Not exactly get out of jail but Waterford gave Galway the slip thanks to a slack second-half from the Tribesmen in Nowlan Park.
On a warmer day and a drier sod, Micheál Donoghue will demand his players avail of the numerical advantage they were provided with in the 55th minute when Mikey Kearney picked up his second yellow card.
Even with this being his B-plus team, they should have seen it out.
Waterford weren’t exactly at full strength either but the spirit of their finale would have done the custodian of the venue, Mr Cody, proud.
Rather than retreat into their shell, it was they who appeared to have the extra man and they outscored Galway five points to nothing for the 22 minutes following the dismissal.
Admittedly, four or five of those minutes were taken up as the injured Joe Canning was being tended to in additional time but Waterford’s attitude to the setback couldn’t have been better. As Galway lost their radar, a Stephen Bennett free tied up the game and in the 61st minute it was full-back Callum Lyons who darted forward to put Waterford ahead for the first time in the game.
Another Bennett free followed and the first of a Pauric Mahony brace extended the gap to three points in the 69th minute. After three failed point attempts in the second half, Mahony had the courage to back himself and he was splitting the posts again following the lengthy hold-up to tend to Canning.
By then, Jason Flynn had also put wide the 65 which had resulted from the attack Canning led and saw him ultimately being injured as Kevin Moran intervened. Flynn did find his range late on after Davy Glennon sent over his third point but the eight additional minutes weren’t enough for them.
Six second-half wides obviously hurt Galway but Donoghue will wonder just how they fell foul of Waterford yet again given they were better in most positions. Stephen O’Keeffe pulled off two first-half saves in the space of three minutes too, from Kevin Hussey and then Canning who had teed up Hussey for the first.
“I know that’s his job but definitely in that first half he kept us in the game,” admitted Waterford’s Páraic Fanning. “Because at that stage of the game, we were struggling. If Galway had got a goal there and gone eight or nine points up, we know it would have been a mountain to climb. But that said, every player has a job on the field.
“Stephen’s is to be brave and make decisions like that and fair dues to him, he did it and he got there.”
Waterford looked shellshocked in the initial stages as Galway had developed a four-point lead by the fourth minute and were five up by the 18th but they eventually reached the pitch of the game as Stephen Bennett’s frees kept them ticking over.
Shane Bennett too had a goal chance in the 21st minute and they were only two points in arrears five minutes later when Kearney chipped in with a nice score. But Galway were five up once more after a barrage of scores as Canning and Cathal Mannion made their presence felt.
Waterford’s goal came in the 33rd minute when Stephen Bennett’s long-range free found the net as his younger brother did enough to distract Fergal Flannery from claiming it. And Galway’s advantage at the break — 0-12 to 1-7 — looked a disappointing return for their dominance in general play.
“We started really well but we had one or two good goal chances in the first half which we just didn’t take,” conceded O’Donoghue. “In fairness, Stephen O’Keeffe made a brilliant save on us and it could have been a different scoreline.
“At half-time I thought our play probably deserved a bigger gap than what it was but that’s testament to Waterford. It was just decision-making but they were just better on their execution in the second half. We missed a lot and that’s what wins and loses games.”
With some fine early second-half scores by Tommy Ryan and Peter Hogan, with his first touch after coming on, Waterford gave their contingent in the 13,227 crowd hope and it turned into expectation as they made Galway’s supposed power play with Kearney off the field their own.
A date with Limerick in Dublin this Sunday is right up Fanning’s street. “It’s a national final, curtain raiser to the football, and camogie on before it. we’re delighted. We have a game next week against the best team in the country in Limerick. They’ve shown how well they’ve responded to winning the All-Ireland last year and we know we have a massive challenge. But isn’t it brilliant to be there? And we’re excited to be there.”
Scorers for Waterford: Stephen Bennett (1-7, 0-6 frees); Pauric Mahony (0-3); J. Barron (0-2); M. Kearney, J, Prendergast, A. Gleeson, T. Ryan, P. Hogan, C. Lyons (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway: J. Canning (0-7, 5 frees); C. Mannion (0-4); D. Glennon (0-3); B. Concannon, K. Hussey, J. Coen, C. Whelan, J. Flynn (free) (0-1 each).
WATERFORD: S. O’Keeffe; S. Mc Nulty, C. Lyons, N. Connors (c); Philip Mahony, T de Búrca, K. Moran; J. Barron, C. Dunford; A. Gleeson, M.
Kearney, Pauric Mahony; T. Ryan, Stephen Bennett, Shane Bennett.
Subs for Waterford: J. Prendergast for C. Dunford (h-t); P. Hogan for T. Ryan (51); C, Roche for T. de Búrca (63); D.J. Foran for A. Gleeson (70+1).
Red card: M. Kearney (55, second yellow).
GALWAY: F. Flannery; R. Burke, G. McInerney, D. Morrissey; P. Killeen, P. Mannion (c), A. Harte; C. Mannion, J. Coen; K. Hussey, C. Whelan, J. Canning; D. Glennon, B. Concannon, N. Burke.
Subs for Galway: S. Loftus for D. Morrissey (inj 45); J. Flynn for N. Burke (56); T. Haran for J. Coen (69); J. Mannion for J. Canning (inj 70+3); J. Hanbury for P. Killeen (70+8).
Referee: P. O’Dwyer (Carlow).