‘Awesome’ Wexford battle back for draw” By Ronan Fagan

Photos: Noel Reddy

Galway 0-16,  Wexford 0-16

Davy Fitzgerald proclaimed it an “awesome Wexford performance” after his charges went within a whisker of trumping hotly-fancied Galway in Sunday’s third-phase Leinster senior hurling championship group clash at blustery Pearse Stadium, Salthill.

Wexford were twice down seven points, but a character-driven finish saw them hit the front for the first-time after 63 minutes (0-15 to 0-14), while some brilliant play by Conor McDonald and sub Jack O’Connor put Cathal Dunbar through for a cracking goaling chance, only for his shot to be saved shortly before the final-whistle.

On an otherwise idyllic afternoon, the windy conditions contributed to both sides encountering difficulties on the attacking front, as they finished with a combined 30 wides.

But Galway, still without their injured talisman Joe Canning, coped best early on while backed by the wind, as they engineered a 0-6 to no-score lead after 17 minutes with the aid of three placed-ball scores from Niall Burke.

Wexford had fired six wides during that spell, before joint-captain Lee Chin eased their anxieties after 23 minutes when shaving the gap to 0-6 to 0-1 from a free on the left wing. Chin then turned provider for Aidan Nolan to make it 0-6 to 0-2 on 24 minutes, before Galway eased ahead 0-8 to 0-2.

However, Chin delivered from play on 31 minutes and also from a ’65 on 33 minutes after a speculative shot from Rory O’Connor had left the Galway ‘keeper counting his lucky stars.

The home-side mustered the closing two scores of the first-half to break 0-10 to 0-4 to the good.

But, with Wexford now gaining advantage of the wind, Diarmuid O’Keeffe lifted the purple-and-gold – resplendent in their new-look jersey – with a neat point just 14 seconds after the resumption.

Jason Flynn took over on placed-balls for Galway to restore a six-point gap for a fourth-time after 41 minutes (0-11 to 0-5).

Then followed an animated protest by Davy Fitzgerald after Damien Reck had been left floored off-the-ball, and the Wexford boss was ordered to the Stand by Limerick referee Johnny Murphy before Galway stretched ahead by 0-13 to 0-6 after 47 minutes – Cathal Dunbar getting on the end of a long delivery to keep Wexford in the fight at this stage.

Lee Chin, on the back of his 0-11 contribution against Dublin, maintained his influence as a couple more frees from the Faythe Harrier pegged it back to 0-13 to 0-8, before Cathal Mannion nudged Galway out to a 0-14 to 0-8 lead on 51 minutes.

Wexford really asserted themselves from there, and a foul on sub Paul Morris led to a burst of purple-and-gold scores, as Lee Chin put over the resultant free, before Rory O’Connor (2), Cathal Dunbar, Chin (another free) and Conor McDonald drew matters level for the first-time after 60 minutes (0-14 each).

Some neat improvisation by Paul Morris on the extreme right wing played Shaun Murphy in for a superb 63rd-minute point which edged Wexford in front and generated high Model County hopes at 0-15 to 0-14.

Jack O’Connor even turned Superman with a superb challenge to foil Conor Cooney as Cooney bore down on goal only to be left content with a ’65, which yielded the first of two quick Jason Flynn points, as he turned the tide by 0-16 to 0-15 after 68 minutes.

Wexford weren’t letting the scent of possible victory depart their nostrils though, and Liam Óg McGovern tied matters on 0-16 apiece on 69 minutes with a brilliant long-range point.

Both goals then saw edge-of-the-seats action, as Mark Fanning foiled Davy Glennon moments before Wexford broke down the other end of the field, where Conor McDonald and Jack O’Connor combined to feed Cathal Dunbar on the right edge of the large-square, from where Dunbar’s powerful low drive was kept out by the ‘keeper, before Wexford were unlucky with a last-gasp chance to snatch maximum spoils.

Although they might regret not having four-points after two outings having also been caught by Dublin in the previous round, 2017 Leinster finalists Wexford still have qualification in their own hands as they prepare to face back-to-back home-games against neighbours Carlow (June 8th) and Kilkenny (June 15th) to close out this group-phase.

Galway – Colm Callanan; Pádraic Mannion, Daithí Burke, Aidan Harte; Seán Loftus, Gearóid McInerney, Joseph Cooney; Johnny Coen, David Burke (capt., 0-1); Cathal Mannion (0-1), Niall Burke (0-4, 3 frees, 1 ’65), Jason Flynn (0-6, 3 frees, 1 ’65); Conor Cooney (0-1), Conor Whelan (0-3), Brian Concannon.

Subs: Jonathan Glynn for Niall Burke (41); Kevin Hussey for Johnny Coen (57); John Hanbury for Joseph Cooney (60); Davy Glennon for Brian Concannon (66).

Wexford – Mark Fanning; Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Damien Reck; Pádraig Foley, Matthew O’Hanlon (joint-capt.), Shaun Murphy (0-1); Aidan Nolan (0-1), Diarmuid O’Keeffe (0-1); Lee Chin (joint-capt., 0-7, 6 frees, 1 ’65), Rory O’Connor (0-2), Kevin Foley; Liam Óg McGovern (0-1), Cathal Dunbar (0-2), Conor McDonald (0-1).

Subs: Shane Reck for Damien Reck (temp., 9-11); Jack O’Connor for Pádraig Foley (49); Paul Morris for Aidan Nolan (49).                Referee – Johnny Murphy (Limerick).