Wexford 1-21 Galway 3-13: The Salthill Hotel sits at the back of Pearse Stadium. It’s a favourite haunt for Galway supporters on match-day.
Not on this occasion. Post-mortems gave way to an invasion of purple and gold shirts that were still going strong at 7pm yesterday evening. Unsurprisingly, nobody was in a hurry back to the south-east.
The chat centred on Davy, on what he’s done for Wexford hurling in the few months he’s been with them and, most pertinently, on promotion.
Even the man himself was talking promotion soon after the final whistle had sounded on Wexford’s first competitive victory over the Tribesman in 10 years. Limerick and Galway, at the outset of the league, were rightly viewed as the leading contenders to make the jump from Division 1B to the top tier. In the space of seven days, Wexford have taken maximum points from both.
“It is in our own hands,” said Fitzgerald of their promotion push. It certainly is.
A crowd of 7,006 filed into the Salthill venue, with the visiting party making up a sizeable chunk. ‘Incredible’ was Fitzgerald’s description of the travelling support.
“I am delighted we are giving them something to shout about,” said the Wexford boss. “At different times, it did look like the game was going from us. It stayed with us. The end was so exciting. I just knew we were going to get over the line. I am so proud of the lads. They worked extremely hard. The Wexford confidence over the last number of years… they needed more confidence. I could see that in them, but in order to get that confidence, I just felt we needed to be up and playing early. I wouldn’t have gone out as hard as early in Clare in other years; you’d try to time it a bit better for later in the year.”
Whether their investment in the league comes back to bite them during the summer remains to be seen, but for now, they’ll happily ride the wave of momentum created by these back-to-back victories.
Against Limerick, they found themselves seven in arrears early in the second-half. On this occasion, they found themselves seven in arrears, 2-7 to 0-6, six minutes from half-time and this despite having the wind behind them.
They responded with five points in-a-row from Lee Chin (free), Simon Donohoe, Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Aidan Nolan and Conor McDonald (free) to leave the interval scoreline at 2-7 to 0-11 in Galway’s favour.
Frustrating management was the manner in which they had been prised open for Joseph Cooney and Johnny Coen’s goals. Offering encouragement, though, was that they finished the half with all six starting forwards on the scoresheet, as well as each member of the half-back line.
Chin’s second free brought their scoring sequence to six upon the restart and cut the gap to the minimum. Joseph and Conor Cooney got the home outfit motoring again and, but for a superb Mark Fanning save, Jason Flynn would have supplied their third green flag. Flynn, mind, was central to their third goal when it did arrive on 53 minutes, drawing the penalty which Joe Canning converted.
Canning’s superb strike was just his second touch of the game after being introduced. It was close to throw-in when the announcement came that he was a late addition to the Galway bench and his involvement marked a first appearance in the maroon since sustaining a serious hamstring injury in last August’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Crucially, they’d score only once more, while shipping 1-6. In the process, they squandered a six-point advantage. Cathal McAllister did Wexford a favour with his 57th minute penalty decision after a questionable challenge on Lee Chin. Mark Fanning beat Colm Callanan and they were back level following points from Podge Doran and two from McDonald. Aidan Harte fouled David Dunne two minutes into stoppages and McDonald duly obliged to complete the overtaking movement. His seventh minor thereafter decided the matter.
“That is a big sign that we didn’t throw in the towel when we easily could have. That is important,” said Fitzgerald.
Opposing manager Micheál Donoghue hadn’t as many positives to glean: “From our perspective, we were disappointed with the fight. We let them come back in. We were in a strong position and we could have fought more.”
They didn’t, Wexford did, and the ball is now in their court.
Scorers for Wexford:
C McDonald (0-7, 0-5 frees); M Fanning (1-0, 1-0 pen); L Chin (0-2 frees), P Morris (0-3 each); A Nolan (0-2); S Donohoe, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe, D Redmond, B Carton, P Doran (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway:
J Flynn (0-5, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ’65); J Cooney (1-1); C Cooney (0-3); J Canning (1-0 pen), J Coen (1-0 each); C Whelan, C Callanan (0-1 free), B Molloy (0-1 each).
C Callanan; J Hanbury, A Harte, M Donoghue; G McInerney, A Tuohy, Daithi Burke; J Coen, David Burke; J Flynn, D Glennon, C Whelan; C Cooney, J Cooney, B Molloy.
J Canning for Molloy (50); R Burke for McInerney (55); N Burke for Glennon (70).
M Fanning; J Breen, L Ryan, E Moore; S Donohoe, M O’Hanlon, D O’Keeffe; S Murphy, A Nolan; J O’Connor, D Redmond, L Chin; P Morris, B Carton, C McDonald.
H Kehoe for O’Connor (41); P Doran for Redmond (55); A Maddock for Carton (55); R Kehoe for Moore (60); D Dunne for Noland (62, inj).
C McAllister (Cork).
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