Monday 19 February 2018

Waterford battle on

Force of nature Moran helps Deise flatten Galway to exorcise demons
Waterford 2-23 Galway 2-13

Kelly celebrates scoring for Waterford. Photo: Sportsfile
Kelly celebrates scoring for Waterford. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

NO hiding place was dark enough for Waterford spirits to shield themselves from the piercing glare of humiliation after the Munster final, no peak too high to inhale the sweet scent of renewal after yesterday's crushing victory in Thurles.

As 14-day turnarounds go, this was as emphatic as it gets. The only similarity between the inadequates who finished seven goals shy of Tipperary and the imposing force which dominated every square foot of Semple Stadium yesterday was the colour of their jerseys.

This was Waterford back on full service, driving into the opposition with swashbuckling efficiency, leaving Galway once again confronted with a challenge which obliterated them physically and mentally.

The former Galway stars who drew criticism for their harsh depiction of the current generation as promise-led but delivery-shy on the day of the Leinster semi-final with Dublin last month were wholly vindicated in what was a miserable occasion for the maroon and white.

Indeed, as the supporters streamed out of Thurles, faced with the reality that they will have no direct interest in the All-Ireland semi-final for a sixth successive season, they were trying to figure out when last the team had performed so abjectly in the championship.

They were drawing from an extensive list of failures, but there's no doubt that yesterday's pathetic effort ranks high up among Galway's worst, including as it did, a stretch from the 17th to the 55th minutes when they scored just three points.

Galway started that barren stretch a point ahead after Joe Canning's goal from a penalty and ended it 10 points behind after being subjected to a Waterford power surge which yielded 14 points.

It was built off two platforms, the first in the run-up to half-time when Waterford re-established the lead (they were two points ahead, 1-9 to 1-7, at half-time) and the second just after the resumption when they blitzed Galway with a string of points.

Defensive indiscipline cost Galway dearly, presenting Pauric Mahony with opportunities which he exploited while Shane Walsh, Eoin Kelly and the marauding Kevin Moran also scored points which left Waterford with a place in a fourth successive All-Ireland semi-final safely secured with 15 minutes remaining.

Moran was a remarkable force of nature all afternoon, patrolling midfield as it were his personal fiefdom and drawing an enterprising response from colleagues all over the field.

'Brick' Walsh, Tony Browne and David O'Sullivan built the first security wall in the half-backs while, in attack, Shane Walsh, John Mullane and Stephen Molumphy raised queries which Galway never came close to answering.

Inevitably, that led to them conceding scoreable frees which Mahony gladly converted into points. In contrast, Galway struggled badly in attack where only Joe Canning looked as if he might pick the Waterford locks.

However, with the Waterford defence growing in confidence, he cut an isolated figure amid the heavy traffic which blocked his approach routes to goal.

It was clear right from the start that Waterford had arrived in positive mood, determined to use the occasion to exorcise the demons which destroyed them in the Munster final.

Eoin Kelly, restored to the starting line-up, went for goal from a 20-metre free in the first minute and while it was saved on the line, the ball shot into the air and was batted to the net by full-forward Shane Walsh.

It was the start of an excellent performance by Walsh who, just as he had done against Galway in the league last April, scored 1-4 from open play. Waterford were 1-2 to 0-0 ahead after five minutes and while Galway battled back to lead by a point 12 minutes later, it was in no way an accurate reflection of the balance of play.

Waterford were dominating the middle third of the field with casual ease, yet Galway undertook no repair work until after half-time. The manner in which they had come back after the poor start may have lulled Galway into believing that they were on a similar trajectory to that which saw them wipe out Cork's early lead before winning easily in the previous round but Waterford were an altogether different proposition.

Indeed, were it not for inaccurate shooting, they would have been much further ahead at half-time. Galway need ed an early boost after half-time, but only managed to get the ball into the Waterford half off puck-outs for the first five minutes. It was a crucial phase and as the Galway management began to send on the substitutions, one could sense Waterford's self-belief rising.

Underpinned by a rich championship tradition against Galway -- they had won all nine previous clashes -- it was as if Waterford realised that if they maintained the tempo they would not only win but have a semi-final date with Kilkenny secured pretty quickly.

And so it proved. Galway were truly awful for long periods in the second half, reaching the start of stoppage-time 10 points adrift before sub Aidan Harte scored a consolation goal. A seven-point defeat would have flattered Galway and Waterford made sure it didn't happen when Thomas Ryan, brought on less than a minute earlier, drove in their second goal.

And so the game ended at it had started with a Waterford goal. As for Galway, it was misery at the start and at the finish and for much of the time in between as they once again caved in under the weight of favouritism.

The big question is why Galway continue to be so highly rated in the All-Ireland odds every year. They have done absolutely nothing to merit it for six seasons and it must be said that yesterday's defeat was probably the most depressing for all for their supporters as it was accompanied by a worrying lack of resolve once Waterford went onto full power.

Quite how that can be fixed -- if indeed it can -- is anybody's guess, but it probably will be undertaken by a new management. John McIntyre made no announcement about his future but after very poor performances against Dublin and Waterford in what was his third championship campaign, the signs are ominous.

As for Davy Fitzgerald and Waterford, redemption has been achieved and they now move on to the next big test with real enthusiasm.

Scorers -- Waterford: S Walsh 1-4, P O'Mahony 0-7 (7f), K Moran, J Mullane, S Molumphy 0-3 each, T Ryan 1-0, E Kelly, S O'Sullivan, S Prendergast 0-1 each. Galway: J Canning 1-6 (1-0 pen, 2f, 1 '65), G Farragher 0-2, A Harte 1-0, A Smith, J Regan, B Daly, I Tannian, T Og Regan ('65) 0-1 each.

Waterford -- C Hennessy 8; D Fives 7, L Lawlor 7, N Connors 8; T Browne 8, M Walsh 8, D O'Sullivan 7; K Moran 9, S O'Sullivan 8; S Prendergast 7, J Mullane 8, P Mahony 7; E Kelly 6, S Walsh 9, S Molumphy 8. Subs: R Foley for E Kelly (65), S Casey for S Prendergast (69), D Prendergast for Browne (71), T Ryan for Mullane (72).

Galway -- J Skehill 6; F Moore 6, S Kavanagh 5, D Collins 6; D Barry 5, T Og Regan 5, A Cullinane 5; A Smith 5, D Burke 5; J Gantley 5, G Farragher 5, I Tannian 5; D Hayes 5, J Canning 7, J Regan 5. Subs: C Donnellan 6 for Gantley (40), K Hynes 5 for Barry (43), J Lee 5 for Cullinane (47), B Daly 6 for Smith (52), A Harte 6 for Burke (61).

Ref -- C McAllister (Cork)

Irish Independent

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