The boys of Wexford just love being drama queens. An innocuous Walsh Cup final between two understrength sides on a winter’s afternoon seemed to be heading west, with Shane O’Neill poised to collect his first silverware since taking charge of the Tribesmen.
Padraic Mannion, appointed the new Galway captain midweek, had his fingertips on the cup when Wexford decided to spice things up as only they can and they hit 1-2 without reply in the dying seconds to snatch the title at MW Hire O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.
There were only 1,729 people there on Saturday but when Paudie Foley fired over the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time from way out on the right, it seemed that 10,000 had suddenly sneaked in, such was the noise generated.
“I’m delighted to win it,” said manager Davy Fitzgerald. “Every bit of silverware is important, no matter how small it is. If you think about it, before we won in Clare in 2013 we had won only one bit of silverware in 15 years or something like that — Mike Mc (McNamara) won a Munster league in 2009 or something like that — that was the only thing we won in Clare.
“I think it is important to keep winning, any silverware, and it keeps you there. Galway wanted to win that as well, no doubt about it.
“There are guys I’ve played in the past two weeks, I don’t know if they will see top 26. They might and they mightn’t. I’ve played some amount of guys in the last two weeks and isn’t it great they are playing in front of three or four thousand people? I like the competition as it gives me a chance to play fellas and that is important.”
He will be back at the same venue next weekend for the start of the league against Laois but is adopting a wait and see policy over the availability of some key players for the opening games. But he’s hopeful joint captains from last year, Lee Chin and Matthew O’Hanlon, will have recovered from knee injuries to play some part against Kilkenny in the third round next month, while Diarmuid O’Keeffe is being re-integrated after returning from a spell abroad travelling.
“Lee is three to four weeks’ away, I’d say. I think he will miss the first two league games for definite. Hopefully he will be on the bench for the third one.
“Matt has been out since the All-Ireland semi-final last year. He should have come off that day … how he played on, I don’t know. The extent of his injury was nuts and he’s been out for six months. He was in a brace for two to three months afterwards.
“David Dunne and Liam Og McGovern are 50-50 so we are likely to be down four or five for next weekend,” added Fitzgerald.
The sides were level five times in the opening half as the free-takers, Tadhg Haran for Galway and Wexford’s Jack O’Connor battled it out, with the Tribesmen leading 0-10 to 0-8 at the break. They got the lead out to six points early in the second half and led by four with five minutes to go before Wexford, after springing a lot of experience off the bench, came with their late rally. A pointed free from Seamus Casey got the gap back to three points and then Cathal Dunbar levelled with a goal two minutes into stoppage time after Galway failed to clear their lines.
Wexford pushed on from there and Foley, after seeing a long-range free drop inches short, made no mistake with the winner which he landed from 60 yards on the right-wing and it proved enough as Thomas Monaghan’s late effort went narrowly wide.
“It was a really good workout and both of these two weekends have been really good in allowing us to look at all the players in the squad,” said Galway manager O’Neill.
“We’re disappointed to lose it but it is a pre-season tournament which is there for a reason to allow us to try out players.”
Scorers for Wexford: Jack O’Connor 0-8 (8f), S Casey 0-2 (2f), C McDonald 1-0, A Rochford 0-2, D Reck 0-1, A Nolan 0-1, C Dunbar 0-1, P Foley 0-1.
Scorers for Galway: T Haran 0-12 (0-10f), S Linnane 0-1, S Loftus 0-1, J Mannion 0-1, A Tuohy 0-1, B Concannon 0-1, T Monaghan 0-1.
WEXFORD: J Lawlor; G Molloy, L Ryan, Joe O’Connor; P Foley, R Donohoe, D Reck; A Rochford, K Foley; Jack O’Connor, A Nolan, C McDonald; H Kehoe, A Shore, M Dwyer.
Subs: R O’Connor for Shore (41), P Morris for Kehoe (41), S Murphy for D Reck (41), S Donohoe for R Donohoe (47), C Dunbar for Dwyer (49), S Casey for Jack O’Connor (57).
GALWAY: D Fahy; TJ Brennan, P Killeen, J Grealish; P Mannion, G McInerney; A Tuohy; S Linnane, S Loftus; T Haran, C Walsh, B Concannon; J Mannion, J Flynn, E Niland.
Subs: A Harte for McInerney (half-time), D Glennon for Linnane (50), D Kilcommins for Concannon (50), T Monaghan for Walsh (52), R Burke for Brennan (55), N Burke for Flynn (57), Concannon for Loftus (67), Brennan for Haran (70).
Referee: M Murtagh (Westmeath).