Cody fury over red card as Model men edge thriller
Wexford 1-24 Kilkenny 1-24
It is doubtful that this competition's final has ever been as engrossing as the one served up by Wexford and Kilkenny at Nowlan Park on Saturday.
A manager sent to the stands, a red card, a melee, a scatter of yellow cards, a stalemate after normal and extra-time, and a historic free-taking showdown to finally decide the outcome: This had incident and drama in abundance.
Wexford won the shootout 3-2, lifting the cup for the first time since 2002, though the silverware felt largely immaterial.
For the third time in Davy Fitzgerald's short reign he enjoyed victory over Brian Cody, having won last year's National League quarter-final meeting at the same venue, before repeating the success when they met in the Leinster Championship in Wexford Park.
It might have irked Cody to have lost, having led by eight points in the first half of normal time, and by six in the final 10 minutes, but he will have been delighted with the spirit shown by a team missing many of their marquee names.
He will be less pleased by his dismissal to the stands early in the second half of normal time. Cody earned the reproach of John O'Brien, whose attention was called by one of his linesman who had heard first-hand Cody's unsympathetic view of a red card given to Richie Reid.
The Kilkenny player was judged to have interfered with an opponent's helmet, but Cody felt it was an accidental collision.
He said afterwards: "One of our players got sent off and I merely said to the linesman that he was being mauled and dragged, which he was, and then he said, 'I'll put you out of the field and I said, 'you won't put me out of the field'. Then he put up his flag and somebody else may have roared something. That's as much as I said. That's the way it went.
"The same thing happened last year in a game where a fella was sent off for supposedly pulling the helmet of a player, which then they said later on he didn't do at all. Very disappointing when a player starts roaring and bawling about his helmet and showing his helmet to everybody and a player is sent off in the wrong."
In any event, O'Brien was insistent and while Cody took some time to accede to the request, eventually he moved to the other side of the perimeter fence.
Whatever side of the fence you sit on, this was a captivating contest, decided by the historic intervention of a free-taking contest on the 65m line. Two players who had been mostly immaculate on placed balls throughout the match, Alan Murphy of Kilkenny and Wexford's Paul Morris, were among those who missed.
Wexford missed their opening two and nailed the final three, the last the coolest strike of the lot from keeper Mark Fanning, as Kilkenny's frees went into meltdown after opening a 2-0 lead.
If that finale felt a little hollow, the thunderous theatre that had gone before more than atoned.
Kilkenny and Wexford are writing a fresh chapter on an old rivalry. Wexford started slowly into the wind and were five points behind before Eoin Moore opened their account in the 13th minute.
A penalty goal three minutes later from Murphy, who finished with 1-13, followed by Matin Keoghan's point, opened up an eight-point lead for the home team. They were all you imagine a Cody team to be: working hard, harassing Wexford, forcing turnovers.
They had three of last year's U-21s, including Murphy, in their forward line, and were missing TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan and Paul Murphy.
But Wexford, even with the extra man and the wind, and having introduced the likes of Matthew O'Hanlon, Lee Chin, Conor McDonald, Diarmuid O'Keeffe and David O'Connor, were fortunate to get to extra-time.
In the final 10 minutes, six points down, they made a decisive push, but needed a scrambled goal from Kevin Foley and then two injury-time points by Morris to avoid defeat, with normal time ending 1-21 a piece.
Harry Kehoe hit three good scores and Morris finished with 0-9, but Fanning had to make some important saves early in the game to keep the score down.
In extra-time Wexford went in front through Morris and a fine score from McDonald looked to have won it in the final minute. Murphy, though, showed good composure to level with the final puck, a free from a tricky angle after O'Hanlon fouled the ball.
Fitzgerald played down the significance of the win, but criticised a section of the Wexford support.
"When things were going poor, I was reminded from one or two fellas from the stand about our performance, and just to them gentlemen, I'd like to say we go out to win every day we go out, and we try our best, and stuff like that doesn't help the team or help myself. If you want to be at that crack stay at home."
Scorers - Wexford: P Morris 0-9 (7f); J Guiney 0-5 (3f); K Foley 1-0; H Kehoe 0-3; C Dunbar, M Fanning (f), D Dunne, E Moore, J O'Connor, L Chin, C McDonald 0-1.
Kilkenny: A Murphy 1-13 (7f, 1 '65', 1-0 pen); E Murphy 0-2 (2f), W Walsh, O Walsh, M Keoghan 0-2; C Fogarty, R Reid, C Martin 0-1.
Wexford: M Fanning; S Donohue, L Ryan, E Moore; A Maddock, S Murphy E Martin; J O'Connor, K Foley; A Nolan, C Dunbar, H Kehoe; P Morris, J Guiney, D Dunne. Subs: M O'Hanlon for Martin (28 mins); D Reck for Joe O'Connor & Jack O'Connor for Dunbar (both half time); L Chin for Guiney (60); C McDonald for Kehoe (62); P Foley for Nolan & J Firman for Dunne (both 66); D O'Keeffe for Maddock (6th min extra time); A Nolan for O'Connor (16th min extra time); J Guiney for Ryan (final min extra time).
Kilkenny: E Murphy; J Holden, P Walsh, P Deegan; E Morrissey, C O'Shea, C Buckley; C Fogarty, O Walsh; M Keoghan, R Reid, P Lyng; A Murphy, W Walter, C Martin. Subs: L Ryan for Lyng & C Bolger for Martin (both 49 mins); C Browne for O Walsh (70); J Maher for Morrissey (74); J Walsh for Bolger & C Martin for Keoghan (9th min extra-time); G Malone for Fogarty (inj 15th min extra time).
REF - J O'Brien (Laois).