Waterford comfortably account for Wexford
WATERFORD 0-21 WEXFORD 0-11
Waterford reached their second All-Ireland semi-final on the spin when they comfortably accounted for surprise packages Wexford in a low-key quarter-final at Semple Stadium in Thurles.
The harsh reality for the underdogs is that if the radar of the Waterford shooters had not suffered a major malfunction they would have suffered an even more comprehensive drubbing.
Austin Gleeson hit a third of his side's alarming tally of 18 wides but on a positive note for Waterford – despite being held scoreless for a 20-minute period in the second half – they still chalked up 21 scores.
Mind you, they never looked liked scoring a goal but after the trauma of their Munster final wipe-out this was a satisfactory outcome.
However, team boss, Derek McGrath won't need reminding that much improvement is required before they face All-Ireland title holders, Kilkenny for the second season on the spin in the All-Ireland semi-final next month.
Wexford never really threatened to cause an upset despite hitting five points in a row in the second half to reduce the deficit to five points. Waterford captain Kevin Moran kept a tight rein on Wexford's key player Lee Chin and their chief scorer Conor McDonald was bottled up by the Waterford full-back line.
In fairness, they would have taken a place in the quarter-final at the start of the summer but this performance underlined the yawning gap between the pretenders and contenders at the business end of the championship
Aided by the breeze, Waterford took charge straight from the throw-in and were 5-1 up within the first ten minutes though they lost Darragh Fives through injury soon afterwards.
Even though Tadhg de Burca operated as a sweeper and team captain Kevin Moran switched to mark Wexford's play-maker Kevin Moran, otherwise they lined out in orthodox fashion.
But they were simply better than Wexford in virtually all aspects of the game; winning the vast bulk of the Wexford puck-outs and not allowing their target man Conor McDonald any space on the edge of the square. The Wexford number fourteen was often outnumbered four to one under the dropping ball.
McDonald did make one magnificent catch which ultimately yielded a 20 metre free which he mis-hit allowing Stephen O'Keeffe push it out for a 65 which he also missed. Overall though, Wexford never posed any threat up front.
Waterford's finishing, particularly from long range, was woefully inaccurate as it had been in the Munster final. Austin Gleeson, who started at centre forward but switched back to midfield, hit four of their 12 first-half wides.
Waterford also scored 12 first-half points with Wexford hitting just five in a one-sided first half and as the rain threatened this quarter-final was on the brink of turning into a rout.
The Déise dispensed with the sweeper in the third quarter but the pattern of the game didn't change much as Waterford extended their advantage to 10 points after 40 minutes with excellent points from Gleeson – who finally got on target at the fifth attempt – and Maurice Shanahan after a wonderful run.
Wexford hit the next three scores to give their fans something to cheer about but there was no sense that the underdogs were about to launch a sustained comeback. Their cause wasn't helped when they lost experienced corner back Eoin Moore through injury with 20 minutes left but they continued to pick off the points.
With 20 minutes left the margin was down to five points and as the rain came down Wexford definitely had momentum as the Waterford challenge stalled. But the introduction of Jake Dillon and Brian O'Halloran proved crucial with the latter securing the Déise's first score for 20 minutes.
The score changed the pattern of the contest with Pauric Mahony nailing two frees in the next ninety seconds – the latter coming after an amazing run from Gleeson – and suddenly the Déise were cruising again.
The rest was academic as the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion though interestingly O'Halloran got a second point while Dillon also scored.
Wexford: M Fanning; E Moore, M O'Hanlon, L Ryan (0-1) D O'Keeffe, P Foley, E Martin (0-1); J O'Connor (0-1), E Conroy; L Og McGovern, L Chin (0-2), H Kehoe; P Morris, C McDonald (0-5, 4f), D Dunne (0-1). Subs: A Kenny for Conroy 27m; N Kirwan for Kehoe 45m; S Donohoe for Moore 45m; A Nolan for Morris 65m; J O'Connor for McGovern 69m.
Waterford: S O'Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; D Fives,T de Burca, Philip Mahony; J Barron (0-2), K Moran, M Shanahan (0-2), A Gleeson (0-2), M Walsh (0-2); S Bennett (0-2), Pauric Mahony (0-8, 6f), P Curran. Subs: C Gleeson for D Fives 11m; J Dillon (0-1) for Shanahan 49m; B O'Halloran (0-2) for Curran 55m, Stephen Bennett for Shane Bennett 60m; C Dunford for Walsh 71m.
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)