Leinster SHC: Scarily good Galway frighten life out of Wexford
Leinster SHC semi-final
GALWAY 1-27 WEXFORD 0-17
By John Harrington at Croke Park
The Halloween fireworks that lit up the Dublin night-sky throughout provided a fitting backdrop for an incandescent Galway performance in this Leinster SHC semi-final.
Championship dark-horses coming into the game, their odds will surely have tumbled on the basis of this dominant win over Wexford.
Stout in defence, workaholics in the middle third, and clinical in attack, it was as pretty complete display by Shane O’Neill’s team.
His Wexford counterpart, Davy Fitzgerald, in contrast will have been extremely disappointed by what was a real damp squib of a performance from his team.
The defending provincial champions never really got their normally slick short-passing/hard running game going, but that had much to do with the physical intensity that their opponents hurled with throughout.
Galway didn’t just have size and hunger on their side, they had real quality too.
Their usual leaders like Joe Canning, Padraic Mannion, and Conor Whelan stepped up to the mark like we’ve seen them do so often in the past, but, encouragingly for Galway supporters, some fresher faces like Brian Concannon, Fintan Burke, Sean Loftus, and Eanna Murphy impressed too.
This combination of proven warriors from their 2017 All-Ireland win and talented younger players keen to make their own name could be a potent one in the coming weeks.
Wexford had the breeze at their backs in the first-half but they didn’t deviate from their usual short-passing game, whereas Galway went much more direct even though they were against the elements.
Wexford did manage to cut open the Galway rearguard early on with the quality of their inter-play and support running, but by an large it was the Tribesmen’s route one approach that looked more potent from the off.
Conor Whelan and Brian Concannon formed a very effective two-pronged fork in their full-forward line, and made good use of the long deliveries that came angling their way.
It was Concannon who opened the scoring for his team in the very first minute and they doubled that advantage soon after when Sean Loftus converted a long-range strike with the sort of confidence and elan you wouldn’t normally associate with a corner-back.
Rory O’Connor landed a typically sweet score from the right wing to open Wexford’s account, and for the first quarter the Slaneysiders generally gave as good as they got, on the scoreboard at least.
Galway still looked more dangerous closer to goal though thanks to that Whelan-Concannon axis, and they really cut loose after the first water-break.
An unanswered blast of 1-4 decisively shifted the balance of power in Galway’s favour and it was Whelan who gave them the initial surge of momentum when he raced through to score a point.
Concannon followed up with another point before a free an converted ’65 by Joe Canning pushed Galway four clear before they really stuck a dagger in Wexford’s ribs with the only goal of the match.
Canning sent in a long free into the edge of the Wexford square which Mark Fanning couldn’t quite claim above Whelan. The sliotar hit the deck and Concannon was the quickest to react as the doubled it home past the despair dive of Fanning.
Points from Paudie Foley and the hard-working Lee Chin sandwiched one from Cathal Mannion just before the break to leave Galway leading by 1-13 to 0-10, and already in control of the tie.
Their dominance only grew more pronounced after the break. Without the ball they hunted Wexford ball carriers in packs and turned over possession time and again.
With it, they attacked with real intent themselves and showed a nice variety between the direct approach that worked so well in the first half and some nice passages of more elaborate build-up play that was more often than not followed by decisive finishing.
Two early second-half points by Jason Flynn and Conor Whelana showcased perfectly just how more potent Galway were in the final third than Wexford.
It didn’t get any better from there for the Slaneysiders as the unlikely figure of Johnny Coen then got in on the scoring act and Concannon hit his best point of the day from a ridiculously tight angle on the left.
Galway were attacking Wexford from all sorts of angles now as wing-back Padraic Mannion drove forward to land two fine points and corner-back Loftus popped up again with another long-ranger.
It was something of a procession in the end for the Tribesmen who progress to the Leinster Final with a real pep in their step.
The qualifiers await for Wexford who will surely hope the only way is up after this Halloween horror-show.
Scorers for Galway: Joe Canning 0-9 (1 sideline, 1 65), Brian Concannon 1-4, Conor Whelan 0-4, Sean Loftus 0-2, Padraic Mannion 0-2, Cathal Mannion 0-2, Fintan Burke 0-1, Shane Cooney 0-1, Johnny Coen 0-1, Jason Flynn 0-1.
Scorers for Wexford: Lee Chin 0-8 (4f), Rory O’Connor 0-3, Paudie Foley 0-2 (1 65), Kevin Foley 0-1, Paul Morris 0-1, Aidan Nolan 0-1, Mark Fanning 0-1 (f)
GALWAY: Eanna Murphy; Sean Loftus, Fintan Burke, Aidan Harte; Padraic Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Shane Cooney; Cathal Mannion, Johnny Coen; Conor Cooney, Joe Canning, Joseph Cooney; Brian Concannon, Conor Whelan, Jason Flynn. Subs: Niall Burke for Jason Flynn (54), Sean Linnane for Conor Cooney (63), Adrian Tuohey for Aidan Harte (67), Evan Nilan for Brian Concannon (69), TJ Brennan for Shane Cooney (73)
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Joe O’Connor; Paudie Foley, Matthew O’Hanlon, Shaun Murphy; Kevin Foley, Diarmuid O’Keeffe; Aidan Nolan, Lee Chin, Liam Og McGovern; Rory O’Connor, Conor McDonald, Paul Morris. Subs: Jack O’Connor for Liam Og McGovern (41), Damien Reck for Aidan Nolan (57), Mikie Dwyer for Paul Morris (65)
Ref: Colm Lyons (Cork)