McIntyre sees room for improvement
GALWAY sidestepped the first banana skin in their Leinster SHC path in Nowlan Park on Saturday night, but not quite as deftly as the winning margin suggested.
Wexford certainly weren't 11 points worse than them for 45 minutes and it was only when the Tribesmen were reduced to 14 men with Andy Smyth's dismissal, that they actually motored clear.
Their late surge and ability to drive on -- as they'd done in the league final -- was what most pleased manager John McIntyre, but he certainly wasn't happy at Smyth's dismissal for a late body-check after 54 minutes.
Having already been on a yellow, it was a rash tackle that Smyth should never have risked, but what most upset Galway was that it earned the Portumna man a straight red, which will now rule him out of their provincial semi-final.
"Andy Smith has paid the price for his commitment again today. There's a very thin line between players giving everything," McIntyre fumed. "Players should be sent off for committing a dirty challenge, but let's not send off players because of their will to win and total commitment."
The numbers were evened up when Wexford's David Redmond went for a second yellow 10 minutes later and their captain Diarmuid Lyng got a straight red in injury-time for a similar tackle.
McIntyre felt the three reds "didn't capture the tone of the game," telling Lyng personally that he was hard done by. But, in truth, the Wexford dismissals did not affect the result.
Just after Smyth went, impressive substitute Tomas Waters got up in a crowded goalmouth to flick home a goal that reduced the deficit to three.
But a couple of minutes later Kevin Hynes, just on the field and cleverly played in by Damien Hayes, nabbed Galway's second goal to put them seven points clear with 15 minutes remaining and they cruised home.
There were far more significant turning points earlier; namely 'Gizzy' Lyng's decision to take a short free just before half-time and what McIntyre described as a "Roy of the Rovers save" by Galway 'keeper Colm Callanan from Rory Jacob nine minutes after the restart.
Given Lyng's free-taking accuracy all day, had he opted to shoot that admittedly long-range free, they might have gone in just two points down.
But he decided to go short, David Burke intercepted it, fired it downfield to Joe Canning who earned a 20m free and then had the audacity to goal it, yielding Galway's extremely flattering half-time lead of 1-9 to 0-6.
"We should have slapped that ball over the bar instead of going for a quick free. We went in six points behind instead of two and didn't deserve that," said Wexford boss Colm Bonnar later.
That turnaround, and the final score, papered over some serious cracks which Galway will have to address.
It certainly didn't do justice to Wexford's central defenders Keith Rossiter and Darren Stamp, who were magnificent. 'Rossi' did a fantastic job for long periods on Canning, who was pulled out to the half-forwards several times to try to find some space.
Wexford were unlucky to lose Malachy Travers to injury after just 12 minutes and later their other wing-back Richie Kehoe, who was doubtful beforehand.
But the arrival of Kehoe's replacement Waters, and the move of Peter Atkinson out to the '45,' actually coincided with Wexford's second-half fight-back. Their problem was not having enough fire-power, especially from play.
Outside of Lyng's 0-11 (0-8f, 0-1 '65) only two more starting forwards nicked a point. Galway's full-back line had no real problems with the Jacob brothers or Stephen Banville, yet the real platform came from their imperious half-back line where Donal Barry and David Collins were outstanding.
But the Tribesmen's vaunted forwards were surprisingly toothless, shooting 11 first-half wides when only Canning (0-1) and Damien Hayes (0-1) scored from play.
It wasn't 'Big Joe' but 'Big Ger' they totally depended on as Ger Farragher's 0-13, all but one from impeccable free-taking, kept them clear.
Their forwards weren't helped by the shortage of angled ball going into them, which contributed to the anonymity of Joe Gantley, Aidan Harte and Cyril Donnellan.
When they finally got their running game going they improved dramatically and Damien Hayes eventually got into the game; but at times Galway were surprisingly inept up front.
Yet the Division 1 champions survived this potential ambush from the Division 2 holders and were relieved.
"This was a fixture which had 'danger' written all over it," said a satisfied McIntyre. "They had us rattled but we eventually wore them down and we're heading back to Croke Park for the first time in a number of years.
"I didn't think we were in the same place as we were before the league final," he stressed. "We've had two rounds of the county championships since, we had injuries and our preparations were a bit fractured, but the result is everything."
Scorers -- Galway: G Farragher 0-13 (0-11f, 0-1'65), J Canning 1-3 (0-1f) , K Hynes 1-0, D Hayes 0-2, D Burke, A Smyth, A Harte, A Callanan 0-1 each. Wexford: D Lyng 0-11 (0-8f, 0-1 '65'), T Waters 1-0, H Kehoe, E Quigley, R Jacob 0-1 each.
Galway -- C Callanan 8; D Joyce 7, S Kavanagh (Capt) 8, O Canning 8; D Barry 9, T Og Regan 8, D Collins 9; G Farragher 8, D Burke 7; D Hayes 7, C Donnellan 5, A Smyth 6; A Harte 6, J Canning 7, J Gantley 5. Subs: I Tannian 6 for Donnellan (47), K Hynes 8 for Gantley (57), A Callanan 8 for Harte (67), J Lee for Regan (68), A Cullinane for Collins (69).
Wexford -- N Carton 7; C Kenny 8, K Rossiter 9, L Prendergast 7; R Kehoe 6, D Stamp 8, M Travers 7; H Kehoe 7, C Farrell 5; P Atkinson 7, E Quigley 6, D Lyng (Capt) 7; R Jacob 6, M Jacob 5, S Banville 6. Subs: D Redmond 7 for Travers (12), T Waters 8 for Kehoe (42), P Morris 6 for M Jacob (58).
Ref -- J Sexton (Cork).