By Mark Jones
Waterford 1-20, Galway 1-10
Where there’s life, there’s hope. Seemingly dead and buried after a humbling Munster final experience, Waterford found new reserves of energy and spirit to crush Galway’s championship dreams in last Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling quarterfinal at Croke Park.
They said three big games in as many weeks was too much for body and mind, but Waterford made a mockery of the pre-match predictions to completely outplay their opponents. Putting that 12-point loss to Clare in the Munster replay behind them, the winners proved they deserved a second chance at glory via the GAA’s so-called “back door” route for the losing provincial finalists in Munster and Leinster.
Waterford’s just reward is a semifinal date with Kilkenny on Aug. 16 and there is now every reason to believe that the All-Ireland decider could well be a repeat of the Munster clash.
“When we lost to Clare in the replay, I told the lads that was the end of one competition,” said manager Gerald McCarthy. “We were moving on to a new competition and if we won three games, we’d be All-Ireland champions.”
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The message certainly got home as Waterford lifted themselves to blow Galway away in a one-sided first half. There was the boost of a goal in the ninth minute when Sean Daly slapped Tony Browne’s 65 into the net and at the break, the margin was 1-9 to 0-5.
Browne, who at one stage was deemed doubtful after the bruising encounter with Clare, was back to his very best and he contributed an invaluable total of seven points from a superb variety of frees, 65s and sideline cuts.
With Stephen Frampton, Ken McGrath, Anthony Kirwan and Paul Flynn also making their presence felt, Galway struggled to make a mount a meaningful challenge and only Joe Rabbitte gave Waterford any real difficulties. On one occasion, Rabbitte was fouled in the square, but Darragh Coen’s penalty was saved by defender Brian Flannery.
That was only part of the story of Galway’s hugely disappointing performance. In the end, their lack of hard match practice told against them and missed chances by Coen, Justin Campbell and Rabbitte wouldn’t have dislodged Waterford had they been converted. There wasn’t much surprise when it was announced that manager Cyril Farrell will be standing down.
Waterford continued during the second half in much the same vein and on the hour, their lead had been increased to a massive 13 points. Liam Burke nipped in for a Galway goal that altered the scoreline if not the outcome and appropriately it was Browne who had the final word with a perfectly struck 65.
Offaly 2-18, Antrim 2-9
Beating a limited Antrim side in an All-Ireland hurling quarterfinal at Croke Park was all very well, but there was nothing to suggest that Offaly are capable of advancing any further. Clare now block their path and the reigning champions appear to present an immovable obstruction.
In the wake of Babs Keating’s resignation as manager, Offaly had a chance to show that their house was in better order following that disappointing Leinster final defeat by Kilkenny, but with Michael Bond now at the helm, there was little to shout about.
In fairness, Antrim’s first goal had an element of luck about it and the second came just before the final whistle, so Offaly were never in trouble, but Bond wasn’t getting carried away. “Hopefully, we’ll improve for the Clare game because we have to improve,” he said, “we have an awfully hard task ahead of us.”
Joe Dooley had pounced for an early goal when Offaly goalkeeper, Stephen Byrne, helped Antrim to settle. For reasons best known to himself, Byrne deflected Alastair Elliot’s long range free over his own line when all he had to do was catch the ball.
Even though that goal gave Antrim heart, it became apparent coming up to the break that there was to be no upset. John Troy, John Ryan and Joe Dooley all hit points to leave Offaly 1-8 to 1-3 in front.
The second half was largely unspectacular stuff with Offaly at one stage increasing the margin to 13 points when Killian Farrell drove home his team’s second goal, but Antrim weren’t finished and John Carson hit a consolation goal in the last minute.