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Monday 26 August 2019

Galway inflict Minor misery

Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Semi-final: Galway 0-20 Wexford 0-11

Wexford wing-back David Codd knocks the ball away from Galway’s Colm Cunningham
Wexford wing-back David Codd knocks the ball away from Galway’s Colm Cunningham

Alan Aherne in Croke Park

A Minor hurling challenge that never ignited in the first place ended on a sour note in Croke Park on Sunday when Wexford finished with 13 players and were soundly beaten by a Galway group who had to contend with being down to 14 themselves from the 38th minute onwards.

The fact that the twelve-point haul for the winners' talented centre-forward, Seán McDonagh, was one score better than the accumulated tally from their outclassed rivals said it all.

Galway are going for the All-Ireland three-in-a-row in this grade, and it clearly showed against a county represented at this stage of the competition for the first time since 2002.

The early signs were a worrying portent for the game as a whole because, apart from the fact that the westerners hit five unanswered points in the opening quarter, it was clear that nothing was going right for the Leinster champions.

They needed some form of early boost to calm the understandable big occasion nerves, but instead the opposite happened as they were thwarted at every turn in their efforts to settle.

All the little incidents combined to create difficulties from the off, such as a defender making a fine catch but then giving the ball away with a handpass, two puck-outs going over the sideline, plus Hawkeye ruling out a Josh Shiel shot and later, in the 24th minute, an A.J. Redmond free.

The first ball the latter received in space in the third minute, from a crossfield Luke Kavanagh pass, led to a block by his designated marker, Christy Brennan, who excelled in that role and set the tone for his Galway team-mates.

They were simply better in every facet of the game, and it was sad to relate that the game was already gone from Wexford at half-time when they trailed by 0-10 to 0-3.

The simple reality was that they were playing so poorly all over the field that the chances of a comeback were non-existent.

And even though Galway lost their captain and centre-back, Ian McGlynn, to a straight red card in the 38th minute when they led by 0-13 to 0-4, it didn't upset them as they continued to close off any potential Wexford routes to goal while creating space for themselves up front to keep their side of the scoreboard ticking over.

Normally the announcement of six added minutes would result in a roar from the crowd if their side stood any chance but, behind by 0-18 to 0-10 at that stage, the Wexford following knew the game was well and truly up.

Unfortunately, referee Colum Cunning - who counts his mother and father among his team of umpires - had allowed the game to drift 80 seconds beyond that time when a Cian Molloy shot into the side-netting was followed by an ugly incident behind the Canal End goal.

It resulted in straight red cards for Wexford duo Kyle Scallan and Molloy, plus a serious injury to Galway's Shane Morgan, with the game delayed for just over ten minutes from the initial set-to before it finally ended with the last puck-out from the victors' Michael Egan.

There was no one specific area Wexford needed to focus on in order to possibly do better, because they were treading water all over the field from the moment that Galway midfielder Alex Connaire got them off the mark after just 49 seconds.

The classy Seán McDonagh followed with the first of his three from play, and he drilled over three frees to leave Wexford trailing by 0-5 to nil at the close of the first quarter.

His second placed ball came after captain Richie Lawlor caught a puck-out but then saw his handpass intercepted, with the long ball in that followed caught by Shane Morgan who was taken down by Kyle Scallan to prevent a goal.

The full-back collected a yellow card and, after Lawlor was fouled from the re-start, A.J. Redmond sent his opening free wide.

He experienced the same fate from his second attempt, missing the target on the opposite side of the posts on that occasion, but at least Wexford did finally get off the mark in the 18th minute when midfielder Jack Kirwan sent a pass into space down the right flank, and David Cantwell arrowed it over from a tight angle (0-5 to 0-1).

The nerves didn't go away, though, and every poor first touch or stray pass was ruthlessly punished by Galway who were light years ahead in terms of composure on the ball.

McDonagh added to their lead from another free before a fine block by Wexford corner-back Dylan Whelan prevented a possible goal in the 21st minute.

A good catch from a puck-out by David Cantwell saw him feeding Josh Shiel for the second point, but wides followed from Cian Molloy and A.J. Redmond frees from an overall first-half tally of seven.

McDonagh (free), Alex Connaire and Tiernan Killeen piled on the misery as a muted Wexford crowd never got the opportunity to really get behind the team.

There was next to nothing to cheer about, although at least Redmond did manage to nail a free at his fourth attempt in the 29th minute (0-9 to 0-3).

McDonagh widened the gap to seven before Redmond missed the target from his last placed ball of the half in added time, and Wexford faced an impossible task.

They had nothing to lose, so pushed Cian Molloy up into the full-forward line and also brought on Fethard's Cian Byrne in that sector, with Cian Browne introduced at centre-back.

Just 16 seconds had elapsed when McDonagh waltzed through for the next Galway point, with Redmond replying after a foul on Molloy.

Richie Lawlor was now at midfield, with Luke Kavanagh on the '40, but the opposition continued to thrive as Cian Byrne made an excellent save from Shane Morgan in between points from Colm Cunningham and McDonagh (free).

Before the puck-out after the latter score, Kavanagh went down clutching his midriff. And after referee Colum Cunning consulted with linesman Chris Mooney, the Wexford player was booked, but only after Galway's Ian McGlynn was first shown a straight red card.

And even though A.J. Redmond had the next point after the dismissal when he earned a free, Galway never looked in any trouble despite that numerical disadvantage.

Substitute Gavin Lee saw his drive deflected over the bar before Tiernan Killeen made it 0-15 to 0-5 in the 46th minute, although a Wexford goal chance had arisen in between.

A Justin Moran point attempt came back off the post into the path of David Cantwell, but his shot was saved and Galway were awarded a free out.

After Redmond and McDonagh swapped points from frees, Wexford hit two on the trot for the first of only two times courtesy of another Redmond placed ball plus Luke Kavanagh (0-16 to 0-8).

Cian Molloy had also directed a pull across goal from left to right after a long David Codd free broke into his path, while Cian Byrne got his wires crossed and sent a stray attempted pass in between Redmond and Molloy when another opportunity arose in the 56th minute.

Greg Thomas had already made it 0-17 to 0-8 by that stage, although Byrne (free) and Cantwell - the only Wexford forward to offer a consistent threat - brought the margin down to seven.

A brilliant point by Seán McDonagh from the left flank summed up their dominance, and Richie Lawlor closed his side's scoring 50 seconds into added time before Galway had the last word courtesy of substitute Paddy Cummins and McDonagh, completing his dozen haul from a free.

Wexford: Cian Byrne (St. Mary's, Rosslare); Joe Conroy, Kyle Scallan, Dylan Whelan; Justin Moran, Cian Molloy, David Codd; Jack Kirwan, Luke Kavanagh (0-1); Josh Shiel (0-1), Richie Lawlor (capt., 0-1), Dylan O'Neill; A.J. Redmond (0-5 frees), Paddy Whitty, David Cantwell (0-2). Subs. - Cian Byrne (Fethard, 0-1 free) for Whitty (HT), Cian Browne for O'Neill (HT), Conor Foley for Shiel (46), Diarmuid O'Leary for Kirwan (48), Oisín Pepper for Redmond (56).

Galway: Michael Egan; Adam Nolan, Eoin Lawless, Christy Brennan; Enda Collins, Ian McGlynn (capt.), John Cooney; Liam Leen, Alex Connaire (0-2); Tiernan Killeen (0-2), Seán McDonagh (0-12, 9 frees), Colm Cunningham (0-1); Greg Thomas (0-1), Shane Morgan, Ruben Davitt. Subs. - Gavin Lee (0-1) for Davitt (40), Seán O'Hanlon for Cunningham (48), Paddy Cummins (0-1) for Leen (51), Eanna Davoren for Collins (54), Oisín Slevin for Killeen (60+3).

Referee: Colum Cunning (Antrim).

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