“It was there for us, we let it slip, and that will torment the team management and the players for some time to come.”
He’s an honest, straight-talking guy, is John McIntyre, and in this, he was absolutely spot on. Tormented Galway will be, no doubt about that, but what excuse can there be when you’re beaten by a better team on the day?
Oh there will be recriminations in the City of the Tribes, but not from within this squad, because McIntyre knows – though they failed to protect a six-point final-quarter lead yesterday, Galway were beaten in the end by a Waterford team of magnificent character, a team that simply refuses to die.
Waterford, had been expected to fade away after their All-Ireland final shellacking by Kilkenny last September. But under the promptings of manager Davy Fitzgerald they dug themselves out of that hole, had a half-decent league campaign before struggling to get past Limerick in the Munster semi-final and losing to Tipperary in the final.
Twenty minutes to go yesterday and Waterford looked dead and buried and the eulogies were being prepared for guys like man-of-the-match Tony Browne, who again hurled himself to a standstill.
0-16 to 0-10 it was at that stage, Galway in the driving-seat after a five points to one scoring burst that had seen them negate a threatened Waterford comeback immediately after the break.
As they had been in their previous three championship matches, three powerful performances against Kilkenny Clare and Cork respectively, Galway were hugely impressive in building up that lead with total commitment from one end of the field to the other.
John Mullane, scoring star of the year to date – and not just for Waterford – came in for particular attention. Mullane started on the edge of the square, a tactical move to test the suspect pace of stand-in Galway full-back Eugene McEntee, but that didn’t work out, and soon the flying De La Salle man was back in his more usual spot, the right corner. There, however, he ran into the buzz-saw that is Ollie Canning and was eventually forced to forage further out the field, at wing-forward.
A dozen points Eoin Kelly notched for Waterford in this game, but five of those were from frees won by the flying Mullane, and he also set up another, for Seamus Prendergast. It was risk management, by Galway, conceding those frees, and for most of this game it worked a treat. Four points they led by at the break, 0-11 to 0-7, Joe Canning again doing the bulk of their scoring with six, wing-forwards Aongus Callanan (2) and Andy Smith (1) on target while Kelly had five from placed balls for the Déise. Could have been more of a lead, had Galway capitalised on a couple of goal opportunities, six wides also hurting their cause. Still, at that stage they were looking good for the win.
A couple of early points after the restart, from Kevin Moran and Eoin Kelly, gave Waterford hope, but again Galway pressed, and again it paid dividends. Three points from Joe Canning, one each from Damien Hayes and Ger Farragher, to yet another from the unerring stick of Kelly, had Galway back in control – or so it seemed – in the 50th minute, 0-16 to 0-10.
There it stayed for another seven minutes, until Waterford – inspired by the introduction of the Shanahan brothers Maurice and Dan – again fought back, and four points, all from placed balls by Kelly, made it a two-point game with only five minutes remaining. Showing great resolve, Galway again stretched it out to four with points from sub Joe Gantley and Damien Hayes.
But showing even greater resolve Waterford came back. Another sub was introduced, dual star Shane Walsh from Fourmilewater, and after Big Dan had used his height and weight advantage to grab a high centre, a perfect layoff to Shane was hit perfectly on the turn and the game had its only goal. We were now at 0-18 to 1-14 with two minutes of regulation time remaining plus two of added time. The tide was now turned, and Waterford were riding high. Eoin Kelly, with his 12th point, his 11th free, tied it up in the 71st minute and then came the winner.
Fittingly it fell to Mullane; a huge ground-devouring burst out of defence by Declan Prendergast, pass, an authoritative shot on the run from 65m – what a way to win an All-Ireland quarter-final! Galway had a last chance, a left-sided shot under huge pressure from wide left by Joe Canning, but it flashed across the posts.
So, still very much alive, this Waterford team, but how much of a kick is left in them? Two weeks now to ready themselves for Kilkenny, again, though the word is that talisman Ken McGrath should be ready for that one.
What odds on them now, however? 3/1 against yesterday, they made nonsense of that – how much life can still be left in this team?
Scorers for Waterford: E. Kelly 0-12 (0-11 frees); S. Walsh 1-0; K. Moran 0-2; J. Mullane, S. Prendergast, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: J. Canning 0-9 (0-5 frees, 0-1 65); D. Hayes 0-3; A. Callanan 0-2; G. Farragher 0-2; J. Gantley, A. Smith, 0-1 each.
Subs for Waterford: M. Shanahan (Nagle 45); S. Walsh (Casey 55); D. Shanahan (Moran 65).
Subs for Galway: J. Gantley (Healy 56); K. Hayes (Donnellan 61); A. Kerins (Smith 70).
Referee: D. Kirwan (Cork).