The stakes have been raised considerably ahead of Wexford’s closing round-robin Leinster senior hurling championship derby away to Kilkenny next weekend after enduring a decisive loss to reigning provincial and All-Ireland champions Galway at sunny Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
Galway are now guaranteed passage to the July 1st Leinster final when they will face the winners of next Saturday’s big Wexford-Kilkenny showdown, although a draw would suffice for Davy Fitzgerald’s contingent due to a healthy advantage on the score-difference.
Wexford ambitions of adding to last March’s dethronement of Galway as league champions at the same venue suffered a serious blow within 90 seconds of Saturday’s rematch when the Tribesmen blasted clear by 1-1 to 0-0. Conor Cooney flashed over a pointed before Conor Whelan angled a rebound to the Clonard-end net after Mark Fanning had denied rampaging wing-back Pádraic Mannion.
The margin extended to five points before Rory O’Connor got Wexford off the mark from a seventh-minute free, and the St. Martin’s teenager invested enormous energy throughout on an evening when he matched Joe Canning’s personal salvo of 0-12. The real difference though was that Wexford had to work much harder to generate a break-through against their physically more robust opponents.
That said, the purple-and-gold appeared to be settling as they shared 12 points with Galway to be adrift by 1-8 to 0-6 after 24 minutes, with Rory O’Connor (3), Paudie Foley, Paul Morris and Aidan Nolan endeavouring to try to spark Wexford into life.
Galway strengthened their grip by 1-10 to 0-6 after 28 minutes as Conor Cooney and captain David Burke obliged.
Rory O’Connor (2) and Paul Morris pegged back late scores to keep some hope alive for Wexford as they trailed by 0-9 to 1-12 at the break after Joe Canning added to his account from a sideline-cut.
Galway were in uncompromising mood as they resumed with real intent when Conor Whelan and Canning (another sideline-cut) increased the gap to 1-14 to 0-9 just moments before Canning charged through on goal only to shoot inches wide.
Wexford remained full of spirit, and Aidan Nolan and Conor McDonald almost engineered a goal on 52 minutes.
Nolan and Rory O’Connor (2) did muster points. But Canning, with five more, had Galway comfortably clear by 1-19 to 0-12 after 58 minutes.
Rory O’Connor was certainly doing his utmost for Wexford – including profiting from five further frees before the end – but Galway were simply a class above as they extended their 100% run in qualification after three games despite finishing with 14-men, with Adrian Tuohey being censored for lashing out at Harry Kehoe.
Wexford are almost certainly into the All-Ireland stages. But they will definitely be focussed upon providing a strong response to this rather flat effort when they lock horns with Kilkenny.
Galway – James Skehill; Aidan Harte, Daithi Burke, John Hanbury; Pádraic Mannion, Gearóid McInerney, Adrian Tuohy; Johnny Coen, David Burke (0-2); Joseph Cooney (0-1), Joe Canning (0-12, 8 frees, 2 line-balls), Cathal Mannion; Conor Whelan (1-2), Jonathan Glynn, Conor Cooney (0-4).
Subs: Paul Killeen for McInerney (temp., 45); Jason Flynn (0-1 free) for Glynn (54); Niall Burke (0-1) for J Cooney (58); Brian Concannon for C Mannion (66); Seán Linnane for Hanbury (68); Davy Glennon for Canning (69 inj).
Wexford – Mark Fanning; Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Damien Reck; Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Matthew O’Hanlon, Pádraig Foley (0-1); Kevin Foley, Shaun Murphy; Jack O’Connor, Rory O’Connor (0-12, 10 frees), Lee Chin; Aidan Nolan (0-2), Conor McDonald, Paul Morris (0-2).
Subs: Conor Firman for Donohoe (half-time); Liam Óg McGovern for J O’Connor (48); Harry Kehoe for K Foley (51).
Referee – Johnny Murphy (Limerick).
Photos: Noel Reddy