FEW in the 5,000 at the Galway SFC semi-finals last September who gave Joe Kernan a rapturous welcome when, in an impromptu moment by football board chairman John Joe Holleran, he was introduced to the crowd, could have envisaged the Tribesmen’s 2010 championship would implode in such a dramatic fashion.
Connacht titles had failed to keep Liam Sammon and, before him, Peter Ford in the job as Galway set about recapturing the All-Ireland glory days of 1998 and 2001.
But the quality of footballer which John O’Mahony honed to win All-Irelands just isn’t there in Galway any more, a point magnified by 33-year old Padraic Joyce being their best player in each of their four championship outings this year.
A painful post mortem will ensue — after all, the only win in four championship outings came against New York and then only after Joyce had rescued them — but Galway will try to hold on to the man who brought Armagh to All-Ireland glory.
Whether Kernan will stay is another matter. We all presumed he was on a three-year contract but he diluted that in the aftermath of Saturday’s shocker.
“I don’t know where the three years came out of. When I was lucky enough to get the job I sat down and said what way will we work this? I said that at the end of each year we’d sit down and look at it and we’ll decide where we go from there. If it is not to be we’ll shake hands and go away, and if it is to be we’ll get on with the job.
“We’ll just sit down and give everybody time to think about the whole situation, but it will be done in the next few weeks,” said Kernan.
His first year in charge has been blighted by injuries to key players — Joyce missed all of a league campaign that nearly ended in injury, Michael Meehan was out since March and got injured again starting his first match against Sligo last week, and Sean Armstrong and Nicky Joyce were also out. Four quality forwards in a county short on sharpshooters.
But yet Cormac Bane, an unused sub in the two games against Sligo, hit 0-4 from play when introduced on Saturday to add to the 1-1 he scored in New York. He’s Galway’s second top scorer for the 2010 championship.
But what of Wexford? At several junctures on Saturday they looked set to make their exit, but now notions of repeating the 2008 march to the All-Ireland semi-final are being mentioned.
“We gave Galway a few headstarts but managed to stay close enough to them to make the most of the few breaks that came our way in the end,” said manager Jason Ryan. “Our finishing got better at the end and we made the most of the chances we got at that stage.
“But we didn’t feel we played very well and there is room for improvement. There were fundamental mistakes and we will need to sort them out the next day,” he said.
Kernan had hoped that the loss in Sligo would see his men belt out of the traps but while Joyce shot 0-4 without reply in the opening nine minutes, the momentum was lost.
“I thought that this week the hurt from last week would drive us on, but today we didn’t take the chance. We had plenty of chances: we owned the ball for long periods. Our championship is over and we certainly expected at the start of the year to go a lot further, but it is not to be. That is two disappointing weeks in a row,” he said.
Ciaran Lyng, the man of the match who finished with 1-6, did most to get the Wexford revival going, with Matty Forde getting little change out of Kieran Fitzgerald.
Three points from Lyng, two from play, saw the margin reduced to 0-6 to 0-5 by the interval, with Wexford to have wind and rain advantage after the restart.
Galway outscored Wexford by 0-4 to 0-2 in the opening 11 minutes of the second half but then the turning point came after 52 minutes when Darren Mullahy was adjudged to have fouled Redmond Barry — one of several decisions which angered Galway — and Lyng dispatched the penalty superbly to put Wexford ahead for the first time.
Substitute Bane levelled four minutes later at 1-8 to 0-11 and then when the superb Joyce and wing-back Gary O’Donnell pointed, it seemed Galway were poised for victory.
But Galway did not score in the closing eight minutes. Four minutes from time man of the match Lyng reduced the deficit to a point and then in the second of five additional minutes, wing-back Adrian Flynn landed an excellent equaliser, much to the Wexford fans in the shockingly small crowd of just 2,330.
They did not rest there and Lyng was given one final chance he made no mistake from 25 metres to decide the issue.
Scorers for Galway: P Joyce (0-6, two frees); C Bane (0-4); S Armstrong, M Clancy, G O’Donnell (0-1 each).
Scorers for Wexford: C Lyng 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-2 frees); M Forde (0-1, free); R Barry (0-1, 45); E Bradley, C Morris, A Flynn (0-1 each).
Subs for Galway: C Bane for Concannon (20); D Mullahy for Reilly (24); P Conroy for Clancy (58).
Subs for Wexford: B Brosnan for Roche (52); B Doyle for Watters (67); P Naughter for Morris (70).
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