A 62nd-minute injury-time point from Niall Quinn rescued victory by the minimum margin for Galway in their debut in the 2008 All-Ireland MHC, despite losing both Rory Foy and Niall Burke to second yellow cards in the closing five minutes of normal time. Mattie Murphy’s charges showed great spirit and leadership qualities in the closing stages to overcome a two-man numerical disadvantage, as astute positional switches also proved key to engineering this hard-fought victory.
Half-forward Alan Dolan dropped back to the half-back line for the closing stages following the dismissal of Rory Foy and it helped the Tribesmen weather the storm.
Level on eight occasions in this game, both sides really produced some spirited hurling in a free-flowing encounter that lent itself to some excellent scores, and with 17 players on target for points, including eight in the Galway camp, there was no selfish game-play as both teams worked the ball well from defence to attack.
The Leinster runners-up started more effectively in the midfield sector, with defenders Shaun Murphy and Andrew Shore both on target for scores inside two minutes, while half-forward Liam Óg McGovern sent over a point to ensure a 0-3 to 0-0 lead by the fifth minute.
Galway settled, as captain David Burke helped his side gain composure with a sixth-minute free, and with Bernard Burke moving to full-forward and Luke Madden now on the wing, points from Dolan and Quinn levelled the contest for the first time by the 10th minute.
There wasn’t anything more than a point between the teams over the next 15 minutes, with Wexford continuing to peg Galway back, after superb scores from the likes of Bernard Burke and Madden, had edged their side in front.
A Paul Morris free levelled the contest for the fourth time, eight minutes before the interval, but Galway finished strongly with James Regan, Niall Burke and Quinn taking points to ensure a 0-9 to 0-6 interval lead, with Wexford’s Championship scorer-in-chief Michael O’Hanlon pulled ashore in the 27th minute, as Galway’s defence curbed the full-forward.
The second half saw the likes of Wexford free-taker Joe Kelly keep his side in contention, but with Fergal Flannery making a superb 40th minute save, and the Galway defence continuing to marshal well, a more composed Galway side held out for victory. Wexford were just simply unable to find the answers needed as they lacked shape and were unable to utilise their extra players in the closing stages.
Galway: Fergal Flannery; Declan Connolly, Donal Cooney, Ger O’Halloran; James Regan (0-1 ), Niall Donoghue, Rory Foy; David Burke (0-3, 3f ), Donal Fox (0-1 ); Niall Burke (0-4, 4f ), Niall Quinn (0-3 ), Alan Dolan (0-1 ); Richie Cummins, Luke Madden (0-1 ), Bernard Burke (0-1 ). Subs: Conor Burke for Donoghue (38 ); David Glennon (0-1 ) for James Regan (38 ); P Landers for Madden (48 ); B Flaherty for Cummins (53 ).
Wexford: Mark Fanning; Eoin Moore, John Leacy, Pádraig Donnelly; Cathal Clince, Andrew Shore (0-1 ), Shaun Murphy (0-1 ); Shane Tomkins (0-1 ), Joe Kelly (0-4, 4f ); Harry Kehoe, Paul Morris (0-2, 1f ), Liam Óg McGovern (0-3 ); Diarmuid O’Keeffe (0-1 ), Michael O’Hanlon, James Gahan (0-2 ). Subs: Padraig Kelly for O’Hanlon (27 ); Joe Cullen for O’Keefe (51 ); Matthew O’Hanlon for P Kelly (53 ).
Referee: Tommy Ryan (Tipperary ).