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Brilliant Wexford claim victory in Kilkenny to stay alive in the championship

Despite the defeat, Kilkenny advance to the Leinster final to face Galway.

Kilkenny’s Conor Delaney and Liam Ryan of Wexford.
Kilkenny’s Conor Delaney and Liam Ryan of Wexford.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Wexford 1-22

Kilkenny 1-18

WEXFORD LIVE TO fight another day. 

The Model County have made a habit of rising to the Kilkenny challenge in recent years and they did so again this evening.

Wexford’s four-point victory, paired with Galway’s win over Dublin, means Darragh Egan’s team stay alive in the championship after claiming a third place finish in Leinster.

They’ll play the beaten Joe McDonagh finalists in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter final. Despite the defeat, the Cats advance to a fifth successive Leinster decider where they’ll renew acquaintances with Galway. 

Kilkenny (+51), Wexford (+30) and Dublin (-12) all finished level on six points, with scoring difference determining the final standing.

A game that went right to the wire saw Kilkenny fall to their first home championship loss in three years. It was Wexford’s first ever championship victory over the Cats at Nowlan Park.

Wexford needed to produce something big and after a flat opening 10 minutes they were awesome here. Driven on by Lee Chin, who was nursing a dead leg coming into this game, they bounced back brilliantly from last weekend’s morale-sapping draw with Westmeath. 

Wexford outscored Kilkenny by 0-6 to 0-2 after the 60th minute in a frenetic finale that had everything. Wexford brought the fight and intensity that has been lacking from their game in recent weeks. The had desire in spades here. 

Defensively, Damien Reck, Paudie Foley, Matthew O’Hanlon and Liam Ryan all did well in their individual duals, while midfield pairing of Liam Og McGovern and Kevin Foley worked their socks off. 

After trailing by four in the early stages, Wexford battled back to three in front by half-time. Oisin Foley’s goal matched their green flag tally in their previous three games. Kilkenny came roaring back into the game and were level by the 60th minute, but Wexford’s bench made a decisive impact in the finale. 

Paddy Deegan battled hard all evening for the Cats, while Mikey Butler had his moments in defence. Mikey Carey broke forward for a pair of scores but up front, Kilkenny’s starting six only scored 0-4 between them from play. 

Much of their attacking play saw them bomb long ball into the forward line. Kilkenny’s starting forwards only scored 0-3 between them from play and there-in lay their issue. 

Games between these counties have tended to be tight. Kilkenny needed extra-time to advance in last year’s Leinster semi-final and the sides drew in the 2019 round robin before Wexford won by three in the Leinster final. 

The Model County started with 12 of team that prevailed in that Leinster decider, drawing on all their recent experience of frustrating the Cats.

Darragh Egan made one change from the penultimate round, introducing Kevin Foley in place of Paul Morris.

They set-up with Diarmuid O’Keeffe as a spare defender, pairing Lee Chin and Conor McDonald together in the full-forward line.

O’Keeffe did trojan work in the sweeper role, doubling up in front of Walter Walsh on puck-outs and dropping back to protect his full-back line when Kilkenny went long in attack.

Brian Cody made one change from last weekend’s win over Dublin. Padraig Walsh dropped out due to injury, replaced by Tom Phelan. Walsh was a revelation for Kilkenny at centre-forward this year and his absence hurt them. He only arrived on the field late in the day as Kilkenny chased the game.

Wexford shot the opening two scores before Kilkenny game storming back into the proceedings. By the eighth minute they were 1-4 to 0-2 ahead following a period of utter dominance. Cian Kenny and TJ Reid linked up superbly to set-up Martin Keoghan’s third goal in two games.

Wexford were creating chances but shot five wides in the opening 10 minutes. Lee Chin replaced Mark Fanning on long-range frees and steadied matters. In the middle part of the opening half, Wexford took control.

They fought their way back from four behind to take the lead by the 26th minute, in a period where they outscored the hosts by 0-7 to 0-1. Much of Wexford’s good play came from leaving space in front of Rory O’Connor and isolating Conor McDonald on the edge of the square.

Jack O’Connor had the hint of a goal chance after some good approach play by his brother Rory, but he failed to control it under intense pressure from three Kilkenny players. 

The goal chances continued to present themselves for Egan’s team. Oisin Foley rattled the net after latching onto a long puck-out and racing through on goal. Wexford could easily have went in at the break six ahead when McDonald collected a long delivery and shot on goal from point-blank range only to force a stunning save from Eoin Murphy.

The second-half started off at a frantic pace. As expected, after spending the break in close quarters with Brian Cody, Kilkenny upped things considerably. Walter Walsh gave a sign of things to come when he stroked over from the sideline. 

Richie Reid drilled one from distance and his brother TJ struck his ninth of the day, leaving Kilkenny back on level terms by the 53rd minute. 

With chances at a premium, both sides relied on their free-takers for scores.

adrian-mullen-and-liam-og-mcgovern Kilkenny’s Adrian Mullen and Liam Óg McGovern of Wexford battle for possession. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Lee Chin, on his 41st championship appearance, moved Wexford two ahead with placed balls from identical places. His switch to midfield helped Wexford gain a foothold during the second period.

Egan introduced some firepower off the bench and Connal Flood repaid his faith with a huge 64th minute point. It arrived moments after Liam Ryan landed one from downtown. When Chin burst through the Cats rearguard and drove over, Wexford were three clear.

Then arrived a golden chance for Kilkenny to haul themselves level. TJ Reid fed Billy Ryan but he turned inside and saw his shot blocked by the body of Liam Ryan. Keoghan followed it up with a grand strike that was expertly gathered by Damien Reck on the line. 

Egan’s bench had a major impact. Mikie Dwyer slalomed through for the score of the game, and Cathal Dunbar fire over another. 

Kilkenny’s attack was predictably in the closing stages as they went long with ball after ball, which Wexford comfortably dealt with. 

Scorers for Wexford: Lee Chin 0-9 (0-7f), Oisin Foley 1-0, Simon Donohoe, Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Rory O’Connor 0-2 each, Liam Ryan, Jack O’Connor, Liam Og McGovern, Conor McDonald, Connal Flood, Mikie Dwyer and Cathal Dunbar 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (0-8f, 0-1 65), Martin Keoghan 1-1, Mikey Carey and Adrian Mullen 0-2 each, Walter Walsh, Billy Ryan (0-1 sideline) and Padraig Walsh 0-1 each.

Wexford

1. Mark Fanning (Glynn-Barntown)

6. Damien Reck (Oylegate-Glenbrien) 3. Liam Ryan (Rapparees), 4. Conor Devitt (Tara Rocks)

8. Diarmuid O’Keeffe (St Anne’s)

2. Simon Donohoe (Shelmaliers), 5. Matthew O’Hanlon (St James), 7.  Paudie Foley (Crossabeg-Ballymurn)

11. Kevin Foley (Rapparees), 12. Liam Óg McGovern (St Anne’s)

15. Rory O’Connor (St Martin’s), 10. Jack O’Connor (St Martin’s), 13. Oisín Foley (Crossabeg-Ballymurn)

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9. Lee Chin (Faythe Harriers), 14. Conor McDonald (Naomh Eanna)

Subs

21. Connal Flood (Cloughbawn) for Devitt (42)

20. Mikie Dwyer (St Mogue’s Fethard) for Jack O’Connor (53)

19. Cathal Dunbar (Naomh Eanna) for Kevin Foley (57)

23. Charlie McGuckin (Noamh Eanna) for Oisin Foley (62)

24. Paul Morris (Ferns St Aidan’s) for McDonald (72)

Kilkenny

1. Eoin Murphy (Glenmore)

2. Mikey Butler (O’Loughlin Gaels), 3. Conor Delaney (Erin’s Own), 4. Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan), 

5. Michael Carey (Young Irelands), 6. Richie Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks – captain), 6. Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels),

8. Alan Murphy (Glenmore), 9. Adrian Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks) 

26. Tom Phelan (Conahy Shamrocks), 11. TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks), 23. Walter Walsh (Tullaroan)

13. Cian Kenny (James Stephens), 14. Martin Keoghan (Tullaroan),  15. Eoin Cody (Ballyhale Shamrocks)

Subs

24. Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan) for Phelan (44)

22. James Maher (St Lachtain’s) for Alan Murphy (53)

12. Pádraig Walsh (Tullaroan) for Kenny (68)

10. John Donnelly (Thomastown) for Keoghan (69)

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Nowlan Park

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