Thursday 13 December 2018

Wexford to host Kilkenny in league semi after getting the better of 14-man Galway

Wexford 1-23 Galway 0-23

Rory O'Connor of Wexford in action against Joseph Cooney, left, and Joe Canning of Galway during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 quarter-final match between Wexford and Galway at Innovate Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Rory O'Connor of Wexford in action against Joseph Cooney, left, and Joe Canning of Galway during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 quarter-final match between Wexford and Galway at Innovate Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

The Wexford hurling revival spearheaded by Davy Fitzgerald has hit new heights with the underdogs knocking All-Ireland title holders, Galway out of the race for this year's League title.

Wexford will now meet next door neighbours Kilkenny in next weekend's semi-final. It will be their second successive league semi-final appearance – they lost to Tipperary in last year's penultimate tie.

So Wexford keep their unbeaten home record under Fitzgerald, who has now managed them to two high profile win over Galway – they beat them last season in a key match in Division 2.

This is Galway's second loss on the spin this season – they were beaten earlier this month by Limerick in what was effectively the Division 1B final.

While the alarm bells won't be ringing out west yet, this loss was a reminder to the MacCarthy Cup holders that there is work to be done if they are to retain the Leinster and All-Ireland crowns in 2018.

The dismissal of corner forward Jack Coyne in the 53rd minute – referee Fergal Horgan flashed him a straight red after he was alerted by the linesman to an apparent off the ball incident – didn't help Galway's cause.

However, they trailed for most of the second half and although they levelled the game in the 61st minute – thanks primarily to the performance of Conor Whelan who hit five points – the4ey were outscored 6-3 at the business end of an entertaining contest played in perfect conditions.

Wexford wrapped up a famous win deep in injury time when Conor McDonald hit a brace of points to sent their fans home happy.

Hurler of the Year Joe Canning started his first game for Galway since last September's All-Ireland decider as the Tribesmen fielded ten of their All-Ireland starting side. As expected, Lee Chin lined out for the home side – replacing Cathal Dunbar.

Shaun Murphy operated as the Wexford sweeper; Rory O'Connor linked up with Kevin Foley at midfield which left the home side with a two man full forward line of Conor McDonald and Paul Morris.

However, it was Galway who opted for a more radical switch with team captain David Burke moving to full forward and Joe Canning partnering Johnny Coen at midfield.

There was little to separate the sides in the first quarter with the sides level of five occasions. Wexford goalkeeper Mark Fanning relentlessly targeted the left hand side of the Galway defence with his puck out and the tactic yield dividend in terms of primary possession with Jack O'Connor winning four clean catches – three over the head of Aidan Harte and one against Padraig Mannion who had switched on him during the second quarter

But in terms of scores there was a disappointing return from O'Connor's exploits as the recalled Lee Chin missed two scorable frees after the St Martin's drew frees. Indeed, Wexford's accuracy from placed balls in the first half left a lot to be desired – as five of their six wides came from frees.

Rory O'Connor who took over from Chin as their free taker did convert three – he missed two as well – and the home side led 0-8 to 0-5 after 23 minutes. But Galway enjoyed their most productive spell hitting four points in a seven minute spell to move a point ahead.

But Wexford roared back and were rewarded with a goal two minutes from the break. A quick sideline from Jack O'Connor set a move in motion involving Paul Morris and Rory O'Connor. Galway goalkeeper James Skehill could only parry the latter's powerful shot and Conor McDonald was ideally placed to sweep the rebound to the net.

Though Wexford led 1-9 to 0-11 at the break it did not reflect their superiority in the first half. Galway hit the first three points of the second half to lead by two after 38 minutes. But Wexford hit the next five scores on the spin to establish an advantage which ultimately proved sufficient to get them over the line with the O'Connor brothers, Jack and Rory and Paudie Foley making major contributions.

Ireland's rugby Grand Slam hero Tadgh Furlong – who went to school with Wexford joint captain Martin O'Hanlon in New Ross – was among the attendance of 7,200.


Wexford: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan (0-1), S Donohoe; S Murphy, D O'Keeffe (0-3), M O'Hanlon, P Foley (0-5, 3f); K Foley (0-2), R O'Connor (0-6, 4f) J O'Connor (0-1), D Dunne, L Chin (0-2, 1f); C McDonald (1-2), P Morris. Subs W Deveruex for Reck 14m; A Nolan for Dunne 53m; H Kehoe (0-1) for J O'Connor 69m; C Dunbar for Morris 69m

Galway: J Skehill; A Tuohey, J Hanbury, P Mannion; J Grealish, G McInerney, A Harte; J Coen (0-3), J Canning (0-10, 9f, 1 65), J Cooney (0-1), C Mannion (0-3), J Coyne; C Cooney, D Burke, C Whelan (0-5). Subs: S Loftus for Grealish ht; J Flynn (0-1) for Burke 57m; B Concannon for J Cooney 69m.

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)

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