Waterford 0-21 Wexford 0-11: It was, perhaps, too much to expect of Waterford that in one 70-minute swoop they’d both put to bed their 21-point Munster final annihilation and provide sufficient evidence that they’ll trouble Kilkenny far more than was the case last August.
Yesterday’s quarter-final - a curtain-raiser not by name but certainly by nature - may have arrived just a fortnight on from Waterford’s crushing defeat at the hands of Tipperary, but there wasn’t a hint of a scar or a hangover to be found here. Confidence wasn’t an issue. Neither was composure. Even long balls into the Waterford full-back line failed to a cause a ripple of panic. It was as if July 12 never even happened.
In the opening 40 minutes when this fixture was still a contest, Waterford did what they had to do and they did it satisfactorily. Conor McDonald and Lee Chin were identified as the Wexford dangermen and both were suitably dealt with.
McDonald, in their win over Cork, had clipped eight first-half points (six frees). In the first half here, he was outnumbered three to one at almost every turn and consequently, held scoreless from play. Case in point was Éanna Martin’s delivery into McDonald 10 minutes in. Darragh Fives, Barry Coughlan and Noel Connors circled ominously and the ball wasn’t long in being returned back down the field.
Moreover, Waterford’s stringent discipline in their own half of the field meant the young full-forward was able to rack up only 0-2 from the dead ball – it should have been 0-3, as Déise keeper Stephen O’Keeffe pulled down a 20-metre free and the full-forward missed the resulting ’65.
With regard to Chin, well, he never stood a chance. The centre-forward was quickly set upon by Austin Gleeson and Kevin Moran on the first occasion he broke onto possession, Gleeson successful in the dispossessing act. And while the Wexford centre-forward never relented to the number, or, indeed, ferocity of white jerseys in his vicinity, he was unable to impact upon proceedings as strong as he had done against Cork.
Come half-time, it was pretty much game over. Waterford led 0-12 to 0-5 and any notion of a comeback was dispelled with three in-a-row from Pauric Mahony, Gleeson, and Maurice Shanahan early in the second half.
At 0-15 to 0-5, it was definitely game over.
The writing had been on the wall from a very early juncture for Liam Dunne’s side – the Déise speeding 0-6 to 0-1 clear by the ninth minute. Maurice Shanahan fired over within 56 seconds, with Mahony (0-2 frees), Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh (0-2) and Austin Gleeson also on the mark.
A McDonald free and a fine David Dunne point brought the gap back to three, but no closer would Wexford come. Two apiece from Mahony, Shane Bennett and Jamie Barron thereafter had Derek McGrath’s side seven clear at the break.
How greater their advantage could have been though? And this is a point one would imagine Brian Cody, nestled in the middle of the Ryan Stand and somewhat hidden under a beige baseball cap, will have picked up on. By half-time, Waterford’s wides tally stood at 12. Pauric Mahony, Patrick Curran, Maurice Shanahan, Kevin Moran and Philip Mahony were all guilty of missing the target. But none more so than Austin Gleeson.
The Mount Sion hurler said after their Munster semi-final win over Clare that he and his team-mates had been given free licence by management to shoot whenever they so pleased. Their first-half shooting, and the poor decision-making it encompassed, was an almost abuse of said licence.
Derek McGrath didn’t seem too bothered with a wide count that finished at 18.
“I don’t find that a massive concern because what do you do? Do you go into training next week and overly concentrate on not having a wide?
“It’s a game-based situation and it’s very hard to fix. The only obvious fix I could see is if you take the ball on a bit more before a shot is on. I think that’s the best way of fixing it, in my opinion, especially guys that have legs: Austin, Shane Bennett.”
Not surprisingly, the underdogs enjoyed their most productive spell at a time when Waterford minds turned to August and Kilkenny – Liam Ryan, McDonald (0-3, 0-2 frees) and Martin clipping five on the bounce to half the deficit. To seriously trouble their opponents, however, a goal was required. Bar the three or four half chances which fell to Harry Kehoe, McDonald, Chin and Jack O’Connor at either ends of the second-half, Stephen O’Keeffe was never in danger of being breached.
Sub Brian O’Halloran produced a fine individual score to end their 17-minute barren spell and, in the closing 13-minutes, the winners outscored their neighbours by 0-5 to 0-1 to stroll across the line.
So, Waterford back on the horse, but by no means galloping in Kilkenny’s direction.
Scorers for Waterford:
Pauric Mahony (0-8, 0-6 frees); Shane Bennett, M Walsh, J Barron, A Gleeson, B O’Halloran, M Shanahan (0-2 each); J Dillon (0-1).
Scorers for Wexford:
C McDoanld (0-5, 0-4 frees); L Chin (0-2); D Dunne, J O’Connor, E Martin, L Ryan (0-1 each).
S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; D Fives, T De Búrca, Philip Mahony; K Moran, J Barron; S Bennett, A Gleeson, Pauric Mahony; M Shanahan, P Curran, M Walsh Subs: C Gleeson for Fives (11 mins, inj); J Dillon for Shanahan (49); B O’Halloran for Curran (54); Stephen Bennett for Shane Bennet (59); C Dunford for Walsh (72).
M Fanning; L Ryan, E Moore, M O’Hanlon; E Martin, P Foley, D O’Keeffe; J O’Connor, E Conroy; L Óg McGovern, L Chin, D Dunne; P Morris, C McDonald, H Kehoe.
A Kenny for Conroy (26 mins); N Kirwan for Kehoe (44); S Donohoe for Moore (51, inj); A Nolan for Morris (64); J O’Connor for Óg McGovern (68).
A Kelly (Galway).
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