Kilkenny and Wexford keep show on the road as Cats target Leinster five-in-a-row

Kilkenny to face Dublin in Leinster final while Wexford finish third in the Leinster championship

Leinster SHC Round 5: Kilkenny 1-24 Wexford 2-20

At the final whistle in Nowlan Park, both sides remained standing. Kilkenny advanced to a seventh consecutive Leinster senior hurling final but because of events in Salthill this proved not to be a fatal defeat for Wexford.

A strong second-half display in which Kilkenny overturned a two-point interval deficit to lead by six at one stage was the platform for the five-in-a-row seeking Cats to set up a provincial decider against Dublin.

Wexford were 1-11 to 0-12 ahead at the break, which coupled with Galway leading Dublin at Pearse Stadium at half-time in the final round of group games the Leinster final was poised to be a clash between the Model County and the Tribesmen.

But less than one hour later Galway were out of the championship, while Wexford were left clinging to third in the group thanks to their head-to-head record over Henry Shefflin’s side.


Kilkenny’s storming start to the second half in front of 18,785 spectators proved to be the decisive period as they outscored Wexford 1-6 to 0-2 in the 17 minutes after the restart.

Wexford were five points ahead in the 22nd minute but Kilkenny had reduced the gap to just two by the break and then dominated the opening exchanges after the resumption.

“The last two or three minutes of the first half and the five or 10 at the start of the second,” replied Wexford manager Keith Rossiter when asked afterwards where he felt the game turned.

“Kilkenny came out of the traps like we knew they would [in the second half] and we didn’t answer them, we just sat off them a bit much. We let go of the two-point lead too easily.”

Kilkenny’s 52nd-minute goal was a penalty converted by TJ Reid, but Wexford can feel aggrieved as Liam Ryan’s foul on Eoin Cody was outside the square and there was no black card shown, so it was not deemed to be a goalscoring chance infraction.

That goal gave Kilkenny a 1-18 to 1-13 advantage and while Wexford rallied with Cian Byrne’s 65th-minute goal, they never got level again over the remainder of the contest.

During that late period when Wexford had wind in their sails, Reid used all of his experience to halt their momentum.

Eoin Murphy targeted Reid with several long puck-outs, while the Ballyhale man also cleverly won a couple of frees, which he himself converted, though he did also hit three rather uncharacteristic wides during the game.

“I thought our second-half display was really strong,” said Derek Lyng.

“There’s huge character in that dressingroom and I thought the way they went at it in the second half was just testament to that. I suppose the pressure was on the last couple of weeks, we had to perform in these games.”

It was tit for tat in the opening exchanges and there was never more than a single point between the sides during the opening 20 minutes. Indeed, during that period the teams were level on six occasions.

It was from a misplaced Cody pass which led to the game’s opening goal. Cody hit the ball directly to the unmarked Damien Reck, who in turn launched the sliotar downfield on top of Conor McDonald. The Wexford full forward won possession, turned and smacked the ball beyond Murphy, 1-7 to 0-6.

Cathal Dunbar extended Wexford’s advantage with a point moments later and from a position of trailing by one in the 17th minute, the visitors found themselves five ahead by the 22nd minute.

They couldn’t maintain that momentum, though, and going in with a two-point lead at the interval probably wasn’t enough for the dominance they had enjoyed during stages of the first half.

Billy Ryan set out Kilkenny’s intent by sending over the first point of the second half and though Liam Óg McGovern replied with one for Wexford, the Cats followed up by scoring five points on the bounce to build an unassailable lead.

Having lost to Antrim last month, it’s no small achievement for Wexford to have finished third in the group.

“They don’t give up, which is a great trait to have,” said Rossiter.

“I said it to the players as well, it’s a credit to them and that’s why I’m extremely proud of them. It was a lonely journey down from Belfast but the players put us in a position today to compete for a Leinster final and that’s what we were looking at all year. The consolation price is not a bad consolation prize, we are still hurling in June.”

However, Rossiter was critical of the Nowlan Park pitch, with the surface at the O’Loughlin end of the ground damaged because of the recent Bruce Springsteen concert.

“I saw a picture of it during the week and I saw a picture at about 11 o’clock this morning, I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“But Bruce had to be played, I suppose. They had to dance in the dark up here for a couple of days, the pitch was the one to suffer.”

Still, for now at least, the show goes on for both Kilkenny and Wexford.

KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Tommy Walsh, Huw Lawlor, Mikey Butler; David Blanchfield, Richie Reid (0-1), Mikey Carey (0-1); Paddy Deegan (0-3), Cian Kenny; John Donnelly (0-1), TJ Reid (1-13, 1-0 penalty, 0-12f, 0-1 sl), Tom Phelan; Eoin Cody (0-1), Billy Ryan (0-3), Martin Keoghan (0-1).

Subs: Conor Fogarty for Phelan (h-t); Walter Walsh for Keoghan (62 mins); Owen Wall for Ryan (72); Harry Shine for Kenny (73).

WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Matthew O’Hanlon, Liam Ryan, Shane Reck; Conor Foley, Damien Reck, Eoin Ryan; Conor Hearne (0-1), Richie Lawlor; Liam Óg McGovern (0-1), Lee Chin (0-7, 0-6f), Cathal Dunbar (0-2); Cian Byrne (1-3), Conor McDonald (1-2), Rory O’Connor (0-2).

Subs: Kevin Foley (0-1) for Lawlor (52 mins); Jack O’Connor (0-1) for Dunbar (56); Charlie McGuckin for McGovern (60).

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway).

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times