Wexford outclass Kilkenny for three in a row victory
Wexford hurling may have suffered over recent weeks but they bounced back with a scintillating display to claim a three-in-a-row of provincial titles with a marvellous seventeen point victory over arch rivals Kilkenny in their Leinster final clash before a crowd of 7,800 at Innovate Wexford Park on Wednesday evening.
Wexford 4-17 Kilkenny 1-9
Wexford were bidding for a treble for only the second time since the competitions inception. Last recorded in 1969-'70 and '71, they went on to lose the three All-Ireland finals to Cork, the model county boys were hit with a Kilkenny scoring blitz inside the opening ninety seconds, a start which rocked the home crowd for it was reminiscent of what had befallen their senior counterparts in their two championship outings.
Kilkenny grabbed the initiative from the throw in as Liam Hickey drove through the centre. His initial attempt was partially blocked but he recovered to beat keeper Oliver O'Leary with a low shot while one minute later William Brennan followed with a point giving them a 1-1 to 0-0 lead after just ninety seconds.#
For their part Wexford were finding it difficult to settle during this opening spell as Kilkenny were firing forward at every opportunity. It took a Conor McDonald third minute pointed free to settle the homeside, although Liam Blanchfield responded with a Kilkenny point straight from the puck-out.
However, urged on by the large crowd, Wexford suddenly sprang to life, with a glorious twenty-five minutes of hurling. The basic skills were there, their marquee forward began to take the game to the Kilkenny defence. Points flowed from Kevin Foley, McDonald free, Jack O'Connor a huge effort from inside his own half, while full-forward McDonald was now on fire sending over two points, one free.
Many felt this was always going to be a tricky assignment for the homeside, but the all important breakthrough came as the Kilkenny defence coming under incessant pressure finally wilted as McDonald collected a long Paudie Foley ball to find the net with a splendid finish having shortened his grip as he moved in on goal, leaving his side with a 1-6 to 1-2 lead after seventeen minutes.
Kilkenny were finding it hugely difficult to win outfield possession, and in a three minute spell they were further rocked when Wexford struck for goals from James Cash and Cathal Dunbar on twenty and twenty three minutes which helped them to a 3-8 to 1-4 interval lead.
Wexford would have been unbackable at half-time and they justified this optimism on the resumption as they continued to dominate their arch rivals with a scintillating display of hurling. For their part Kilkenny gave their all but they were out hurled all over the pitch by a Wexford side determined to put recent hurling disappointments behind the.
It was suggested in the lead up to this game that Wexford could suffer, but this was never going to be the case, as they played some of the best hurling seen in this grade for some time. McDonald and Martin exchanged opening half points, but in the thirty-third minute any hope of a Kilkenny revival was well and truly buried, as a Wexford moved opened the Kilkenny defence as James Cash placed a delightful ball across the face of the goal for corner-forward Cathal Dunbar to find the net from close in giving the homeside a 4-9 to 1-5 lead.
While Kilkenny kept battling they were unable to break down a dominant home defence for they could only manage four points for the remainder of the game as Wexford full-forward Conor McDonald continued to inspire his side with splendid points both from play and frees from a variety of angles.
This was a Wexford performance to rave about as they hurled with confidence and composure to record a provincial treble for only the second time recording a comprehensive victory over their great rivals whose performance over the sixty minutes was disappointing.
Wexford scorers: C McDonald (0-7 frees) 1-10; C Dunbar 2-1; J Cash 1-0; K Foley 0-3; J O'Connor, Shane Murphy, S Kenny 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: L Hickey 1-0; C Martin 0-3 frees; L Blanchfield, C Ryan 0-2 each; E Cody, W Brennan 0-1 each.
Wexford: O O'Leary; S Donohoe, L Ryan, E Conroy; J White, P Foley, J O'Connor; C Devitt, G Bailey; A Kenny, K Foley, J Cash; C Dunbar, C McDonald, P Sutton. Subs: T French for Sutton (45); Shane Murphy for Bailey (47); S Kelly for Cash (50); S Kenny for Ryan (57); Sean Murphy for Donohoe (59).
Kilkenny: D Brennan; E Cody, C Delaney, C Wallace; J Cleere, E Morrissey, D Cody; P Deegan, W Brennan; M Mansfield, C Martin, L Blanchfield; K Kenny, C Bolger, L Hickey. Subs:J Maher for Mansfield (21); C Ryan for Brennan (36); B Troy for Cleere (36); T Phelan for Kenny (52).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).