Waterford put a stormy week behind them to eke out a two-point win away to Galway yesterday, a gritty victory which owed much to Shane Walsh’s match-turning goal.
After the departure of Nicky Cashin as selector and widespread pessimism among their supporters, Michael Ryan’s side gave a composed display to upset their hosts, with John Mullane impressing on his return.
Ryan was understandably happy: “It’s been a tough week but that’s part of inter-county management. You never lose your focus and never lose your belief in yourself and your players. I know there’s a good panel of players out there and we were just waiting for an opportunity where we would have a decent panel of players and everybody in the right frame of mind.
“Coming up here last night I could sense this thing was starting to come together. This is all about hard work, there is no magic formula.”
Waterford had three late withdrawals — Tony Browne, Seamus Prendergast and Stephen Molumphy — who were replaced by Dean Twomey, Eoin McGrath and Padraic Mahony, respectively.
However, the Déise still settled quickest, hitting four wides and two points (Shane Walsh and a Padraic Mahony free) in the opening seven minutes.
It took Galway 14 minutes to register their first score, a Niall Burke free, and they were sluggish for the rest of the half.
Burke and Mahony swapped frees until, on 26 minutes the game was transformed – Shane O’Sullivan got his second yellow, and dismissal, for pulling down Barry Daly. Niall Burke went for goal from the resulting free but his shot was well saved by Stephen O’Keeffe, though Andy Smith picked up the clearance and pointed, making it five points to four in favour of the visitors.
From the puck-out, however, Galway’s Declan Connolly picked up his second yellow for a foul on returning Wateford star John Mullane, and he went for an early shower as well. Mahony pointed that free and added another from the dead ball, with Galway’s only response a David Burke point off the run, making it eight points to five at the half.
The second half had a sparkling start, with Galway hitting three points from Niall Donoghue, Conor Cooney and Niall Burke. Mahony had two frees in response but on 41 minutes Waterford took the initiative. A good Gavin O’Brien crossfield ball was collected by Mullane, who turned his man, made ground and passed across the square for Shane Walsh to goal with a clever flick: 1-10 to 0-8.
The news got worse for Galway when James Skehill had to be stretchered off with a shoulder injury, having injured himself trying to stop Walsh scoring.
Michael Ryan said after the game that “goals are are almost worth more than three points because psychologically it gave our team a bit of extra belief,” while Galway selector Tom Helebert conceded it was the turning point.
Galway finally rallied in the last ten minutes with five consecutive points from David and Niall Burke (free), two from Barry Daly and a fine long-range effort from sub Brian Flaherty to cut the deficit to one.
However, Shane Walsh hit a good score as the game went into injury time, and Wateford closed the game out two points up.
“We let it turn away from us,” said Galway selector Tom Helebert.
“We struggled from the off, never got composed and we were chasing it the whole way through. In the last quarter we got near to terms but never created the goal chance inside.
“We didn’t do the right things often enough today, in possession or out of possession, and that’s what caught us in the end.”
For Michael Ryan, there was a sense of turning a corner: new selector Ken McGrath was actively involved on the sideline and Eoin Kelly also got a run as a sub.
“Survival is always a possibility,” said Ryan. “While you are in the race it’s never over. We will fight to the very end next Sunday against a very good Dublin team.”
Subs for Galway: J. Cooney for B. Burke, 20; J. Ryan for Skehill, 42; D. Glennon for Donnellan, 45; B. Flaherty for Donoghue, 47; J. Regan for Smith, 60.
Subs for Waterford: S. Daniels for Lawlor (blood) 26-28; J. Nagle for Twomey, 44; S. Prendergast for McGrath, 52; E. Kelly for Shanahan, 60; M. O’Neill and D. O’Sullivan for G. O’Neill and P. Mahony, 69.
Scorers for Waterford: P. Mahony 0-8 (fs); S. Walsh 1-2; J Mullane 0-3; M. Shanahan 0-1.
Scorers for Galway: N. Burke 0-5 (0-3 fs); D. Burke 0-3; A. Smith, B. Daly 0-2; N. Donoghue, C. Cooney and B. Flaherty 0-1 each.
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