Waterford-Galway July 28 2009

September 25, 2009

IMMORTALITY comes with a reddish crew cut.

Waterford beat Galway yesterday by the width of a singlet, with John Mullane’s late, late point putting a spear in maroon hearts, as their manager said afterwards. Mullane’s game mirrored his team’s experience overall — a long slog through a scratchy 70 minutes before finding glory in time added on. Galway, battle-hardened after two good wins over Clare and Cork, were purposeful and precise all through, but when the hero of a thousand battles, Dan Shanahan, was thrown into the mix by Déise boss Davy Fitzgerald, it introduced the right note of chaos. Shanahan won a free and skimmed the woodwork before creating the game-breaking goal for Shane Walsh with four minutes left, and Galway wavered. Stripped of a four-point lead, the men from the west crumbled under Waterford’s waves of attack, and when Mullane steamed into space and peeled over the winning point, the Hollywood script was complete: roll credits and curtain. Galway will be heartbroken about this defeat for some time. For the neutral observer there was more evidence of the compression of play in hurling — frequently Galway and Waterford had two players in their full-forward lines, making the area between the two 45-metre lines as crowded as the opening of a new Ikea, but Galway often found Cyril Donnellan free on the opposing 65 with clever cross-field passes, and he kept the Waterford rearguard under pressure. At the back, Galway were cruising, with John Lee able to bat the ball down to Ger Farragher in a routine straight from the training ground, while Ollie Canning swept up imperiously. Waterford had to rely on Eoin Kelly’s remorseless accuracy from frees to keep a toehold in the game, while Michael Brick Walsh and Stephen Molumphy were ferocious in their resistance. Galway were four points up with the clock winding down and looked ready to streak away. Waterford’s Eoin Kelly begged to differ. “No, there was a strong breeze there and we knew we’d finish strongly,” said Kelly. “Even in the Munster final we could have caught Tipperary if we’d taken our chances. We always knew we had a chance of catching Galway, we’ve been finishing games wicked strong. “We’d given ourselves too much to do point-wise. Dan came on and made a goal, and nearly got one himself. I’m delighted for him, he’s after coming in for a lot of criticism.” Galway boss John McIntyre conceded that the Waterford goal was the turning point. “We had an attack that broke down, maybe the wrong option was taken, and Waterford worked the ball down the field for a goal. “I knew straightaway it would be a dogfight from there to the finish and it was a case of us holding on. Hopefully.” Galway couldn’t hold the line, however, and Waterford now face Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final. The Cats have not played — we hesitate, naturally, to use the actual term ‘idle’ — since July 5. For another team that lack of competitive action might be a disadvantage. For another team, that is. Yet Waterford will go into the game as rank outsiders, and they’ll pack away a score to settle after last year’s All-Ireland final annihilation into their gearbags for the trip to Croke Park. Good ammunition to have. Their manager was enjoying the moment yesterday, though. “Days like this makes it all worthwhile,” said Davy Fitzgerald. “I love being involved in this thing, I really, really love being involved. I love being involved with a bunch that will give you everything they can. “We were wrote off big-time during the week and this is absolutely fantastic for the boys but it’s a quarter-final and we’ll remember that tomorrow morning.” In the opening game, Limerick did well to recover from an opening few minutes in which Dublin scored early and often, like a voter scoring the ballot in a 60s by-election. The men in sky blue have been a highlight of the season, with their entertaining brand of muscular support play, but one of the imperishable principles of hurling defence left them down yesterday. The importance of a full-back with a zero tolerance appetite for nonsense around the square was underlined as Limerick goaled through the direct approach — Paudie McNamara — before adding a penalty won the same way. Brian Murray’s emphatic finish tied the scores at half-time and Dublin’s good work against the breeze was instantly undone. The teams were locked in a death embrace until the last 10 minutes, when Gavin O’Mahony’s sideline cut soared over the bar to set Limerick free, and they kicked on from there. Anthony Daly won’t want praise for this season’s progress, but Dublin have ended the year in credit. This season will stand to them, though it may be Wednesday or Thursday before they have a mind to see it like that. Genetically speaking Limerick have no problem facing Tipperary, and the Premier County will see uncomfortable similarities between last year’s semi-final and this season’s – they face familiar opponents who are expected to act as sacrificial lambs and a second-half fade-out would be fatal. By the same token, if Limerick start as slowly as they did yesterday — and against Laois — it could be a long afternoon for them. But in either case we’d settle for an ending half as enjoyable as yesterday’s.

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