Monday 23 September 2019

'The sideline fella just couldn't handle that I was so agitated. Did I tell him to eff-off? I 100pc did not' - Davy Fitzgerald

Galway 0-16 Wexford 0-16

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald following the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 3A match between Galway and Wexford at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald following the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 3A match between Galway and Wexford at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Wexford’s Cathal Dunbar has his late effort for a goal thwarted by a combination of Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan and Gearoid McInerney (right). Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

There was little art or contentment on show in Salthill yesterday, where a familiar wind, scudding in off the ocean, ran amok with the maps in both manager's minds.

It left the ambitions of Galway and Wexford hanging in abeyance; neither Micheál Donoghue nor Davy Fitzgerald entirely sure quite how to process a stalemate that leaves each of them with work to do in this Leinster Championship.

Both remain unbeaten, a more meaningful status for Wexford undoubtedly given they've two home games remaining. However, the video review won't be pretty in either camp, given that this was a game with anxiety flooding through it.

Wexford should probably have won it, Cathal Dunbar spurning a 72nd-minute goal opportunity after Jack O'Connor's terrific fetch. Dunbar seemed to shoot a fraction earlier than was necessary and the contact wasn't entirely sweet, as Colm Callanan saved smartly.

And yet, seconds earlier, Conor Cooney and Jason Flynn got themselves into a terrible muddle with a scoring opportunity at the far end, while Donoghue will also rue the same Jack O'Connor's heroic 66th-minute intervention, tracking back brilliantly to hook the same Conor Cooney when a Galway goal looked certain.

Such openings, you may gather, were rare and precious in a game of little shape or rhythm, so it's fair to say the conversion of one would probably have been game-defining.

Instead, we got a contest of marvellous application, yet one utterly bereft of composure or craft.

Galway looked to be playing it largely on their terms when a furious Fitzgerald was ordered to the stand in the 44th minute, having angrily remonstrated with the fourth official over what he considered an unchecked foul on Damien Reck.

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Seconds later, a Jason Flynn free put the hosts seven points clear and they still led 0-14 to 0-8 with just 20 minutes of normal time remaining.

Wexford's accumulation of wides (10 in the first-half alone) suggested that gap might be unbridgeable, but they outscored Galway 0-7 to nil through the next 13 minutes, taking the lead for the first time courtesy of Shaun Murphy's score with seven minutes of normal time remaining.

Conor McDonald of Wexford in action against Daithí Burke of Galway. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Conor McDonald of Wexford in action against Daithí Burke of Galway. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

This, then, was full-on crisis for Galway, Donoghue's men having led 0-10 to 0-4 at the mid-point and, for a time, seeming to have resolved all puck-out issues in the quarrelsome wind with Johnny Glynn's introduction.

Contentious

A mix of good fortune and smart management helped them survive. Their final point of the day, a 68th minute Flynn score, looked highly contentious, with Wexford's backroom claiming it to have been a good 18 inches wide of the post. But Galway were significantly helped too by John Hanbury's arrival on the hour to curtail a gradually flowering Rory O'Connor.

That said, Donoghue will worry that his men didn't register a score for 17 second-half minutes, the tragicomic accumulation of wides (30 in total between the teams) making locals audibly impatient for Joe Canning's return and the restoration of the emotional centre to their team.

In his absence, Galway lack attacking shape and leadership. Conor Whelan's three first-half points secured him a Man of the Match award, yet neither Niall Burke nor Brian Concannon stayed the distance, while David Burke was untypically wasteful from midfield.

Wexford had troubles of their own in that regard; joint-captain Lee Chin accumulating seven wides in a display that also carried moments of immense power and authority.

In the end, the equalising score was a marvellous Liam Óg McGovern point virtually from his own half before that late flurry of goal chances at both ends imparted tumult and drama to a contest that scarcely deserved it.

Jack O'Connor of Wexford in action against John Hanbury of Galway. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Jack O'Connor of Wexford in action against John Hanbury of Galway. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

In truth, this had been largely mediocre stuff, with Wexford's only score from play in the opening half an Aidan Nolan point; Galway managing the grand total of 0-2 from play then with the wind in their faces.

One 10th-minute incident maybe ran to the core of the tactical puzzle.

With Galway pressing up on Mark Fanning's puck-outs, a misplaced effort to go short went straight to Brian Concannon, who duly put Conor Cooney in on goal, only for Fanning to redeem himself with a super save. And that save was vital because it took Wexford 22 minutes to even register a score, by which time Galway already had half a dozen.

Donoghue praised the "massive heart and desire" with which his team managed to survive what looked a grave predicament with 10 minutes remaining. "With ten minutes to go, I'd have taken a draw" he reflected. "Huge credit to our boys, that match was slipping from us."

Fitzgerald was equally sanguine, remarking "I'm just extremely proud of the boys."

Asked about his sending-off, he replied "The sideline fella just couldn't handle that I was so agitated. Did I tell him to eff-off? I 100pc did not! But he wasn't happy that I was out remonstrating.

"Maybe they want to take away any bit of characters in the game altogether, I don't know.

"But certainly I'm going to fight for every single thing I honestly believe in. I believe I was right in that case and I hope they'll have the common sense just to see that."

SCORERS - Galway: J Flynn 0-6 (3f, 0-1 '65'), N Burke 0-4 (3f, 0-1 '65'), C Whelan 0-3, David Burke, C Mannion and C Cooney 0-1 each.

Wexford: L Chin 0-7 (6f, 0-1 '65'), R O'Connor and C Dunbar 0-2 each, S Murphy, A Nolan, C McDonald, D O'Keeffe and L Og McGovern 0-1 each.

GALWAY - C Callanan 7, P Mannion 7, Daithi Burke 7, A Harte 7, S Loftus 7, G McInerney 6, J Cooney 6, J Coen 6, David Burke 6, C Mannion 7, N Burke 6, J Flynn 7, C Whelan 8, C Cooney 6, B Concannon 6. Subs: J Glynn 7 for N Burke (41 mins), K Hussey 6 for Coen (50 mins), J Hanbury 7 for J Cooney (59 mins), D Glennon for Concannon (66 mins).

WEXFORD - M Fanning 7, D Reck 6, L Ryan 7, S Donohue 6, P Foley 6, M O'Hanlon 7, S Murphy 6, K Foley 6, D O'Keeffe 6, L Chin 7, A Nolan 6, C Dunbar 7, C McDonald 7, R O'Connor 7, L Og McGovern 7. Subs: P Morris 7 for Nolan (49 mins), J O'Connor 7 for P Foley (49 mins).

REF - J Murphy (Limerick).

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