Waterford advance to the All Ireland SHC Semi-Final with a convincing ten point victory over a Wexford team who try as they might lacked the guile and skill set in the middle third to cause the upset.
The pregame story lines were Wexford coming into the contest with renewed confidence and optimism after their win against Cork in the previous round of the hurling qualifiers. Lee Chin and Conor McDonald were to the fore and a similar performance was required today.
For Waterford, this was a day of redemption to tell the critics that their massive system failure against Tipperary in the Munster SHC final was an one off and repeat their performance of five years ago and advance to the last four of the competition.
Waterford management will have mixed feelings on this performance. The good news is that they by and large dominated proceedings. Their midfield line was on top throughout; Barron was sensational in ball winning and general open play. The half back line controlled affairs and Gleeson ventured further up the field such was their dominance.
The bad news is the wide count tally for the seventy minutes. Nineteen wides, thirteen of which in that opening period was damning with several questionable shot selections in the opening period. It exposes the lack of threat in the full forward line spoke volumes; no threat inside and the likes of Maurice Shanahan was forty meters out looking for ball. The lack of goal threat was not exposed today but goals will be required against Kilkenny in two weeks time and not sure it is there after this showing.
Waterford had a seven point lead at the interval, realistically should have being more than ten given their dominance in that opening period. Lee Chin tried hard for Wexford but once Derek McGrath decided to put Kevin Moran just in front of the half-forward, his influence on the game waned. Conor McDonald had moments but there were some bad wides hit which prevented any Wexford momentum to launch a comeback.
Matthew Hanlon, Liam Ryan and Eoin Moore (before injury) tried valiantly for Wexford defensively but with midfield and half-forward line second best, long ball (hopeful) at times was the order of the day. Several near misses in the Waterford penalty area ensued but you never felt that Wexford had the skills and nous to upset the form guide.
Waterford went fifteen minutes without a score in that second half and that allowed Wexford to get to within five point but the Deise finished the game strongly. Brian O’Halloran score with ten minutes pivotal to opening up the floodgates. A couple of scores from Padraic O’Mahoney frees opened the gap to ten points and Waterford had the luxury to take Brick Walsh off towards the end of the contest.
One serious win does not make a summer and Wexford need to realize that plenty of work is required in the off-season to compete at the top table. A win against an under par Cork outfit is the highlight of their season. Wexford need their best players representing their county. The likes of Shore, Guiney need to be brought back into the fold next season. A serious tilt at NHL 1B promotion is the minimum requirement for the Model County next season. The middle third units need to be improved; were second best today.
Waterford regain confidence but improvement (massive) is required. The scoring options were limited today. Zero goal threat will undermine their ability to compete against Kilkenny in two weeks time. The full back line at times was in chaos when direct ball was played. Kilkenny will enter this semi-final as warm favorites. There should be no pressure on this Waterford outfit; they have gain redemption today and should have a good cut at the reigning All Ireland champions. Otherwise, more questions will ensue about Waterford’s style of play.
Special note for Kevin Moran. Serious leadership in that second half period when other colleagues were starting to wane. Moran is a pivotal figure of the team. His positioning in the half-back line allowed Austin Gleeson was the key switch of the game. The DLS man should be the man of the match. Kudos to Derek McGrath for the switch.