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5 talking points as Wexford dethrone Kilkenny with a knockout blow on the Chin

Innovate Wexford Park hosted a game for the ages.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Kevin O’Brien reports from Wexford Park

1. A year is a long time in hurling

IT’S HARD TO believe that just over 12 months ago, Wexford meekly exited the championship after taking a 2-19 to 0-12 trouncing by Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final.

The Yellowbellies are preparing for the first Leinster final since 2008 and much of that is down to the belief Davy Fitzgerald has instilled in his young team.

What impressed most was how Wexford responded when Kilkenny had dragged themselves back to within a point in the final quarter. The home side stood up and refused to die. They’ve taken plenty beatings from Kilkenny down the years. Enough was enough.

2. Are we headed for another special year like 2013?

2013 was a year of years for hurling. A magical season, full of unexpected twists and turns right up until the finale.

Dublin dumped reigning All-Ireland champions Kilkenny out in Leinster on their way to sealing the provincial title, while Limerick were the last team left standing down in the southern province.

Tipperary and Kilkenny brawled like two old heavyweights in the qualifiers, before a resurgent Cork sent Cody’s men packing in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Clare rounded the year off in style by coming from nowhere to steal the Liam McCarthy.

And don’t forget who was the heartbeat of that championship.

Davy Fitzgerald celebrates his sides second goal Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Question marks for Kilkenny

Why did Kilkenny lose this game?

Brian Cody was asked that very question in the aftermath of his absorbing encounter.

“Because they scored more than us,” he deadpanned.

The truth is there were plenty of reasons why Kilkenny were beaten. Big name players like Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan didn’t show up, while Ger Aylward and Padraig Walsh both endured poor performances and didn’t even last until half-time.

Kilkenny managed just 1-4 from play and relied heavily on TJ Reid’s accuracy from dead balls. Wexford flooded the middle third and didn’t allow Kilkenny pick off easy scores from distance.

The Cats persisted with delivering ball into the full-forward line and while Colin Fennelly was outstanding – scoring a goal and winning two penalties – the rest of the forward line struggled in front of the posts.

They missed Michael Fennelly’s physicality and industry at midfield, and Cody explained his absence was down to an injury setback he suffered last week.

“Michael wasn’t togged out. He had a nice bit of training done but unfortunately he pulled up last week really with a bit of an injury, so out of the equation tonight.”

Brian Cody Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. Wexford fans celebrate in style

“The Wexicans are going crazy down in front of us,” John Mullane roared on RTÉ Radio 1 commentary duty during as the game ticked towards a climax last night.

Mullane was right. The Wexford supporters urged their team on with every fibre of their being, and they duly unloaded onto the field when the final whistle was sounded.

The post-match scenes were a joy to witness. A reminder of why our games are so special and unique.

“We’re a county of optimists,” said Wexford selector JJ Doyle afterwards. “We’ve been disappointed on so many occasions.

“As a Wexford man, to see family and friends out there, people I’ve grown up with and played against. Just to see them on the field with joy and tears in their eyes – it makes all the wet nights we’ve trained over the last number of months worthwhile.

“Listen, we’re going to enjoy this. There’s no point, we’re not going to go and say, ‘Listen lads, go home and go to bed, recover’. We have to enjoy it. What’s the point in playing this game, having occasions like that and performing like that if you don’t go out and enjoy it?”

5. Lee Chin takes his game to another level

Lee Chin was the hero for Wexford, helping swing the pendulum back in their favour after Kilkenny had scored 2-4 in a devastating spell between the 40th and 56th minute.

But Chin had a quiet start to the game as he floated on either flank and struggled to stamp his authority. Kilkenny were able to keep the puck-outs away from the Faythe Harriers powerhouse and starve him of primary possession.

Lee Chin celebrates at the final whistle Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Switching him to midfield early in the second-half was a key move by Fitzgerald and Paddy Deegan couldn’t live with Chin, who bent the game to his will.

“I think the catch he made on the far side of the field will probably live long in the memory,” added Doyle. “No one knew he had it. I was talking to Matthew O’Hanlon and he said he didn’t know he had it until he saw him running forward with it in his hand because no one expected it but that’s Lee Chin.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete but it’s not a fluke either. The work he puts in, he’s completely and utterly dedicated to it and he stood up.”

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‘This county always goes nuts when we win’ – Lee Chin

Wexford are back! Davy Fitzgerald’s men stun Kilkenny to book first Leinster final in 9 years

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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