The Tribesmen collected the NHL points on a crisp afternoon in Pearse Stadium, despite a remarkable first-half recovery which saw Waterford lead at the break.
Joe Gantley gathered a high ball in the opening seconds to place Niall Healy for a goal, setting the tone for Galway’s dominance early on, but it was a false dawn regarding the game’s quality. It soon degenerated into an epidemic of foostering for the ball and aimless wides from both teams.
Waterford struggled early to make an impact against a physically stronger Galway side, who had a second goal from Iarla Tannian on 15 minutes – again as a result of a high ball not being dealt with by the Waterford full-back line. Yet that was the last Galway score of the half, while Waterford got to grips with the game.
The Déise cause wasn’t helped by an over-reliance on short passing, which often saw their players lose possession or run out of options, yet they pulled ahead at half-time, Maurice Shanahan’s two late points put his side two up, 1-8 to 2-3; it was notable that the Waterford burst was fuelled by a far more direct approach, which yielded a critical goal from Shane Walsh.
“We got a great start,” reflected Galway boss John McIntyre. “We didn’t build on it and we didn’t score for 23 minutes of the first half, which at this level of hurling is criminal. At least half-time came at the right time for us, because it allowed us to refocus and address what had gone wrong.
“And in fairness to our players, they upped the ante considerably in the first twenty minutes of the second half and turned a dodgy-looking situation into a positive one.”
No arguments about that. Three points in the opening two minutes of the second half – from Gantley, the impressive Ger Farragher and David Collins – set Galway on track.
Waterford stayed in touch until midway through the half, when a speculative Iarla Tannian effort from the wing deceived Adrian Power to drop over the line putting Galway seven ahead. They were three goals clear at the finish. Galway’s fourth goal came from the same source as their first, a long ball which Waterford couldn’t defend, and a crisp ground stroke from Aidan Harte made it an 11-point difference. John McIntyre was focusing on what his team need to work on at the final whistle, however.
“When we’re on the ball we’re not too bad, but when we don’t have it we’re inclined to wander a little bit. We have to work on our concentration levels but we have four points on the board after two games and our scoring difference will be healthy enough after today.
“So far so good, it gives us a good platform going into the Tipperary game. Everyone knows Tipperary and Kilkenny are ahead of everybody else, but we’re in the chasing posse.”
But Tipp lost to Dublin, John...
“That’s unfortunate from our perspective heading to Thurles on Sunday week,” said McIntyre. “Because you don’t want to give Tipp a cause, and now they have a big one.”
His thoughts were echoed by the man in the other dressing-room.
“You see in the league results today,” said Davy Fitzgerald. “It’s funny, Dublin got a very hard time this week and they are not as bad as they seemed last week. We just happened to hit a good day last week.
“Galway were awesome, absolutely super. They will be very hard to stop this year. They have a very strong panel. The scores they took, the goals they took, they totally outclassed us today.
“In fairness to the lads, they kept plugging, they kept trying, even when the ball was not coming up for us today, they kept trying so I can’t say anything to them.”
Scorers for Galway: I Tannian 2-2, N Healy, A Harte 1-1 each, J Gantley 0-4; G Farragher 0-3 (2fs); N Cahalan 0-2; D Collins & A Callanan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Waterford: M Shanahan 0-9 (0-6fs); S Walsh 1-1; R Foley 0-2; S Molumphy, J Nagle, T Connors 0-1 each.
Waterford subs: M Doherty for Prendergast (HT); Eoin McGrath for Murray (45); O Whelan for Foley (50); M O’Brien for Lawlor (56); T Ryan for Moran (65).
Galway subs: K Hynes for Donnellan (blood, 45-49); E Ryan for Healy (56); K Hynes for Donnellan (65); D Burke for Tannian (66).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).