(Giveitfong has long been a source of outstanding analysis of Waterford’s games, originally on AFR and these days on boards.ie. He (she?) puts much greater emphasis on reading the game than my golly-gosh style. He has allowed me to reproduce his match reports here.)
Waterford made very heavy work of beating a game but limited Wexford side in cold and blustery Wexford Park today. Waterford should have won this game pulling up based on territorial domination and chances created, but incredibly bad shooting left the game in the balance right to the end and I was almost waiting for Wexford to score a flukey last minute goal to really put the hat on it for Waterford hurling this weekend.
Wexford had first use of the strong wind, but Waterford dominated the early stages, working hard all over the field to close Wexford down and getting plenty of good possession. An early goal by Seamus Prendergast whose flick to the net finished off a good move down the left seemed to put the visitors in the driving seat, but Waterford then seemed to slacken off and started indulging in too much passing around the middle of the field which regularly went astray.
On top of that, it was clear from early on that Richie Foley was not on his day and although he ended the game with four pointed frees to his credit he missed even more chances than that. In addition, Waterford appeared to have only one attacking strategy, which was to let in high ball to Seamus Prendergast on the edge of the square, a tactic which was persisted with to the end of the game and yielded few enough results as Prendergast was generally kept under wraps by new Wexford full back Matthew O’Hanon and whenever the ball did break from the tussles between the two, it was invariably picked up by a Wexford player.
Also, a lot of the ball played into the forwards fell short against the strong wind and was easily cleared by the Wexford defence. It was crazy that Waterford did not play a more varied game and put ball to the wings and corners for Tomás Ryan and Shane Casey to run on to, but that’s Davy Fitzgerald for you. To make matters worse, he once again had Stephen Molumphy playing in the corner where he was a spectator for most of the day (until he was eventually taken off) instead of having him in the engine room in midfield where he is most effective.
Anyway, Wexford came much more into the game in the second quarter and with Rory Jacob particularly effective picking up breaking ball or well-directed ball out of the defence, they went in at halftime one point ahead, 0-9 to 1-5. It could have been more but for a super reflex save by Stephen O’Keeffe from a close in shot shortly before half time. Other than that, O’Keeffe was never troubled by the Wexford attack.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Waterford owned the second half but hit wide after wide after wide. Richie Foley’s poor freetaking continued, including a poorly struck penalty early in the second half which was stopped and cleared easily. Wexford could make very little headway against a tight Waterford defence and only managed three points in all in the second half. The turning point for Waterford was the introduction of Maurice Shanahan with about 15 minutes to go. With his first touch, he landed an excellent point from out on the right wing and then convered two tricky frees to give Waterford the extra scores to get them over the line. Wexford made a mighty effort to save the game in the closing minutes but time and again they were repulsed by the Waterford defence.
Apart from his one save, Stephen O’Keeffe got very little to do, such was the cover provided by the defenders in front of him. I thought Shane Fives had an impressive game at full back. Noel Connors made a few mistakes but also showed his class on several occasions. Darragh Fives cleared a lot of ball but was unable to keep tabs on Rory Jacob who ended with five points from play.
Wayne Hutchinson had a very good outing at right half back and was very unlucky in the second half when his shot off the stick went inches wide after a great run out of defence for what would have been the score of the game. I thought that Brick Walsh was good in the first half and immense after the change of ends, repeatedly breaking up Wexford attacks. Jamie Nagle made a number of errors in the first half but improved greatly after the break and put in an excellent last quarter.
In midfield Shane O’Sullivan was excellent throughout and was Waterford’s man of the match IMO. However, his partner Philip Mahony was largely ineffective throughout. Playing at right half forward, Shane Casey did a lot of good work for about 45 minutes but faded out and eventually replaced by Shane Walsh. Richie Foley had a nightmare of a game, making little contribution (apart from one first half point) from general play to add to his wayward freetaking. Like Shane Casey, Paudie Mahony did some good work for about 45 minutes, a scored one lovely point, but also faded out towards the end.
Tomás Ryan knocked over two good points but otherwise, once again, things just did not work out for him. At one stage in the second half he got inside the fullback line but then stepped on the ball which got stuck in the heavy ground when a goal seemed certain. Early in the first half he used his pace to again get inside the full back line, but instead of shooting for goal opted to handpass across the goal to no one in particular and a really good chance was gone.
Seamus Prendergast scored a nice goal and earned a couple of frees but overall was not as effective as in recent games while Stephen Molumphy was simply wasted in the left corner. Maurice Shanahan, as stated, made a big impact when introduced for Molumphy. Stephen Power came in late in the game for Shane Casey but got no chance to have an impact.
Overall, this was a game which Waterford should have won easily. The worth of their performance the previous week was put in new light by Dublin’s defeat of Tipperary in Croke Park on Saturday night (although they did their best not to win it with their series of misses in the last ten minutes). It will be interesting to see if Waterford can match that when they take Tipp on under the lights in Thurles on Saturday week.
Waterford scorers: Richie Foley (0-5, four frees), Maurice Shahan (0-3, two frees), Seamus Prendergast (1-0); Tomás Ryan (0-2), Paudie Mahony (0-1).
It isn’t possible to give the Wexford team, as they brought in five Oulart The Ballagh players who weren’t in the starting line-out in the programme, and I didn’t try to figure out who they replaced. Their scorers were Rory Jacob (0-5), Jim Berry (0-2, both frees), Colm Farrell (0-1, free), Stephen Banville (0-1), PJ Nolan (0-1), David Redmond (0-1), Garrett Sinnott (0-1).