Draw like no other as Kilkenny and Wexford book date in decider
Kilkenny 1-18 Wexford 0-21
Rarely in the history of championship hurling has a draw been greeted with such jubilation.
It was the perfect outcome for Wexford and Kilkenny who, thanks to their superior scoring difference over Dublin and Galway - they all finished level on points - advanced to their first showdown in a Leinster final since 2008.
It took a couple of minutes for the significance of the result to seep into the consciousness of the fans, who greeted the PA announcement that the sides would meet again in the provincial decider on Sunday week with a guttural roar.
Rival bosses Brian Cody and Davy Fitzgerald knew that Dublin had beaten Galway before the final whistle sounded in Innovate Wexford Park, but the majority of the players were unaware of the dramatic events in Parnell Park.
Referee Fergal Horgan was surrounded by angry players after he sounded the final whistle while Cody gesticulated towards the stadium clock which showed 38 minutes and 23 seconds - 37 seconds shy of the four minutes of injury time that had previously been announced.
Wexford substitute Aidan Nolan was particularly animated and he was shown a red card by the referee. It later transpired that Horgan had played the requisite four minutes - the clock had stopped for at least a minute at the end of the game. This explanation was accepted by Brian Cody. "In fairness, if that's the truth, that's the truth."
During the game itself Horgan was a central figure by virtue of his decision to let the play flow. So it boiled down to a survival of the bravest, though Wexford joint captain Matthew O'Hanlon (pictured) - who held Kilkenny captain TJ Reid scoreless from play - was sent off near the end after picking up a second yellow card.
Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy, in his first appearance in the 2019 championship, underlined his class. And on the one occasion he was beaten, full-back Huw Lawlor got back to stop a goal-bound shot from Rory O'Connor after 24 minutes.
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But other changes made by Cody were less successful. Cillian Buckley, whose last outing was in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Limerick, struggled to cope with Diarmuid O'Keeffe - who knocked over four first-half points from play - and was replaced after 50 minutes.
But his faith in Ballyhale teenager Adrian Mullen, who won an All-Ireland Colleges medal with St Kieran's this spring, was rewarded. He came of age in his fourth championship appearance and was the game's leading scorer from play with a 1-3 tally.
Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald acknowledged that the goal after 45 minutes was a calamity on their part as a short puck-out from Mark Fanning was turned over by Colin Fennelly, who linked up with his club mate and first cousin Mullen, who put it away superbly.
"We were doing pretty well there until we gave away the goal. I had given in an instruction to go long and the next thing I saw the ball was in the back of the net. But we dealt with it."
At the other end of the corridor Brian Cody was already looking forward to the final showdown.
"It's easy to smile tonight, but in two weeks' time you'll be needing more than a smile! The battle is fierce, the challenge is terrific. I wasn't concerned about who we were going to meet in a Leinster final. I wanted to see us playing in a Leinster final."
Level on 13 occasions, there was never more than three points between the teams. Five Kilkenny backs scored from play, though Paddy Deegan's forced retirement added to their injury woes.
TJ Reid's 0-7 brought his seasonal tally to 5-43 - he has now scored more than the top scorer in 12 All-Ireland championships since the introduction of the back door in 1997.
Ultimately, a pointed free deep in injury time from Wexford's Lee Chin, who had earlier seen an attempt come back off the upright, saved Wexford's season.
On the night the 2019 championship finally ignited, the fourth ever championship draw between the sides left everyone on a high - and ready to do it again in 13 days.