The sharp reflexes of goalkeeper Colm Callanan denied Wexford a first championship win over Galway since 1996 on Sunday afternoon in Pearse Stadium. The late save from Cathal Dunbar at point blank range allowed the home fans to breathe a huge sigh of relief when the final whistle sounded soon after.
Callanan has made plenty of important saves since his first involvement in 2007, but maybe none has been as game-defining as that one, given how late in the contest it came. Another painfully limp performance has now left Galway chasing wins away to Kilkenny and Dublin in June, but at this juncture it is hard to picture Micheál Donoghue’s side taking part in a Leinster final.
“It probably would have been done and dusted had it gone in, but I don’t remember too much about it, Callanan admitted. “They had a free man over there and the handpass came across, and I was just delighted to keep it out.
“I thought maybe we would work another chance up the field and get a winner, but we’ll have to make do with the draw.”
A blustery, swirling wind made life hard for both sides in Salthill, and Galway struggled with the conditions and Wexford’s suffocating tackling when playing into the wind. When Galway’s puck-out options were limited, Davy Fitzgerald’s side was able to disrupt more, and Galway lost seven in the second period compared to just three in the first.
“It took an awful lot of battling spirit there to just get away with the draw,” Callanan said. “We were facing into a mammoth breeze in the second half, and when the game was so tight at the very end, any little slip-up or anything, and you are done. We’ll take what we have now and move on.
“We have Kilkenny in two weeks and it’s a massive one. It was always going to be that way, and any game down in Nowlan Park away to Kilkenny is going to be a huge test. But we’ll train away and look forward to it.”
Galway simply cannot afford to be as wasteful against the Cats and they could also do with some scoring assistance from the bench. No substitute has managed a score in their opening two games, and while Johnny Glynn did make somewhat of an impact under the high ball on his first outing, his presence is needed closer to the opposition’s goal.
Galway’s workrate was much improved in the first half, but against a Wexford team which took more than 20 minutes to score, the home side should have been out of sight by half-time. When Wexford’s purple patch of dominance did eventually begin, 10 minutes after their manager had been banished to the stands, Galway’s chances looked doomed.
Conor Cooney and Davy Glennon were denied by sharp defending when about to pull the trigger in goal-scoring positions, but two late Jason Flynn points were just about enough to rescue a draw. Callanan’s heroics denied Dunbar before Lee Chin, who racked up nine wides, fittingly drove their last chance left of the posts.
Galway : C Callanan; P Mannion, D Burke, A Harte; S Loftus, G McInerney, J Cooney; J Coen, D Burke (0-1 ); C Mannion (0-1 ), N Burke (0-4, 3fs, 1 ‘65 ), J Flynn (0-6, 3fs, 1 ‘65 ); C Whelan (0-3 ), C Cooney (0-1 ), B Concannon. Subs: J Glynn for N Burke (41 mins ), K Hussey for Coen (57 mins ), J Hanbury for J Cooney (60 mins ), D Glennon for Concannon (66 mins ).
Wexford : M Fanning; S Donohue, L Ryan, D Reck; P Foley, M O'Hanlon, S Murphy (0-1 ); A Nolan (0-1 ), D O’Keefe (0-1 ); L Chin (0-7, 6fs, 1 ‘65 ), R O’Connor (0-2 ), K Foley; L Óg McGovern (0-1 ), C Dunbar (0-2 ), C McDonald (0-1 ). Subs : J O’Connor for P Foley (49 mins ), P Morris for Nolan (49 mins ).
Referee : J Murphy (Limerick ).