The Waterford hurlers made a serious mark of their summer intentions with this clinical National League semi-final dismantling against a previously unbeaten Wexford at Nowlan Park.
The win secures them a place in next weekend’s final against Cork and brings them closer to just their fourth league title in their history.
All in all, it was a brutally disheartening afternoon for Darragh Egan’s team, who had won all five Division 1A games to get this far.
Not even a late red card for two-goal hero Austin Gleeson could spoil Waterford’s day in front of 7,815 spectators, while Wexford substitute Jack O’Connor also came on late for a second yellow-card foul.
Championship conditions in Kilkenny allowed for play to be played at a reasonable pace and intensity and neither side considered that a league final against Cork just two weeks before the start of the provincial championships might somehow be an unwelcome imposition.
But it was Waterford who always set the pace despite losing four older men to injury in the absent Jamie Barron, Stephen Bennett, Conor Prunty and Calum Lyons.
Liam Cahill’s men were in a goal-hungry mood from the start and their early pressing on Mark Fanning’s puckouts immediately got Wexford into trouble.
Dessie Hutchinson might have scored in the first minute only to see his shot deflected by Fanning for a ’65’ but Waterford only had to wait five minutes for their first green flag, another wasted Fanning puck out that allowed Austin Gleeson to storm a well-placed goal.
Waterford led 3-1 to 4-0 within eleven minutes but they had already had three clear chances to score and Wexford struggled to deal with the variation in their game.
Fanning then made a great save against Hutchinson in the thirteenth minute, all the early pressure pouring into the stands from Ted Carroll while Wexford struggled to get decent possession to attack dangerous men Rory O’Connor and Conor McDonald from the inside.
O’Connor, arguably a League player until now, started on the ’40’ but – starving for possession against Tadhg de Burca – soon slipped into a roving role that Wexford found difficult to exploit.
Despite this, the sides were evenly matched in the seventeenth minute when Austin Gleeson scored his second goal to put Waterford 2-4, 0-7 ahead. Wexford then had a scoring chance of his own, Rory O’Connor getting over the right end line only to be brilliantly dispossessed by Conor Gleeson as he tried to bat home past Shaun O’Brien.
Wexford could have used a goal then as a brilliant run from Darragh Lyons just before the half-hour gave Hutchinson the third for Waterford.
Cahill’s men took the lead at half-time, leading 3-9 to 10-0, and their scoring threat made Darragh Egan seriously reorganize if Wexford were to avoid a difficult defeat here.
But ominously it was Waterford who got back on the front foot, Fanning made another brilliant save against Hutchinson within 30 seconds and Jack Prendergast finally scored Waterford’s fourth goal with 42 minutes to go, his side now fourteen points clear.
Both Rory O’Connor and McDonald felt they had been awarded penalties in the second half, but their appeals left referee John Keenan unperturbed and Waterford’s fifth goal came with eight minutes from the end of regular time when Shane Bennett went after a great hit shot home running along the end line.
Gleeson’s late red was for an unnecessary jab at Simon Donohue, meaning he now misses Saturday’s finals.
Waterford – A Gleeson (2-3 (0-1 free), P Curran 0-7 (0-4 free, 0-2 65s), D Hutchinson 1-2, J Prendergast 1-1, Shane Bennett 1-0, J Fagan and M Kiely 0-2 each, P Mahony 0-2 (0-1 free), N Montgomery 0-1.
Wexford – R O’Connor 0-5 (0-3 clear), P Foley 0-2 clear, D Bar, C Flood, L Og McGovern, D O’Keeffe, J O’Connor, M Dwyer, C McGuckin, C McDonald and O Pepper each 0-1.
WATERFORD: S O’Brien, C Gleeson, I Daly, S McNulty, J Fagan, T de Burca, C Daly, D Lyons, A Gleeson, N Montgomery, J Prendergast, P Curran, D Hutchinson, M Kiely, C Dunford. Subs – Shane Bennett for Dunford (24 mins), K Bennett for Kiely (53 mins), T Barron for I Daly (61 mins), C Lyons for Fagan (61 mins), Pauric Mahony for D Lyons (63 mins) minutes).
WEXFORD: M Fanning, S Donohue, L Ryan, D Reck, P Foley, K Foley, M O’Hanlon, L Og McGovern, D O’Keeffe, C Dunbar, M Dwyer , C McGuckin, R O’Connor, C McDonald , O Pepper. Subs – ), O Foley for Pepper (42 mins), J O’Connor for Dunbar (42 mins), R Higgins for McDonald (47 mins), L Chin for Dwyer (53 mins), C Flood for K Foley (60 mins).
Referee – J Keenan (Wicklow)
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/hurling/ruthless-waterford-lay-down-serious-marker-with-19-point-demolition-of-wexford-in-league-semi-final-41492623.html Ruthless Waterford put down a serious marker with a 19-point demolition of Wexford in the league semi-finals