'I've told my team, I want the exact same' - Davy Fitzgerald steels Wexford for Leinster final rematch
Leinster SHC: Wexford 0-21 Kilkenny 1-18
Wexford and Kilkenny achieved the perfect result on a night of high drama at Wexford Park as their draw secured both sides a rematch in the Leinster final on June 30.
A pointed free in the third minute of injury time from Lee Chin secured the home side a draw — moments after he had struck a long range free off the upright.
While Brian Cody insisted he didn’t mind who Kilkenny were playing in the Leinster final, Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald was relishing another crack at the Cats.
"I love playing them," he says. "Because you know what's going to happen — massive tackles, 100 per cent effort and this is what I've told my team, I want the exact same from my team."
After blowing the final whistle, referee Fergal Horgan was confronted by players who thought, mistakingly, that he had not played the full amount of injury time. The confusion was caused by a stopped clock in the stadium and, as spectators raced on to the pitch, Horgan flashed a red card at Wexford substitute Aidan Nolan. The home side had lost joint team captain Matthew O’Hanlon to a second yellow late on, but on the balance of play probably deserved a second chance.
On a night that TJ Reid was held scoreless from play — O’Hanlon marked him — it was his Ballyhale club colleague Adrian Mullen who emerged as the Kilkenny scoring hero, hitting 1-3 with the goal coming when a short Wexford puck out was intercepted by Colin Fennelly.
So the two sides will have to do it all again in Croke Park at the end of the month and regardless of the outcome of that contest they have secured a place in the latter stages of the All-Ireland series after a dramatic contest.
The home side effectively operated with just four forwards, Paul Morris, Conor McDonald, Cathal Dunbar and Lee Chin, who at times drifted out to a crowded middle third where the exchanges were ferocious with a couple of minor scuffles breaking out.
There was a lot of frenetic hurling as well with Wexford midfielder Diarmuid O’Keeffe emerging as the pivotal figure in the first half, scoring four excellent points from play and exposing Conor Fogarty’s lack of match practice.
The teams were level on three occasions in the first quarter before Wexford’s physical superiority began to tell. Crucially, however, they missed an opportunity to amass 2-1. Shaun Murphy failed to avail of a loose Kilkenny clearance and drove his shot wide.
Almost immediately afterwards, Walsh flicked the sliotar away from Conor McDonald just as he was about to shoot for goal. But they looked certain to find the net three minutes later when Liam Óg McGovern sent Rory O’Connor through on goal. His low shot beat Eoin Murphy but Kilkenny full-back Huw Lawlor got back to execute a miracle clearance.
TJ Reid was a central figure in the early Kilkenny attacks, setting up a point for Mullen and then being fouled for a free which he converted himself.
Kilkenny became increasingly dependent on Reid’s frees as the half progressed and by half-time he had converted five. Paudie Foley and Chin shared the free-taking duties for Wexford and the former hit two excellent long range efforts while the team’s join captain Chin converted three frees and a 65.
The scoring rate from play decreased as the half progressed and the match developed into a free-taking contest between Reid — who along with his marker O’Hanlon was booked in the 34th minute — and Chin, who converted two each in the last seven minutes of the half.
But Wexford ended the half on a high note with Conor McDonald’s second point from play to give his side a deserved three points advantage, 0-13 to 0-10, at the break. Interestingly, seven of Wexford’s total came from play whereas Kilkenny managed just five, but the Cats had the wind in the second-half.
Wexford introduced Jack O’Connor for the second period, but Chin missed his first free into the breeze. After TJ Reid’s fifth free following a foul on Walter Walsh, the scoring rate dropped. But worryingly for Wexford, they chalked up four wides in the first seven minutes of the half.
Richie Leahy had a terrible wide for Kilkenny but there was immediate redemption as Mark Fanning’s short puck-out was turned over by Colin Fennelly who sent Mullen through and the youngster held his nerve to drive the sliotar low to the corner of the net.
Wexford hit the next two points from play via Rory O’Connor and Paul Morris to edge in front again, but Kilkenny were now winning the bulk of the loose ball and defender Paul Murphy levelled the game for the fifth time after 51 minutes before a monster point from Pádraig Walsh from the sideline edged the visitors in front.
The sides were level when a 67th minute free from Chin struck the upright and rebounded back into play. With two minutes left Wexford were reduced to 14 men when Matthew O’Hanlon was red carded for a foul on Enda Morrissey and TJ Reid nailed the free to give the Cats a priceless lead. But Chin levelled it again two minutes into extra time with a free from midfield.
SCORERS: Wexford: L Chin 0-6, (5f, 1 65) D O'Keeffe 0-4, R O'Connor, P Morris, C McDonald, J O'Connor 0-2, P Foley 0-2 (2f) each, K Foley 0-1. Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-7 (7f), A Mullen 1-3, C Fennelly 0-2, P Murphy, J Holden, C Fogarty, P Walsh, P Deegan, W Walsh 0-1 each
Wexford: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, S Donohoe; P Foley, M O'Hanlon, S Murphy; K Foley, D O'Keeffe; R O'Connor, L Og McGovern, P Morris; C Dunbar, L Chin, C McDonald. Subs: J O'Connor for Dunbar ht, A Nolan for McMcGovern 53, D Dunne for Morris 63.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, H Lawlor, J Holden; E Morrissey, P Walsh, P Deegan; C Fogarty, C Buckley, W Walsh, TJ Reid, R Leahy; A Mullen C Fennelly, B Ryan. Subs: J Cleere for Deegan 17m; J Maher for Buckley 50m, L Blanchfield for Ryan 55, J Donnelly for Walsh 68.
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).