Waterford 0-24 Galway 1-21
An injury-time point from half-back Gavin O’Brien earned Waterford a deserved draw against a disappointing Galway side in the final round of Division 1A in the Allianz National Hurling League.
With Tipperary accounting for Cork in Thurles, it means Michéal Donoghue’s Galway side will head to the Rebel County for a relegation decider in two weeks’ time.
Waterford, by virtue of the point earned here in Walsh Park in front of an attendance of 5,029, will face Wexford in their quarter-final on Sunday 3 April at Wexford Park.
Waterford manager Derek McGrath made ten changes to the side that had lost the previous week to Dublin.
The general perception pre-game was that Galway would easily account for an experimental home side, but proved misguided.
Conor Gleeson, Shane Roche and Colm Roche were all making their league debuts in this game while Ian O’Regan, Shane McNulty, Gavin O’Brien, Shane O’Sullivan, Brian O’Halloran and Tommy Ryan were starting their first league game of 2016.
As the scoreline suggests this was an open game which in the end could have gone either way. The opening half saw a youthful home side dominate the general play and led by four points 0-12 to 0-8 after 30 minutes.
Man of the match Shane Bennett had hit three splendid points from play with Maurice Shanahan converting five from placed balls as the Tribesmen struggled to stay in touch.
Niall Burke and Joe Canning then both found their range to reduce the deficit to just two points with half-time approaching.
Good work from Cathal Mannion on the wing won possession for the visitors and a slick exchange of passes with David Burke allowed the well placed Niall Burke rifle a shot to the roof of the Waterford net past a stranded Ian O’Regan in the home goal after33 minutes.
This goal somewhat against the run of play gave Galway a slender one point lead, 1-10 to 0-12 at the break.
Joe Canning who had been the hero for Galway the previous week against Tipperary found the going considerably more difficult at Walsh Park with former All-Star Kevin Moran designated to man-marking duties and by and large kept the Galway talisman under wraps.
With newcomers Conor Gleeson, Shane McNulty and Shane Roche all excelling in defence for Waterford the visitors were floundering.
Shane Bennett added to his first-half haul with three further second-half points as substitute Mickey Kearney also adding two fine second half points. With seven minutes remaining the home side lead by three points 0-23 to 1-17 and appeared primed for victory.
Davy Glennon began winning more ball around the middle as Galway Captain David Burke also thundered into the game as it seemed to be slipping from their grasp.
Galway rallied with points in succession from Cathal Mannion (2), substitute Conor Whelan and a fine individual effort from David Burke to lead by a point 1-21 to 0-23 after 68 minutes.
The loudest cheer of the day from the large home crowd was reserved for the introduction of Pauric Mahony, his first appearance in almost twelve months after recovering from a leg break.
This was almost matched by the applause afforded Gavin O’Brien with his match-saving point from centre-field deep in injury time to ensure the two league points on offer were shared.
Honours even but two sides heading in opposite directions.
Galway: James Skehill, Paul Hoban, John Hanbury, Fergal Moore, Aidan Tuohy, David Burke (0-2), David Collins, Aidan Harte (0-1),Davy Glennon (0-2),Joe Canning (0-6,0-4f), Niall Burke (1-3),Jason Flynn (0-1), Cathal Mannion (0-2), Eanna Burke (0-2), Andy Smith.
Subs: Ronan Burke for Paul Hoban (45mins), Conor Whelan (0-2) for Andy Smith (46min), Richie Cummins for Eanna Burke (56mins), Shane Moloney for Jason Flynn (66mins)
Waterford: Ian O’Regan, Conor Gleeson, Shane McNulty, Shane Roche, Kevin Moran, Tadhg De Búrca, Gavin O’Brien (0-1), Austin Gleeson, Shane O’Sullivan, Shane Bennett (0-6), Tommy Ryan (0-1), Tom Devine (0-1), Brian O’Halloran (0-3), Maurice Shanahan (0-9, 0-8f), Colm Roche (0-1).
Subs: Mickey Kearney (0-2) for Austin Gleeson (48mins), Jake Dillon for Colm Roche (55mins), Philip Mahony for Shane O’Sullivan (60mins), Pauric Mahony for Tommy Ryan (68mins).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)