sectors.
The inevitable goal came for them in the 27th minute from centre forward Cyril Donnellan, and while Aidan Kearney continued to do a fine man marking job on Joe Canning with Eoin Murphy and outstanding teenager Noel Connors also unyielding in the corners, Waterford were toiling in too many other areas.
Only Donnellan’s goal separated the sides at the interval with Galway good value for their 1-8 to 0-8 lead.
Waterford introduced Tony Browne after half an hour for his first action since last year’s All-Ireland final crash to Kilkenny, but he was forced off 27 minutes later with a leg injury. They also lost Ken McGrath to injury in the second-half although he had up to then been having one of his least effective outings in a long while.
With Galway rifling over a succession of points in that second-half, they steadily eased to safer pastures, and not even the brace of lucky Waterford goals from Kelly could rescue his side.
The first of them came in the 61st minute when goalkeeper Colm Callanan and full-back Eugene McEntee bebecame entangled on the fringe of the square and when the ball broke Kelly had the simple task of tapping it into the empty net.
That left Waterford trailing by 1-16 to 1-10,and when Seamas Prendergast almost immediately rifled over a great point the home fans fleetingly had visions of a comeback.
But just as quickly Galway answered with points of their own, including another of those now Joe Canning ‘specials’’ from a sideline delivery, and while Kelly had another slice of good fortune in the 67th minute when his 65 metre free wormed its way to the net past defenders and attackers there was no realistic way back for them.
“Both those Waterford goals were avoidable but that kind of thing happens in games’’, said Galway manager John McIntyre.
“The most important thing from our perspective is that we came to a venue where it is never easy for visiting teams to win and we came away with mission accomplished’’.
Further points by Canning (free) and Donnellan(2) with just one in response from wing back Richie Foley — his second from play — copper-fastened Galway’s decisive victory.
An understandably disappointed Waterford boss, Davy Fitzgerald, said they have now strung two very poor performances “back to back’’ and must try to pick themselves up for their next game away to Limerick — and Justin McCarthy!
“Let there be no doubt bout it’’, said Fitzgerald, “we were well beaten today and to say that I am disappointed would be an understatement. We had a few goal chances in the second-half, but we also scored two very fortuitous goals. It was just one of those days and I cannot really explain it’’.
Scorers for Galway: J. Canning(0-9, 0-5 frees, 0-2 “65s, 0-1 s-line); C. Donnellan(1-2); N. Healy(0-3); D. Tierney(0-2); A. Smith(0-2); A. Callanan (0-2); N. Hayes(0-1).
Scorers for Waterford: E. Kelly(2-7, 1-6 frees, 0-1 “65’’)’ S. O’Sullivan(0-2); R. Foley(0-2); S. Prendergast(0-1).
GALWAY: C. Callanan; D. Joyce. E. McEntee. O. Canning; R. Murray. M. Ryan. F. Moore; A. Cullinane. D. Tierney; A. Smith. C. Donnellan. A. Callanan; G. Farragher. J. Canning. N. Healy.
Subs: N. Hayes for Farragher; E. Lynch for Tierney; J. Gantley for Smith.
WATERFORD: C. Hennessy; E. Murphy. A. Kearney. N. Connors; R. Foley. M. Walsh. J.
Murray; S. O’Sullivan. J. Nagle; G. Hurney. K. McGrath. S. Prendergast; S. Walsh. E. Kelly. S. Molumphy Subs: T. Browne for Murray; J. Kennedy for Hurney; D. Shanahan for Nagle; J Hurney for Browne(inj); T. Ryan for McGrath(inj).
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan, Cork.