Déise response to humiliation delights boss
Waterford 0-21 Wexford 0-11
The last two weeks must have brought some serious soul searching in Waterford with questions lingering about their All-Ireland credentials, but they started the healing process by banishing the demons of their Munster final humiliation in emphatic fashion yesterday.
Wexford smelled blood travelling to Thurles but any notions of slaying another giant were quickly blown out of the water with Derek McGrath's men showing no hangover signs and laying down their marker from the first whistle.
Jack O'Connor upended Jamie Barron inside two minutes but the Fourmilewater dynamo bounced back to his feet as quick as he was knocked off them. It set the tone, they had taken enough knocks in the last fortnight. No more.
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They scorched into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead after 10 minutes and stretched the advantage to seven by the break, 0-12 to 0-5. Barring a spirited Wexford rally in the third quarter they were at their ease with the manner of victory and the character on display greatly pleased McGrath.
"It was a very satisfying victory, if there was a hint of a psychological scar from the beating they received a couple of weeks ago, it certainly wasn't evident there. That's the most pleasing part of it," McGrath said.
It was far from perfect with the Déise rarely threatening the Model goal as they accumulated 18 wides, nine of which Austin Gleeson accounted for, but all they came for was the result and it never looked in any great doubt.
And after the pain they felt in the Gaelic Grounds, that was all that mattered with the resilence not surprising McGrath in the slightest. "It didn't, because we know them," he said.
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"We were disconsolate - it was evident in our body language, I looked back at it, and our body language with 15 minutes to go in the Munster final, it was extremely negative on the line.
"Coming out afterwards to face the cameras, it was even more harrowing viewing, but you're managing your own county, these fellas are playing for their own county . . . there's a feeling there, and it's not just a normal 'come in, hang up your coat'.
"It felt horrible, horrible to the lads, but a bit of perspective is needed too. Waterford haven't been to consecutive All-Ireland semi-finals in six years, so we need to stand back at times."
It was always going to be difficult for Wexford to match their heroics against Cork and a string of high-profile injuries to the likes of Andrew Shore, David Redmond and Shaun Murphy eventually told. They battled but were outclassed.
"They had us on the back foot from start to finish," manager Liam Dunne admitted after. We rallied for a few minutes and got it back to five points but Waterford pushed on again. I think it's probably a day that we ran out of bodies and ran out of legs.
"I can't fault the boys, they've given it everything, we've gotten a good few hammer blows but it will make the team a lot stronger down the road because we've had to find players with all the of guys missing."
Maurice Shanahan fired over inside 60 seconds as Waterford showed their intent early with Pauric Mahony (free) and Michael 'Brick' Walsh also on target before Lee Chin opened Wexford's account with a superb individual score.
'Brick', Mahony and Gleeson tagged on further scores with Conor McDonald (free) and David Dunne, a beautiful score under the New Stand, replying to leave one score in it but they couldn't match the Déise intensity.
A brace from Shane Bennett, Mahony (frees) and the brilliant Barron left them in complete control at half-time with Chin the only threat in a limp Wexford attack. McDonald flashed a goal chance wide on the resumption but Waterford continued exactly where they left off.
Mahony, Gleeson and Shanahan hit points to seemingly put the game to bed but Wexford never gave in. Buoyed by a vocal travelling support they reeled off the next five points via Liam Ryan, McDonald (three) and Éanna Martin.
There had been no rhyme or reason to much of their earlier play but Wexford's dander was up and they trailed by five with 15 to play, 0-15 to 0-10, but substitute Brian O'Halloran eased Waterford's worries with their first score in 18 minutes.
They found their rhythm once again and hit six without reply to quell the Model challenge and eased to victory, holding them to a solitary point in the closing 20 minutes.
After 12 consecutive years in management between Wexford's seniors, minors, juveniles and Oulart- The Ballagh, straight off the back of a 16-year inter-county career, Dunne admitted he's "deserving" of a break but refused to rule out another year.
That decision will not be for him to make however.
"There wasn't one club last year, even my own club didn't propose me to go to take over the team, it took Tony Dempsey to appoint me so I don't know what's going to happen as a county board, maybe they want someone else to come in, that's their choice."
Darragh Fives limped off after 12 minutes and is a "serious doubt" for their semi-final clash with Kilkenny on August 7, but McGrath is relishing the challenge against the Cats.
"We've a massive challenge because Kilkenny have dominated every team so far, but I'm telling you, we're there, we're there on merit and we're there to take on Kilkenny,"
SCORERS - Waterford - Pauric Mahony 0-8 (6f), J Barron, A Gleeson, M Walsh, Shane Bennett, M Shanahan and Brian O'Halloran 0-2 each, J Dillon 0-1. Wexford - C McDonald 0-5 (4f), L Chin 0-2, L Ryan, É Martin, Jack O'Connor and D Dunne 0-1 each.
Waterford - S O'Keeffe 7; S Fives 6, N Connors 7, B Coughlan 7; D Fives 5, T de Búrca 7, Philip Mahony 6; J Barron 8, K Moran 8; Pauric Mahony 7, M Walsh 7, A Gleeson 6; S Bennett 7, P Curran 5, M Shanahan 6. Subs: C Gleeson 7 for D Fives inj (12), J Dillon 7 for Shanahan (50), B O'Halloran 7 for Curran (55), Stephen Bennett 6 for Shane Bennett (60), C Dunford for Gleeson (BS 65), A Gleeson for Dunford (BS 69), C Dunford for Walsh (72).
Wexford - M Fanning 7; E Moore 7, M O'Hanlon 7, L Ryan 7; É Martin 7, P Foley 6, D O'Keeffe 7; Jack O'Connor 7, E Conroy 5; L Óg McGovern 5, L Chin 7, D Dunne 6; P Morris 5, C McDonald 6, H Kehoe 5. Subs: A Kenny 6 for Conroy (27), N Kirwan 6 for Kehoe (43), S Donohoe 6 for Moore inj (51), A Nolan for P Morris (64), Joe O'Connor for McGovern (68).
REF - A Kelly (Galway)
Man of the match
Kevin Moran (Waterford)Leaders were needed and Waterford didn't have far to look with their captain foraging all over the pitch, providing defensive cover as well as setting up numerous attacks in an inspirational display.
Derek McGrath's side hit the ground running from the off and showed no ill effects from their Munster final capitulation against Tipp two weeks ago.
It wasn't a good day in front of the posts for Austin Gleeson but his 10th-minute point off the hurl, after soloing through the Wexford defence, was a peach.
Some of Alan Kelly's calls were debatable to say the least and in a tighter game they could've been crucial, not yesterday though.
Waterford - 18 (13 in first half) Wexford - 10 (3)
Waterford - 15 (9) Wexford 9 (4)
Waterford 4 - J Barron (24), M Shanahan (36), S Bennett (37), S Fives (46) Wexford 2- A Kenny (31), E Moore (40)
Waterford face Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final for the second year running hoping to go one better while Wexford head back to the drawing board for 2017 after a successful Qualifier run.