Thursday 27 July 2017

Cooney's far too hot to handle for Wexford as Galway signal intent

Galway 0-29 Wexford 1-17 - Leinster SHC Final

Conor Cooney of Galway in action against Willie Devereux  of Wexford during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Wexford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Conor Cooney of Galway in action against Willie Devereux  of Wexford during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Wexford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Joe Canning of Galway celebrates with supporters at the end of the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Wexford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Down at their media night in Ferns in the build-up to this Leinster final, Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald didn't sound many notes of concern.

His team were in good shape, he told the assembled media, well ahead of where he expected them this early in the project. However, he did wonder aloud if they had gone to the well more than other teams at this stage in the season.

Conor Whelan of Galway in action against Simon Donohoe of Wexford during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Wexford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Whelan of Galway in action against Simon Donohoe of Wexford during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Wexford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

"The only thing from my point of view is we did a lot of work very early and if we were able to keep it going," he said. "That is something that is still in my head. We worked extremely hard very early compared to every other team that might have started a bit later and timed their run. You are just worried about that fact."

His fears came to pass here. Wexford looked heavy legged as the game wore on, but their defeat had more to do with another statement of intent from an impressive Galway.

Wexford started brightly. Early on they were quick to find a reply to Galway scores as the teams felt each other out. A Lee Chin free put them in the lead for the first time on 19 minutes. The score stood at 0-9 to 0-7 when Conor McDonald's exquisite cross-field pass handed Paul Morris his second point of the half on 23 minutes.

At that point Wexford looked to have settled well in front of a record crowd of 60,032 for a Leinster hurling decider. But this Galway team know how to chip away at cracks in your armour and from there to half-time they outscored Fitzgerald's side by 0-7 to 0-2.

Conor Whelan of Galway of Galway in action against James Breen, left, and Liam Ryan of Wexford. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Whelan of Galway of Galway in action against James Breen, left, and Liam Ryan of Wexford. Photo: Sportsfile

By that stage Conor Cooney had hit his stride and he had four points to his name by the break. That figure would extend to eight by the finish, with all but one coming from play. Joseph Cooney was also irrepressible, finishing with 0-5.

They took a three-point lead in at the break (0-14 to 0-11) as they started to impose themselves on the game, but it was in the second-half where they justified their position as favourites for the Liam MacCarthy.

Wexford didn't help themselves and left a possible 1-1 behind them shortly after the restart. A McDonald point attempt from a free was initially given, but then ruled wide by Hawk-Eye before Aidan Nolan won a penalty off Daithí Burke. Colm Callanan made a smart save to push McDonald's effort out for a '65 and although Lee Chin pointed, the belief looked to have drained from Wexford.

The Tribesmen played with real authority at times here and hit the next seven points of the game. By the time Chin halted the rot with just under 20 minutes to play, Galway looked out of sight. To their credit Wexford kept trying and gave themselves some hope when Diarmuid O'Keeffe batted home from close range on 53 minutes after some remarkable persistence from Jack Guiney.

However, it felt more like token resistance than the start of any real revival.

Accused of frustrating inconsistency in the past, Galway didn't blink and answered the concession of 1-1 with five points on the bounce. There was no chance they would take the boot off Wexford's throat and they ran out handsome winners of their second Leinster title in the end.

"I thought they were flat enough in the second-half, but they have given me everything," Fitzgerald said.

"I'm disappointed for the people of Wexford because they came out in numbers, but they have got to realise and stay with this team for the next year or two or three years. They are a good bunch of guys and they are hurting in there."

And while Wexford faded, Galway were ruthless. Joe Canning (left) lofted over a beautiful sideline cut before spending the remainder of most of the game in a deep position, looking to put out any fires Wexford might start.

Up front, the two Cooneys kept Galway's lead healthy. On a day when Canning didn't score from play and one of their form players in Conor Whelan didn't register anything, the Tribesmen had more than enough forwards willing to carry the can.

"Those two (Cooneys) in fairness were absolutely savage," Galway manager Micheál Donoghue said.

"That's the beauty of the team at the minute. On different days different fellas are stepping up and the fellas who aren't getting on the scoreboard are just working hard for the team. Thankfully the two boys had their shooting boots on today."

The Galway boss was much happier with his side's display after the break.

"I thought the first-half we did okay, but I think we went away from what got us here and you have to give Wexford a lot of credit for that. At half-time the message was just to go back to ourselves and try to impose ourselves. I thought for the first 10 minutes of the second-half they were very good.

"I just thought early on we were nearly second to the ball and more reactive. I won't say we stood off them, but we were more reactive than just going for it and trying to impose our own game.

"We did it for periods of the first-half, but we were a lot better in the second-half."

Wexford head for a tricky quarter-final where they'll face one of Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford or Dublin in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

"It's a big ask to pick them up again," Fitzgerald said. "That's a nine-point defeat and we have to try and get their confidence up again. I'm not downbeat, they kept fighting away. They were running at them and trying like anything to get scores.

"They'll be okay, I don't know what will happen for the rest of the year. We'll go out and give it everything and fight like anything but I'll tell you them guys have stuff, without a shadow of a doubt."

Afterwards, Galway were cut to 6/4 by one bookmaker to go all the way in September, but Donoghue insists his men won't get carried away.

"Look, there's obviously going to be more hype, but our mantra is just one game at a time," he said.

"In fairness, they are an experienced bunch, and a focused group and when we get back it's just on to the next game. They bought into that and I have no doubt for the next five weeks they will buy into it again."

Scorers - Galway: J Canning 0-10 (8f, 1sl, 1 '65), C Cooney 0-8 (1f), J Cooney 0-5, N Burke 0-2, David Burke, P Mannion, T Monaghan, S Maloney 0-1 each. Wexford: C McDonald 0-6 (4f), D O'Keeffe 1-1, L Chin 0-3 (2f, 1 '65), M O'Hanlon, P Morris 0-2 each, W Devereux, C Dunbar, J O'Connor 0-1 each.

Galway: C Callanan 8; A Tuohy 6, Daithi Burke 7, J Hanbury 7; P Mannion 7, G McInerney 7, A Harte 6; J Coen 6, David Burke 7; N Burke 7, J Canning 7, J Cooney 8; C Whelan 6, C Cooney 9, J Flynn 6 Subs: T Monaghan 6 for Flynn (31), S Maloney 7 for Canning (68), G Lally for J Cooney (69), S Loftus for P Mannion (72).

Wexford: M Fanning 7; W Devereux 7, L Ryan 6, J Breen 6; S Donohoe 5, M O'Hanlon 8, D O'Keeffe 8; S Murphy 6, A Nolan 7; J O'Connor 6, L Chin 6, C McDonald 6; P Morris 6, J Guiney 7, H Kehoe 6 Subs: D Redmond 6 for O'Connor (HT), E Moore 6 for Donohoe (47), C Dunbar 7 for Kehoe (54), S Tomkins 7 for Nolan (63).

Ref - C Lyons (Cork).

Irish Independent

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