It was one of the darkest days for Wexford hurling in the modern era and manager Colm Bonnar will have his work cut out in lifting them after this.
His fellow Tipperary man John McIntyre will have little trouble in keeping his players’ feet on the ground for everybody in the paltry crowd of about 600 knew that this was an exceptionally poor display from a Wexford side who won Division Two last year.
The Wexford attack had neither shape nor style and two points from play in 70 minutes told its own story. Their goalkeeper, an impressive debutant Niall Breen was one of the few beacons of light, scoring more than half of the attack that started.
In fairness, the Wexford defence stuck to their task, especially Paul Roche in the corner and another debutant Matthew O’Hanlon at full-back but they got little help out the field.
Ger Farragher scored nearly twice as much as the entire Wexford team, landing three 65s in a first-half haul of 0-8 points.
And while Galway would be slow to read too much into performances in such a mismatch, the display of Farragher’s Castlegar colleague Donal Barry in the middle of the field will not have gone unnoticed and he shot three points from play.
McIntyre has been around long enough to assess matches like this one but even he was surprised by the paucity of the Wexford challenge.
“We anticipated a fairly stern challenge from Wexford. They are up in Division one and it has taken them a few years to get there. We thought that they would really be battling from the very first ball. I suppose we got on top early on and they just didn’t perform to the level that they would hope for. It is a bad day for Wexford but I am sure they will regroup. The county has a proud tradition and Colm Bonnar and his team are working exceptionally hard.
“But I and the Galway management can only look after our own watch. I am delighted that we have two points in the bag and it means that we are going down to Tullamore next Sunday on the front foot.”
Bonnar never shirked a challenge in his life and did not slip away in the aftermath.
“Disappointing is not the word. We thought that we had done everything right. We trained well, we worked very hard, players had been hugely committed. But this result really threw us back. We were not expecting that but that is division one hurling and they are the champions. We are the division two champions and it is a gap that we have to try and close and we have to do it very quickly because there are another six league games to play. Whether we were beaten by 20 points or 10, it was a case that there is another two points on offer next Sunday so we have to refocus.”
The game was over as a contest inside 12 minutes when Galway stormed 0-5 to 0-1 in front. Wexford heads dropped and Galway moved into overdrive with Farragher punishing everything as Galway led 0-13 to 0-4 at the break.
Goalkeeper Breen, restricted the scale of the rout with some quality saves but there was only going to be one winner.
Barry’s three points from his new midfield base was noted on a day when eight Tribesmen found the range and the only blight on a successful start to the defence of their crown was first-half injuries to Cyril Donnellan and Joseph Cooney. Barry set up the hard-working Aonghus Callanan for the game’s only goal which put Galway 1-16 to 0-4 in front after 48 minutes, with Eanna Ryan and Andy Smith also impressing.
Tony Óg Regan, Galway’s captain on the day, manned centre-back superbly but, in fairness, the Wexford attack was toothless and the end could not come quick enough for them.
Scorers for Galway: G Farragher (0-11, 7f, 3 ‘65); A Callanan (1-2); D Barry (0-3); N Healy (0-3, 2f); E Ryan (0-2); J Coen (0-1), A Cullinane (0-1); A Smith (0-1).
Scorers for Wexford: J Berry (0-3, 2f, 1 sideline); PJ Nolan (0-1); S Banville (0-1); N Breen (0-1, pen).
Subs for Galway: A Smith for Donnellan, 7; N Healy for Cooney, 19; D Hayes for Cullinane, 57; C O’Donovan for O’Halloran, 57; B Murphy for Farragher, 62; K Kilkenny for Callanan, 62.
Subs for Wexford: H Kehoe for Burke, 35; K Rossiter for R Kehoe, 45; G Sinnott for Berry, 48; D Redmond for Nolan, 54; E Furlong for Farrell, 66.
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).