Waterford edge out battling Wexford

Waterford 2-19 Wexford 3-15

Waterford will face Tipperary in an intriguing All-Ireland semi-final on August 17 after they edged out Wexford at Semple Stadium this afternoon for their third straight win under new manager Davy Fitzgerald.

The former Clare goalkeeper, who enjoyed plenty of battles with Tipperary during his playing days, admitted afterwards that Waterford had been 'lucky to get away with the win' but praised his side for the resilience they showed after conceding three goals.

Stephen Doyle got Wexford off to a great start in the oven-like atmosphere of Thurles, dummying past Declan Prendergast and firing home a sizzling sixth-minute goal.

John Meyler's men were outscored by 1-05 to 0-01 over the closing 17 minutes of the first half however, hitting some poor wides in the process.

Eoin Kelly's injury-time goal, blasted home from a close range free, then pushed Waterford into a 1-10 to 1-06 half-time lead.

Wexford, who surprised Tipperary in last year's quarter-finals, shot back into the lead when Willie Doran and Doyle broke through for two goals in the space of three minutes.

Yet points were proving hard to come by for the beaten Leinster finalists and allied to a trademark Dan Shanahan goal, the fast-finishing Deise could also count on a plentiful supply of points scorers - Kelly, Eoin McGrath and a bloodied John Mullane all came to the fore in that respect.

Wexford goalkeeper Damien Fitzhenry perhaps erred when he opted to point a 63rd-minute penalty.

That strike reduced Waterford's advantage to 2-17 to 3-13 but two Diarmuid Lyng frees, sandwiching efforts from Mullane and Kelly, were all Wexford could muster in a tense finish.

Wexford suffered a considerable blow before the throw-in when they lost centre-back Darren Stamp to an ankle problem.

Brendan O'Leary was added to the starting line-up, coming in at left corner back, with David 'Doc' O'Connor moved to centre-back and Paul Roche reverting to full-back.

Their only other change to the team that started the Leinster final was wing-back Colm Farrell's inclusion at the expense of James Tonks.

Waterford lined out as selected - Brian Phelan and Stephen Molumphy were recalled after missing the qualifier win over Offaly - and while Wexford won the toss, it was Fitzgerald's side who established an early advantage in open play.

Kelly, who struck a terrific 2-13 against Offaly, popped over two frees, allied to an Eoin McGrath point from play, to send Waterford into a 0-03 to 0-01 lead.

However, the Deise had plenty of problems to cope with defensively and their full-back line looked decidedly shaky.

Wexford captain Rory Jacob notched his side's first point after the powerfully-built Stephen Banville got inside Ken McGrath, who again played out of position at full-back.

Waterford's tactic of threading diagonal balls through for Kelly and Mullane paid some dividend but Wexford, with the classy Jacob pulling the strings, soon shot ahead.

With the Waterford defence splayed open, Jacob played a precise ball across the square from right to left for Doyle to collect and step in off his left, foiling Prendergast, before the corner forward unleashed a well-placed shot to the right corner of Clinton Hennessy's goal.

That was the first goal the Deise had conceded since their Munster defeat to Clare in May and when Jacob followed up with a point, Wexford were 1-02 to 0-03 ahead.

A Diarmuid Lyng free put a goal between the sides as the movement of the Wexford forwards caught out their markers time and again.

Mostly starved of possession, Mullane did well to win a relieving free which Kelly pointed and Seamus Prendergast also found the posts from midfield.

Wexford responded strongly with a smashing point on the run from midfielder Eoin Quigley, who left Dan Shanahan in his wake.

Shanahan, the 2007 Hurler of the Year, burst through almost immediately at the other end only for his pass to go astray.

Some more great vision from Jacob led to a 20th-minute point for Willie Doran to open up a goal lead again (1-05 to 0-05).

However, Wexford stuttered badly over the remainder of the opening half, going a frustrating 17 minutes without a score until substitute Stephen Nolan split the posts in injury-time.

Waterford took centre stage during that time, led by the deadly accurate Kelly.

Kelly knocked over a free after Molumphy had drawn a foul from Michael Jacob.

There was also a sense that the tide was turning when an outstanding catch from Ken McGrath won a relieving free and drew wild roars from the player himself and the white and blue-clad masses.

Moments later, Molumphy surged onto a breaking ball to score off a shortened grip and the sides were back level - for the second time - when Eoin McGrath, who had the option of going for goal, took his point after a build-up involving Ken McGrath, Eoin Murphy and Shanahan.

Further scores from Eoin McGrath and Kelly, who flung over a '65' for his fifth point, edged the Deise ahead before a solid catch and drive from substitute Nolan ended Wexford's barren spell.

There was still time for Dan Shanahan to win a close-in free, in the second-minute of injury-time.

Sensing his chance, Kelly continued his recent goal-scoring form by picking his spot high past two defenders on the goal-line to send his side in at the break with a four-point buffer.

But, amazingly, after nine minutes' play in the second half, Wexford had built up a 3-09 to 1-11 thanks to that two-goal blast from the elusive Doyle and Doran.

After an early Jacob free, recent debutant Jamie Nagle replied with a Kelly-inspired point.

In a slow start to the second period, Wexford managed to gain some momentum with points from David Redmond and Diarmuid Lyng.

The introduction of Darren Stamp, who had failed a late fitness test, was a further boost to the Model men and they threw the cat amongst the pigeons when Doran directed a high ball in from Jacob past despairing 'keeper Hennessy.

There were question marks over whether Doran had been in the square as the ball was floated in but the goal stood.

The Deise were further rocked, in the 44th-minute, when Doyle danced through, leaving Ken McGrath on the ground, and the corner forward showed great composure to send a rasping shot past Hennessy.

The game was right in the melting pot at this stage and Waterford knew the ideal response - a goal from 'Dan the man'.

Just two minutes after Wexford's third goal, Mullane cut a ball in towards the square, Shanahan leapt and gathered it with his left hand before thundering a shot off his left side beyond Fitzhenry and just inside the left hand post.

Fitzgerald's charges were back level at 2-12 to 3-09 when Mullane landed his first point of the contest, yet a good point from a central position by Redmond showed Wexford's mettle.

Nonetheless, up to the hour mark, Waterford put together a crucial string of points with Eoin McGrath, Mullane, Shanahan and Kelly all finding their range.

Those scores created a 2-16 to 3-10 gap for them and they were looking likely winners.

Lyng and Kelly traded further frees, goalscorer Doyle cracked over a point but, yet again, there was another twist in this quarter-final tale.

Wexford won a penalty after a ball in from the end-line from Redmond led Waterford substitute Kevin Moran to foul his man.

Referee John Sexton whistled up for the penalty, produced a yellow card and all that was left was for Wexford stopper Fitzhenry to pile forward and bulge the net.

It was not to be though as the 34-year-old, faced by his opposite number and two defenders on the line, decided to settle for a point.

With only the minimum between the sides, it was still anyone's game. Waterford dithered a little as Shanahan hit their tenth wide and Lyng fired over a free to square up the game for the fifth time.

However, that was as close as Meyler's side got in the closing minutes as two excellent points from Mullane and Kelly, who scored from near the right sideline, sent the Deise 2-19 to 3-14 ahead.

Lyng, in the first-minute of injury-time, sent a free over from the right but Wexford could find no further scores as Waterford secured their sixth All-Ireland semi-final appearance since 1998.

WATERFORD: C Hennessy; E Murphy, K McGrath, D Prendergast; S O'Sullivan, T Browne, B Phelan; M Walsh (capt), J Nagle (0-01); D Shanahan (1-01), S Prendergast (0-01), S Molumphy (0-01); E McGrath (0-04), E Kelly (1-08, 1-06f, 0-01 '65'), J Mullane (0-03).

Subs used: K Moran for Phelan (45 mins), P Flynn for Mullane (48-52, blood sub).

WEXFORD: D Fitzhenry (0-01, 0-01pen); M Travers, P Roche, B O'Leary; M Jacob, D O'Connor, C Farrell; E Quigley (0-01), D Redmond (0-02); PJ Nolan, W Doran (1-01), D Lyng (0-05, 0-05f); S Doyle (2-01), S Banville, R Jacob (capt) (0-03, 0-01f).

Subs used: S Nolan (0-01) for PJ Nolan (27 mins), D Stamp for Farrell (42), B Lambert for Banville (44), K Rossiter for S Nolan (56).

Referee: John Sexton (Cork).

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