Rejuvenated Waterford exploit Galway's errors
WATERFORD 1-20 GALWAY 1-10 EXPERIENCE is not the inevitable end-result of living you must learn, too.Galway's inability to absorb the most basic of lessons has taken them back to the bad old days when the annual pilgrimage is made more in hope than expectation.
Galway won the Connacht final by eleven points and yet they perpetuated some of the selection errors initiated in that game, and also added some fresh ones to the mix.
Waterford lost the Munster final by twelve points but they remain a very real force in this Guinness All-Ireland hurling championship because of the astuteness of their management and their players' unwavering commitment to self-improvement.
Buttressed by their wildly enthusiastic fans who rescued an otherwise unspeakably drab occasion, Waterford, to employ the most abused term in modern-day hurling, were `really fired up for this one'.
All of their energies were channelled in the right direction. Tony Browne, horsed out of it on and off-the-ball in the first four minutes of the Munster final, led the resistance.
His clear message that the previous week's scars would not hinder this week's rebuilding operation inspired his colleagues. Their response was uplifting for Waterford followers in the hugely disappointing crowd of 26,052.
The defence put the clampers on the Galway attack. Browne, helped by an improving Peter Queally, dismantled weak opposition at midfield.
And the forwards turned the Galway backline inside out, exposing every single fault-line left by another misplaced gamble by the Galway selection team.
This wholesale riddling of the imbalanced Galway defence commenced even before the throw-in when Ken McGrath went direct to left half-back, where he faced the physically smaller Pádraig Kelly.
And Kelly has no reputation for marking, either, which meant McGrath could relaunch his own season with a hard-working first-half display before moving back the field later in the match.
Inside, Seán Daly had too much aerial power for Hodgins and before long, Hodgins' uncertainty to those other areas of his play in which he generally excels.
Daly scored a 9th minute goal from a carefully-orchestrated `65' from Tony Browne. He was directly involved in four other scores.
Galway were 1-11 to 0-7 down, and as good as out of the game, when they finally admitted in the 44th minute that Brian Feeney might be a better bet at full-back.
This obstinate streak has governed the management's position on Feeney for the past two seasons even though they inherited him after he performed magnificently at full-back in the 1996 championship defeat by Wexford.
Hodgins is no full-back, Feeney is a full-back; Feeney is no corner-back, Hodgins is a corner-back we're not exactly splitting the atom here when we point up the obvious flaws in Galway's selection.
Joe McGrath was another controversial inclusion at centre half-forward. The omission of a serious error came after only 25 minutes when he was shifted out to wing-forward; McGrath's body language then was that of a man who would have been happier if the selectors were not bothering to let him down gently.
There was no sign of one of their best players Cathal Moore, allegedly injured, even though almost a month ago he played ten great minutes of club championship hurling.
The potential for recrimination in Galway is lessened by Cyril Farrell's dressingroom announcement that he will not be seeking re-election. Galway hurling has been riven by controversy for the past four years; they badly need a fresh start.
They placed their faith in Daragh Coen as a taker of frees, `65's and Galway's eternal torturer penalties. He came undone on all three fronts. The penalty came after 34 minutes when Joe Rabbitte's tireless burrowing forced Browne and Hartley to drag him to ground.
Coen struck it very poorly. Corner-back Brian Flannery saved it at the butt of the post and 'keeper Brendan Landers cleared it out for a `65'. Coen missed the `65'.
Later, just 20 seconds into the second-half, Rabbitte set up Coen from play. This time, his shot was deflected into the side-netting. Coen dropped the `65' short and seven minutes later he was substituted.
Compare all of this to Waterford's careful husbandry. McGrath, Anthony Kirwan and Daly all saw stints of duty at various points around the forwardline; Queally, Kirwan and McGrath all played in midfield and attack for periods.
Waterford were utterly committed right throughout this game. They have the ultimate incentive to steamroll through the quarter-final and semi-final Clare.
Clare may have created a monster in this Waterford team. They now have a cause. They grabbed the handle of the backdoor with relish yesterday and they played the game at a pace and an intensity light years beyond Galway.
Only once did Galway lead, and that was from the 2nd to the 4th minute after Coen had pointed a free. Daly's 9th minute goal put Waterford 1-1 to 0-1 ahead and they were 1-9 to 0-5 ahead at half-time.
Galway only scored one point from play in the entire half, and that, fittingly, came from Rabbitte. In a vast spell stretching from the 16th minute to injury-time at the end of the first-half, Galway could muster nothing at all while Waterford tacked on five points.
What slim chances Galway had died with Coen's miss after the break. The 56th minute of play laid bare the differences between the teams. Justin Campbell crashed a shot off the crossbar, and Rabbitte kicked wide seconds later. From the puck-out, Shanahan rose above his marker Paul Hardiman and scored a fine point.
The majesty of Waterford's performance and the defiance which transformed them in just seven days installs them as the team best equipped to truly test Clare, even if sight can never be lost of the quality, and shapelessness, of yesterday's opposition.
SCORERS Waterford: T Browne 0-7 (four 65, 1 sideline cut, 2f), P Flynn 0-5 (4f), S Daly 1-0, K McGrath 0-2, A Kirwan 0-2, D Bennett 0-1, B O'Sullivan 0-1, P Queally 0-1, D Shanahan 0-1. Galway: L Burke 1-1 (0-1 f), D Coen 0-3 (2f 1 65), F Forde 0-2 (2f), J Rabbitte 0-1, O Fahy 0-1, K Broderick 0-1, A Kerins 0-1.
WATERFORD B Landers; T Feeney, S Cullinane, B Flannery; B Greene, F Hartley, S Frampton; T Browne, P Queally; D Shanahan, A Kirwan, K McGrath; D Bennett, S Daly, P Flynn. Subs: B O'Sullivan for D Bennett, 46. D McGrath for A Kirwan, 68.
GALWAY R Burke; G Kennedy, L Hodgins, B Feeney; P Kelly, V Maher, P Hardiman; M Coleman, L Burke; A Kerins, J McGrath, K Broderick; D Coen, J Rabbitte, O Fahy. Subs: F Forde for J McGrath, half-time. J Campbell for D Coen, 43. B Keogh for P Hardiman, 60.
REF D Murphy, Wexford.