Waterford beat Wexford to reach All-Ireland semi-final
WATERFORD 1-23 WEXFORD 1-19
Waterford will again play championship hurling in August after seeing off the challenge of Leinster finalists Wexford in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Pairc Uí Chaoimh.
It is the third season in a row that Waterford boss, Derek McGrath, has guided his team into the last four of the All-Ireland series. Tomorrow's draw on RTE's Morning Ireland show will determine their semi-final opponents – they can be drawn against either of the provincial winners, Galway or Cork.
Counties who have met earlier in the championship – provided it is not a provincial final – can be drawn to meet in the last four. So an all-Munster clash between Waterford and Cork on August 13 is possible, even though they have already clashed in the provincial series. It now depends on the roll of the coloured balls in the draw drum.
The victory came at a cost with sweeper Tadhg De Burca receiving a straight red card four minutes from the end of normal time following an off the ball incident which looks certain to rule him of next month's semi-final.
Kevin Moran hit 1-3 while Pauric Mahony converted nine frees as Waterford essentially controlled the game.
Moran's goal in injury time in the first half – which frustratingly for Wexford came as the direct result of a defensive error - was the key score, while Maurice Shanahan and Brian O'Halloran scored two points each after their introduction.
For Wexford it was a disappointing, if rather predictable end to a wonderful first season for Davy Fitzgerald. He guided the team back to the top flight of the league as well as two wins in knock-out competitions over Kilkenny.
But his side are still a step below the top tier teams right now – as are Kilkenny. So it wasn't a surprise that their bid for a place in the All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 2004 fell short.
Arguably the best has yet to come from Wexford as Fitzgerald's best work as a manager is generally done is his second season.
Substitute Jack O'Connor scored their goal in the fifth minute of injury time – but it merely put a better look on the scoreboard as the Déise were the better team and deserved to win by more than four points.
Nineteen-year-old Rory O'Connor, a son of former Wexford All-Ireland medallist John O'Connor, who sat his Leaving Certificate examination in June, made his championship debut and did enough to suggest that he will have a long career at senior level.
There were three other changes in personnel with Eoin Moore, David Redmond and Podge Doran replacing Simon Donohoe, Aidan Nolan and Harry Kehoe respectively. In the event Redmond only lasted 25 minutes before being replaced by Nolan who announced his arrival by scoring a point.
As expected, both teams set up defensively but Wexford's sweeper Shaun Murphy had a much bigger influence compared to the Leinster final whereas Tadhg De Burca scarcely touched the ball in the first half but was more prominent after the break until his dismissal.
Wexford were slow to start and found it difficult to deal with Waterford's tenacious tackling. They were repeatedly turned over in possession and took too many wrong options.
Michael Walsh was hugely influential in the first half - apart from scoring a point he was directly involved in four other Waterford points.
It was tough to watch but Waterford's superiority wasn't being fully reflected on the scoreboard though they led by double scores (8-4) after 16 minutes.
One felt that if Waterford's two man full-forward line of Jake Dillon and Shane Bennett had more numerical support they would have been further ahead.
After being booked in the first minute, Austin Gleeson was a peripheral figure for much of the first half – mind you, he still scored the point of the half – a delightful effort from a miscued sidelined from Willie Devereux.
Wexford began to express themselves more in the second quarter and although Lee Chin was off target with two long-range frees they had the gap closed to two points in injury time at the end of the half when disaster struck.
Diarmuid O'Keeffe, who kept up his record of scoring from play in all of Wexford's games this season, was at fault as he tried to swoop the ball to a colleague inside his own 45m line.
The intended flick was intercepted by Bennett who put Kevin Moran through on the left and he flicked the ball through the legs of Mark Fanning to leave Waterford 1-12 to 0-10 ahead at the break.
Wexford made an encouraging start to the second half with points from Liam Ryan and Rory O'Connor whereas Waterford hit four wides on the spin. The latter was becoming more influential by the minute and his run and pass set up Chin for a 43rd minute point to make it a two-point game.
Cue for Waterford to introduce Maurice Shanahan and Brian O'Halloran, two of their heroes from the win over Kilkenny. A brace of pointed frees from O'Mahony – their first scores of the second half steadied their nerves as Wexford began to concede silly frees again.
Gleeson hit a monster free from deep inside his own half and although Wexford substitute Jack O'Connor replied immediately, Gleeson took a brilliant pass from Shanahan at full speed and to hit Waterford's first point of the half from play – he took a heavy knock in the process but the game continued while he received treatment on the field.
Wexford did secure the next score through a Guiney free as the exchanges became increasingly rugged. But then Waterford hit a purple patch, outscoring their opponents 4-2 in the next eight minutes – Shanahan got two of the points to restore their six-point advantage.
Just as game threatened to peter out there was on sting in the tale which could have serious consequences for Waterford's All-Ireland ambitions.
Sweeper Tadhg De Burca received a straight red car after a linesman spotted him apparently pulling the face-guard of Wexford substitute Harry Kehoe. He now faces an automatic one-match ban which will rule him out of the semi-final.
In the event it mattered little; a brace of points from Brian O'Halloran stretched Waterford's lead to eight points – they won last year's quarter-final against the same opposition by ten.
Jack Guiney's sixth free and a goal from substitute Jack O'Connor - he was their top scorer from play with a 1-2 tally – with the second last puck of the game brought the curtain down on a game which never really sparkled. One suspects, though, Waterford won't worry too much about the lack of entertainment.
The official attendance was 31,753.
Waterford: S O'Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, T de Burca, S Fives, Philip Mahony, C Gleeson (0-1,); J Barron, K Moran (1-3), Pauric Mahony (0-9, 9f), A Gleeson (0-3, 1f), M Walsh (0-1), S Bennett, J Dillon (0-1), D Fives (0-1). Subs: M Shanahan (0-2) for Dillon 45m; B O'Halloran (0-2) for Bennett 46m, Stephen Bennett for Walsh 53m; C Dunford for Barron 62m; T Ryan for Mahony 72m
Wexford: M Fanning; W Devereux, L Ryan (0-1), J Breen; E Moore (0-1), M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe (0-2); S Murphy, R O'Connor (0-1); L Chin (0-3, 2f); J Guiney (0-6, 6f), D Redmond, P Doran, C McDonald (0-1), P Morris (0-1) Subs: A Nolan (0-1) for Redmond 25m; J O'Connor (1-2) for Morris 41m; H Kehoe for McDonald 60m; S Tomkins for Doran 64m
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)