Lee Chin delivers masterful display as Wexford stun Kilkenny to claim rare Leinster final berth
Wexford 1-20 Kilkenny 3-11
'The Boys are Back in Town' blared out of Wexford Park's tannoy system as the Model county celebrated their first summer victory over Kilkenny in thirteen years.
Memories of Mick Jacob's famous Canal-end goal were vivid as Davy Fitzgerald's men followed up their National League quarter final defeat of the Cats with another triumph, propelling them into a Leinster final collision with either Galway or Offaly.
A second-half goal from David Redmond proved vital as they mounted a stirring rearguard battle against the defending Leinster champions.
It looked ominous for Wexford when Kilkenny sniped two goals inside as many second-half minutes from Colin Fennelly and TJ Reid to narrow the margin to a single point with fifteen minutes still remaining. But Wexford's spirit saw them safely home in a titanic tussle watched by 18,467 spectators.
With their manager, Fitzgerald, in a custom-made booth at the back of the stand, Wexford made precisely the start they would have been hoping to avoid.
Just 48 seconds had elapsed when a possess of defenders was seen to hang out of Colin Fennelly, leaving referee, Fergal Horgan, little option to award a penalty. TJ Reid duly converted with a finish so precise that Wexford goalkeeper, Mark Fanning, did not even move as the sliotar whizzed past him.
But the home side were in no mood for a meek surrender here and they came storming back, levelling the game by the 10th minute through points from Diarmuid O'Keeffe, Liam Ryan and a monster Lee Chin free from inside his own half.
The latter score gave an indication of the strength of the wind gusting from the Clonard end, leaving Wexford in little doubt that they would probably require a substantial half-time lead to have a chance against the defending Leinster champions.
Kilkenny's scoring radar would prove surprisingly erratic in that opening half, Brian Cody's men spilling nine wides in the opening 35 minutes.
Just over half an hour in, that tardiness was reflected on the scoreboard, Wexford leading 0-10 to 1-3, the free-taking of Chin and Conor McDonald a major positive for the home side.
Kilkenny had started with Padraig Walsh wearing number three, but starting at left-half forward. And the Tullaroan man looked completely out of sorts, being hauled ashore in the 30th minute. Soon after, an equally unsettled, Ger Aylward, followed as Cody made the changes.
Wexford's backs looked well on top against everybody bar Fennelly and it was another foul on the Ballyhale man that enabled a TJ Reid free bring Kilkenny's tally to 1-5 on the stroke of half-time. But Paul Morris almost instantly responded with a point at the town-end goal, leaving Wexford with a four points advantage at the mid-point.
Redmond's 39th minute goal put Wexford eight points clear and they looked to be cruising until those Fennelly and Reid goals (the latter another penalty) for the Cats made it a pul;sating finish.
But it was Wexford who finished the scoring , Shane Tomkins's 71st minute point sending the home supporters into esctacy as they secured their first Championship win over the Cats since '04.
SCORERS: Wexford -L Chin 0-6 (3 frees, 2 '65s'), C McDonald 0-5 (0-4 frees), P Morris 0-3, D Redmond 1-0, L Ryan, M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe, S Tomkins, J Guiney and J O'Connor 0-1 each.
Kilkenny - TJ Reid 2-7 (2-0 pens, 5 frees, 1 '65'), C Fennelly 1-0, L Ryan 0-2, P Deegan, W Walsh 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: M Fanning. W Devereux, S Donohoe, L Ryan, J Breen, S Murphy, M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe, A Nolan, J O'Connor, J Guiney, H Kehoe, C McDonald, L Chin, P Morris. Subs - D Redmond for O'Connor (32 mins), S Tomkins for Nolan (58 mins), P Doran for Kehoe (60 mins), K Foley for Morris (66 mins).
KILKENNY: E Murphy, R Lennon, C O'Shea, C Fogarty, P Murphy, K Joyce, C Buckley, P Deegan, L Ryan, W Walsh, TJ Reid, P Walsh, G Aylward, R Hogan, C Fennelly. Subs - L Blanchfield for P Walsh (30 mins), C Bolger for Aylward (33 mins), K Kelly for W Walsh (64 mins)
WEXFORD: M Fanning. W Devereux, S Donohoe, L Ryan, J Breen, S Murphy, M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe, A Nolan, J O'Connor, J Guiney, H Kehoe, C McDonald, L Chin, P Morris. Subs - D Redmond for O'Connor (32 mins).
Referee - F Horgan (Tipperary).