Superb Joe Canning fires Galway to Allianz League semi-final with victory over Wexford
Galway 3-21 Wexford 3-11
Galway gained a measure of revenge for last year's league quarter final loss to Wexford with a match-winning charge immediately after half time at Salthill, sending them into next weekend's semi finals where they will play Waterford.
Wexford looked on course for a third league win over the Tribsemen in as many seasons when a point at the halfway stage, having faced a strong wind and scored three first half goals. But the match turned spectacularly on the restart, with Galway firing 2-5 in the opening 15 minutes, with just a point in return from the visitors. From being one in arrears at half time, they powered nine ahead and Wexford were never in the hunt in the remainder.
Joe Canning led the scoring with 15 points, an impeccable striking display that included 13 frees, a 65 and one peach from play. Cathal Mannion produced another brilliant performance, including an early second half goal, and Brian Colcannon also starred with some good scores and one astute pass that led to Galway's second goal in the 43rd minute, a scrambled effort by Niall Burke after Concannon's pass picked out Davy Glennon whose shot was parried by Mark Fanning.
Canning set up the third goal three minutes from the end to seal victory drawing a save from Fanning that allowed Tadhg Haran to score from the rebound with his first touch after being introduced from the bench.
Canning scored 12 of his points in the first half when Galway had the benefit of a strong Salthill wind but they went in at half time 0-13 to 3-5 behind. Wexford didn't divert from their usual sweeper strategy and denied Galway a single goal chance, and Conor McDonald struck for two goals, with a third by Lee Chin.
Galway's reliance on Canning was almost troubling but Wexford's clumsiness in the tackle and a number of questionable decisions in Galway's favour by referee Cathal McAllister handed Canning chances which he took with aplomb. The first half free count read 14-3 in Galway's favour. Canning landed 10 frees, missing none, and one 65 and scored a brilliant point from play when out fielding Matthew O'Hanlon from a Galway puckout and shooting over the bar after a darting run.
O'Hanlon, though, had a big impact too, making a supporting run that allowed Wexford score their opening goal in the ninth minute. Their sweeper Kevin Foley sent a diagonal ball out of defence which McDonald fielded brilliantly under pressure near the sideline. He linked with O'Hanlon, charging forward, but his shot off the ground should have been stopped by Fergus Flannery who misjudged it and let it go past him into the home team's goal.
The goals kept Wexford in touch, with McDonald getting a second after 24 minutes when O'Hanlon sent a cross-field ball in from the wing and the full forward outfielded Paul Killeen before planting an excellent shot in the corner to put Wexford back in front, 2-4 to 0-18.
On the half hour they struck again when Flannery lost the ball after making a good save from Cathal Dunbar and Chin punished the error. Two minutes before Mannion scored Galway's only point of the half that did not come from the stick of Canning. The third goal restored Wexford's two-point lead nearing the interval and prompted Canning to go for goal from a 20m free a minute later but Kevin Foley saved well and the ball was cleared.
Another Galway free before the break provoked an irate reaction from the visiting supporters and also from David Fitzgerald, visibly fuming in the commentary box from where he watched the first half. It was not hard to understand his frustration but they were well placed with the wind to com, Paul Morris getting the final score of the half from a free to nudge them in front.
After that though Galway took complete control and their attack began to click. The win reverses last year's loss in Wexford when they surrendered their league title and the one in Salthill a year earlier that helped catapult Wexford out of Division 1B. With only six of their All-Ireland team starting, they have much to be pleased about.
Scorers: Galway - J Canning 0-15 (0-13 fs, 0-1 65); C Mannion 1-2, N Burke 1-1, T Haran 1-0, B Concannon 0-2, C Whelan 0-1. Wexford - C McDonald 2-2 (0-1 f); L Chin 1-2; P Morris 0-5 (0-3 fs, 0-1 65), D O'Keeffe, M O'Hanlon, A Nolan 0-1.
Galway: F Flannery; J Grealish, P Killeen, D Morrissey; A Harte, P Mannion, G McInerney; C Mannion, S Loftus; N Burke, J Canning, C Whelan; S Bleahene, B Concannon, T Monaghan.
Subs: K Hussey for Mannion (inj 22 mins); D Glennon for Monaghan (inj 34); J Coen for Morrissey (half time); S Kilduff for Harte (63); T Haran for Bleahene (68).
Wexford: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, S Donohoe; P Foley, M O'Hanlon, S Murphy; J O'Connor, K Foley; A Nolan, L Chin, D O'Keeffe; C Dunbar, C McDonald, C McDonald, P Morris.
Subs: D Byrne for Ryan (inj 39); L Og McGovern for J O'Connor (46); S Reck for Byrne (inj 52); I Byrne for Chin (inj 58); H Kehoe for Morris (69).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).