Yesterday a fresh-faced Galway, a week on from inflicting a cricket score in league conditions on Dublin, encountered a far more gnarled Waterford side and learned some valuable lessons.
Test case? The experienced Seamus Prendergast of Waterford and Galway newcomer Ronan Burke personified the struggle: Prendergast didn’t threaten the goal that much but he won a cheap yellow card from his marker early on and Burke had to temper his approach as a result.
The Waterford man ended with two points to his name, and plenty of praise from his manager, who agreed with the suggestion that experience had been an aid to his side.
“It’s a fair point. I went to Pearse Stadium to see Galway last week and I think in a way we’re caught in the middle here. Our minors won the All-Ireland last year and the opinion is that those minors will come through.
“Now Galway have won plenty of minor titles and what happens is that the guys who are 19, 20 get a bit lost in the slipstream and they can get put in with no fanfare.
“And they have plenty of guys in that category, Jason Flynn and Pádraig Brehony and so forth.
“We’re just happy to have gotten the result, and the experience probably helped with the likes of Seamie (Prendergast) and Stephen (Molumphy).
“After last week’s game, which was at such intensity, Seamie might have had inner doubts about his place on the panel, so I was delighted he had that performance today: the same for the shift Stephen put in.”
Galway had the stiff wind in the first half: they began well with three quick points before Waterford took over, Brick Walsh holding the centre and Pauric Mahony chipping in with some good scores. The westerners had to wait 15 minutes for their fourth point, from the impressive Conor Cooney, to level the game.
From then on it was point for point to the break, with neither team seizing the initiative, Mahony’s three frees indicative of the pressure on the Galway defence despite the wind at their backs.
A late exchange of points between Stephen Molumphy and Cathal Mannion left it Waterford one ahead, 0-9 to 0-8 at half-time.
When Waterford tattooed four points in a row on the resumption it looked all over for the visitors, but they rallied — a disastrous slip by Waterford’s Tadhg Burke on 45 minutes let Jason Flynn through and the Galway corner-forward goaled from close range: 1-11 to 0-14.
The home side hit back with five points in a row, however, with just a Cooney free by way of a Galway answer. The fifth of those Waterford points, a beauty by Ryan Donnelly from the wing, had the home support on their feet and the score at 1-12 to 0-19 with ten minutes left.
Galway managed only one more point before the end, while Waterford added three for an emphatic win.
Waterford played a possession game against and with the wind, to the vocal dismay of some of their supporters, but with their half-back line utterly dominant and well supported by Kevin Moran and Shane O’Sullivan in midfield, they never looked like losing the game once they recovered from the Galway goal.
It’s a dose of reality for Galway, after their facile win over Dublin, but they at least have a win under their belt and can anticipate the return of the Portumna contingent at some future date.
The news was not so good for the many literal-minded interpreters of the hurling rules, unfortunately. Those busy souls who read the rulebook the way American creationists read the Scripture will be disturbed to hear many frees were not taken at the correct place. Most free-takers advanced the ball, though thankfully no-one was injured.
Small mercies, eh?
Scorers for Waterford: P. Mahony 0-11 (0-6 fs); R. Barry 0-4; S. Prendergast 0-2; S. Roche, J. Dillon, S. Molumphy, K. Moran and R. Donnelly 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: C. Cooney 0-6 (0-2 fs); C. Mannion 0-3, J. Flynn 1-0; P. Brehony 0-2; D. Burke and N. Healy 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: I O’Regan, T. Burke, S. Fives, N. Connors, J. Nagle, M. Walsh (c), Philip Mahony, K. Moran, S. O’Sullivan, R. Barry, Pauric Mahony, S. Molumphy, R. Donnelly, S. Prendergast, B. O’Sullivan.
GALWAY: C. Callanan, F. Moore, R. Burke, J. Coen, D. Collins, I. Tannian, A. Harte, D. Burke, P. Brehony, C. Mannion, K. Hynes, D. Glennon, N. Healy, C. Cooney, J. Flynn.
Subs for Galway: P. Landers for Hynes, 27; Daithi Burke for D. Glennon, 42; D. Dolan for Landers, 62; R. Cummins for C. Mannion, 64
Subs for Waterford: J. Dillon for B. O’Sullivan, 44; J. Barron for St. Molumphy, 48; E. Barrett for S. O’Sullivan, 58; S. Roche for S. Prendergast, 63; G. O’Brien for R. Barry, 66.
Referee: John Sexton (Cork)