Fiery Walsh Cup final sees four red cards as Galway see off Wexford with second half surge
Galway 1-23 Wexford 0-20
Four players were sent off as Galway won their first Walsh Cup in four years at Bellefield, Enniscorthy, dethroning the holders Wexford.
A stormy end to the first half left three players on red cards and raised the temperature in what had been until then a fairly pedestrian affair.
Galway were leading 1-8 to 0-9 when a melee erupted out of nothing, leading to Wexford’s Liam Ryan and Galway’s captain Padraic Mannion being sent off.
Galway were reduced to 13 players in first half injury time when Jarlath Mannion was red carded for pulling the helmet of opponent Shane Reck after a Joe Canning free had dropped wide. But they raced out of the blocks in the second half. Points from the outstanding Cathal Mannion, Canning and Sean Kilduff strengthened their lead and they opened a six-point gap before Wexford began to show some signs of what they are capable of.
Cathal Mannion, in immaculate form, finished with 0-4 from play and was involved in a couple of Galway scores and critically, they had more leaders when they needed than the home team. Micheal Donoghue will be pleased with this performance from a team that was well below full strength. Wexford did their utmost to get back into the game in the remainder of the second half but rued some poor finishing and a penalty put over the bar by goalkeeper Mark Fanning with nine minutes left to play, after Conor McDonald was fouled. A goal then would have left only one point between the sides with Wexford gaining momentum and having the advantage of vocal home support.
Canning was in imperious form from placed balls and struck 0-13 of Galway’s total, which included 0-2 from play and one 65. Another stand-out player for the winners was Aidan Harte, who crowned a magnificent performance with the game’s only goal, 28 minutes into the first half, finishing after great work by Padraic Mannion, Canning and Jack Coyne in the build up. A couple of minutes before, Canning had broken through the centre and fired a shot to Fanning’s right, which the keeper did well to divert clear.
Wexford made a series of substitutions in the second half, bringing on Paudie Foley, Damien Reck, Harry Kehoe and Paul Morris, and their intensity and attacking play noticeably improved. The loss of Mannion in the centre of the Galway defence was substantial but the Tribesmen defended robustly. When Wexford did get through the cover, they found Fergal Flannery in exceptional form. Shortly before Fanning’s penalty, substitute Seamus Casey had a shot saved by Flannery and he made a brilliant reflex save to save a ground strike from Aidan Nolan after 53 minutes when four points separated the teams.
Fanning’s penalty point had Wexford three points adrift with ten minutes left but Galway dug deep and showed a steely resistance to hold out. Canning kept punishing Wexford indiscipline and subs Sean Linnane and Tadhg Haran scored late points to make the game safe. In injury time, Cathal Dunbar picked up a second yellow card and was sent off, after recklessly catching Canning with his hurl on the face. Canning punished the foul with his last score of the day.
The four players dismissed will be free to play in next weekend’s opening round of the National League, including Ryan, playing on the home ground of his club Rapparees here, who will be available for Wexford’s glamour clash with All-Ireland champions Limerick at Wexford Park. Galway face Laois in Pearse Stadium in Division 1B.
Scorers: Galway - J Canning 0-13 (0-10 fs, 0-1 65); A Harte 1-0; C Mannion 0-4, J Coyne, D Glennon, S Kilduff, S Bleahene, S Linnane, T Haran 0-1. Wexford - I Byrne 0-5 (0-5 fs); P Foley 0-2 (0-1 f, 0-1 65), D Dunne, C McDonald, M O’Hanlon, P Morris 0-2, K Foley, C Dunbar, D O’Keeffe, M Fanning (pen) 0-1, H Kehoe.
Galway: F Flannery; J Grealish, R Burke, A Harte;K Hussey, P Mannion, J Mooney; C Mannion, S Kilduff; R O’Meara, J Canning, J Coyne; J Mannion, S Bleahene, D Glennon.
Subs: J Coen for Mooney (44 mins); J Flynn for Coyne (45); K Cooney for O’Meara (56); S Linnane for Kilduff (57); T Haran for Bleahene (65).
Wexford: M Fanning; S Reck, L Ryan, C Firman; S Donohoe, M O’Hanlon, S Murphy; A Nolan, D O’Keeffe; D Dunne. K Foley, I Byrne; C Dunbar, C McDonald, L McGovern.
Subs: D Reck for Firman (inj 27 mins); P Foley for Byrne & D Reck for S Reck (half time); S Casey for McGovern, R Higgins for Nolan & H Kehoe for Dunne (55).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).