Davy Fitzgerald says he would put his house on Kilkenny next week
Galway 1-23 Wexford 0-17 - Leinster SHC
Davy Fitzgerald's worst fears about the new-look provincial format were realised at Wexford Park on Saturday night as his side slumped to a nine-point loss against All-Ireland champions Galway, who strolled into their fourth consecutive Leinster final on July 1.
"I'm not pointing this out just now. I said it to you from day one that we would struggle in games three and four and that's why I wanted our business done early if we could," said the Wexford boss, who had flagged the fatigue issue when the new format was proposed.
He believes it is impossible for teams to string three performances together on consecutive weekends. Indeed, within minutes of Wexford hammering Offaly in their third outing in three weeks last weekend, Fitzgerald said he feared Galway could do the same to Wexford.
The contest turned out precisely as he suggested it might, with Galway 1-3 to 0-1 ahead after just eight minutes and six clear at the break (1-12 to 0-9).
They outscored the home side 0-11 to 0-8 in a disappointing second-half, as Wexford only managed 0-2 from play after the break.
Given the circumstances, it was curious that Wexford opted to play against the breeze.
With James Skehill's booming puck-outs landing on the edge of the Wexford square, their full-back line was sending out distress signals from the moment Conor Whelan swept a rebound to their net after Mark Fanning brilliantly saved Padraic Mannion's initial effort.
"There's no doubt that they were the better team. The thing I'm disappointed about is that that wasn't Wexford. We were flat," said Fitzgerald.
"I'm not saying that we would beat Galway, but I will tell you if we were a lot fresher we would definitely give them a better game."
Fitzgerald remonstrated with rookie referee Johnny Murphy at halt-time, but was at pains to stress that he wasn't blaming him for his team's woes.
"I absolutely thought a few of the frees he gave in the first-half were crazy. But the referee had nothing to do with Galway being the better team," he said.
Fitzgerald now faces the mammoth task of lifting his side for their showdown against Kilkenny, in which they need to avoid defeat in order to advance to their second provincial decider in a row.
"If I was a betting man now and I was going to that game, I would put my house on Kilkenny. You'd never know, we might pull a performance. We'll stick out another 15 and see what the craic is," he suggested, tongue firmly in cheek.
It was a routine evening for Galway, though there were concerns for Joe Canning, who retired injured near the end and left the ground with an ice-pack strapped to his knee.
"Last year, there was perceived pressure on us because we were favourites from a long way out. But we don't pay any heed to that, these guys are just hungry for success," said team boss Micheál Donoghue
"We are really fortunate. We have huge big men and they are athletic. But the overwhelming factor is that they are all able to hurl."
Scorers - Galway: J Canning 0-12 (8f, 2 sl), C Whelan 1-2, C Cooney 0-4, David Burke 0-2, J Cooney, N Burke, J Flynn (f) 0-1 each. Wexford: R O'Connor 0-12 (10f), P Morris, A Nolan 0-2 each, R Foley 0-1.
Galway - J Skehill 7; A Harte 7,Daithi Burke 8, J Hanbury 7; P Mannion 8, G McInerney 7, A Tuohey 7; J Coen 7, David Burke 8; J Cooney 7, J Canning 9, C Mannion 7; C Whelan 9, J Glynn 7, C Cooney 9, Subs: J Flynn 7 for Glynn (54), N Burke 7 for J Cooney 58m; B Concannon for C Mannion (66), S Linnane for Hanbury (68), D Glennon for Canning (69).
Wexford - M Fanning 7; S Donohoe 5; L Ryan 6; D Reck 6; D O'Keefe 6, M O'Hanlon 6; P Foley 7; K Foley 5; S Murphy 6; J O'Connor 5, R O'Connor 7, L Chin 5; A Nolan 7, C McMcDonald 6, P Morris 7 Subs: C Firman 5 for Donohoe (ht); Liam Og McGovern 5 for J O'Connor (48), K Kehoe 5 for K Foley (51).
Ref - J McDonald (Limerick)