KILKENNY 2-15 ; WEXFORD 2-8 TWO goals from half-forward Willie O'Dwyer proved decisive as Kilkenny retained their Leinster minor hurling crown with a hard-fought seven-point victory over Wexford at Croke Park.
O'Dwyer's second goal eight minutes into the second half seemed to knock the fight out of Wexford, who failed to score thereafter as the Cats moved up a gear.
Pat Doran's goal just before half-time, when he capitalised on a wonderful sideline cut from Donal O'Leary, gave Wexford hope as they narrowed the gap to a point at 1-8 to 1-7 and looked forward to the wind advantage in the second half. However, Kilkenny stretched their lead to three after the break before Wexford grabbed another goal when good work from Richard Flynn set up Darren Foran for a fine finish five minutes after the restart.
The scores were now level but, rather than seize the initiative, Wexford allowed Kilkenny back into the game and O'Dwyer rounded off a superb flowing move with a goal to re-establish Kilkenny's supremacy after 38 minutes.
With momentum firmly in their favour, Kilkenny showed their championship instincts as their watertight defence deprived Wexford of a score in the final 25 minutes.
Kilkenny were awarded a penalty for a foul on Robbie Dowling after just 45 seconds, but full-forward Richie Power could only take a point.
Corner-forward Dowling was guilty of a glaring miss a minute later and, when Wexford goalkeeper Damien Grannell produced two excellent saves, it looked as though it might be a day for the Slanesiders to win their first minor title since 1985.
However, as they so often do, Kilkenny put a dampener on Wexford's hopes when O'Dwyer beat two players before firing home his first goal in the 23rd minute.
Wexford reacted well to the blow replying with two quick points before Doran's goal left just the minimum between the teams at half-time. However, they were unable to carry their form through to the finish and Kilkenny clinched their 47th Leinster title with seven points to spare.
SCORERS Kilkenny: W O'Dwyer 2-1, R Power 0-6 (0-5 frees), J Fitzpatrick 0-3, M Rice 0-2, S Coonan 0-2, A Healy 0-1. Wexford: R Flynn 0-5 (0-5 frees), P Doran, D Foran 1-0 each, R Frayne, P White, M Kelly 0-1 each.
KILKENNY C Grant; P Holden, J Tennyson, D Prendergast; K Nolan, PJ Delaney, C Hoyne; M Rice, S Maher; A Healy, W O'Dwyer, S Coonan; J Fitzpatrick, R Power, R Dowling. Subs: T Frisby for S Maher (43), E Reid for R Dowling (39), S Dowling for J Fitzpatrick (52).
WEXFORD D Grannell; J Roche, C Kenny, B Mulligan; D O'Leary, A Kavanagh, A Murphy; P Doran, R Frayne; P White, J O'Loughlin, G O'Grady; R Flynn, D Foran, M Kelly. Subs: J Codd for P Doran (39), M Heffernan for B Mulligan (42), W Whelan for J O'Loughlin (48), M Byrne for G O'Grady (58).
REF F Smith (Meath).