Here we go again. A cast of thousands turn out to see Waterford win, and instead Galway and their cast of hundreds waltz away with the win. Atheists could use this day as proof that there is no God. What’s more, I happened to be sitting behind The Voice Of Reason, who applauded every decision in Galway’s favour (“I believe in being fair to both sides”) and condemned all those which went to Waterford. I don’t mind people talking sh*te at matches – I do it all the time myself – but I do object to people commenting on what I say. When I labelled Joe Cooney a geriatric, which, in sporting terms, is perfectly reasonable, I had to listen to a speech about how he was one of hurling’s greats, how he was a very clean player and how it was “scandalous” that he should be insulted in that way. When Galway can muster more people at a game than would buy a Chris De Burgh album, they’ll be entitled to lecture Waterford fans in the ethics of supporting. Capice?
I’d better climb down off my high horse, because it will only look like I’m avoiding talking about the match. If only it were that simple, but a tale needs to be told which was not captured by the typically opaque highlights package on RTÉ that night. Waterford were poor. Too many players were passengers, and the rest of the team were unable to pick up the slack against a Galway team that were industrious but lightweight. Playing against the wind in the first half, Waterford got off to a solid enough start. Galway were efficient with their point-taking, but Waterford kept in touch and got a fantastic goal after 16 minutes. Anthony Kirwan played a clever ball to Paul Flynn whose looping handpass found Míceal White in space and he made no mistake from close range.
This goal provided insulation against two things: Galway’s nippy forwards, who were scoring well when they got the ball, and some atrocious free taking. First Ken McGrath, then Paul Flynn, then Dave Bennett had a go, and only Bennett had anything approaching success. Waterford were also being overrun in the midfield where Tony Browne was leaving everything to Johnny Brenner, although Brenner played superbly, as he has throughout the League. With so many underperformers, and the promise of the breeze in the second half, I was content to be only a point adrift at the break, although Ken McGrath really should have had a goal late on when he shot weakly at Michael Crimmons, thinking he had less time than he really had.
Galway needed a good start to the second half and they did, with two neat early points to extend their lead. Waterford came back at Galway, with Ken McGrath in particular looking determined to win the match on his own, and levelled the match at 0-11 to 1-8. But two lapses in concentration in the Waterford full-back would prove costly. Joe Rabbite put Ollie Fahy in the clear and his weak shot somehow squirmed past Brendan Landers. Waterford got the gap back to a point before goal number two, with Fergal Healy screaming through the defence to kick the ball decisively to the net.
It was difficult to see how Waterford were going to save this one. You got the feeling that even if you covered them in petrol and lit a match, Waterford still wouldn’t catch fire. Waterford huffed and puffed but despite all their effort there was still three points between the teams going into injury time, as Galway matched the Déise more or less point for point. It seemed to me that Galway decisively won every throw-in, and they also seemed to be first to every breaking ball. In the end, it all came down to a free. Ken McGrath twice had medium range frees to somehow scramble a draw for Waterford, but his first was blocked and the second went wide. And that was that.
It was a mediocre game. Only Johnny Brenner, Fergal Hartley and Ken McGrath can say they played very well. The rest were either average or appalling. It was disappointing for all the Waterford fans. We know they can do better than this, and they are going do much better than this to beat Tipperary on May 28th.
Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, James O’Connor, Brian Flannery, James Murray, Fergal Hartley (0-1), Peter Queally, Tony Browne (Barry Walsh), Johnny Brenner (0-1), Dan Shanahan (0-1), Ken McGrath (0-4), Dave Bennett (0-7, 5 frees, 65), Míceal White (1-1), Anthony Kirwan (Billy O’Sullivan), Paul Flynn (capt.)
Galway: Michael Crimmons, Liam Hodgins, Brian Feeney, Vinnie Maher, Finbar Gantley, Cathal Moore, Paul Hardiman, Alan Kerins (0-1), Rory Gantley (0-3, all frees), Joe Rabbitte (0-1), Mark Kerins, Kevin Broderick (0-1; Joe ‘Geriatric’ Cooney), Ollie Canning (0-2), Ollie Fahy (1-3), Fergal Healy (1-4)
HT: Waterford 1-5 Galway 0-9
Referee: Dickie Murphy (Wexford)