WATCH: Wexford crowned Walsh Cup champions after thrilling game is decided by free-taking contest
Wexford 1-24 Kilkenny 1-24 (Wexford win free-taking contest 3-2)
In a dramatic finish, Wexford won the Walsh Cup final at Nowlan Park after a free-taking showdown ended 3-2 in their favour. The sides could not be separated after a pulsating match ended in deadlock after extra-time. It was Wexford’s first Walsh Cup win since 2002, and repeated wins over Kilkenny in the league and championship last year.
Conor McDonald, Jack Guiney and Mark Fanning landed the final three of Wexford’s five frees in the shootout, after earlier misses by Paul Morris and Lee Chin, while Kilkenny started brightly, Eoin Murphy and Conor Martin converting, before misses from Lester Ryan, Alan Murphy and John Walsh doomed them to defeat.
But Kilkenny had plenty to be proud of given how hard their players fought to retain the Walsh Cup they won last year. Wexford were slow to start but wound up too. Th result was a match of such intensity as to augur well for their next meetings in the National League and Championship later in the year. Kilkenny and Wexford went at it with terrific honesty in poor weather conditions and the small crowd was rewarded for braving the rain and cold. It is fast developing into an intriguing rivalry.
And it was heated, with a melee in the second half, a scatter of yellow cards, while Brian Cody was sent to the stand by the match referee John O’Brien four minutes into the second half of normal time after Kilkenny were angered by Richie Reid’s red card for pulling off an opponent's helmet. Wexford, trailing at one stage by eight points in the first half of normal time, pegged their way back and drew level with a score from Paul Morris deep into injury time to force extra time.
Kilkenny, playing with the wind, made all the early running and raced into an early five point lead, with Alan Murphy, last year’s under-21 captain, on the mark and finishing the match with 1-13, 1-8 from placed balls including a first half penalty.
Cody, despite his removal to the stands, will have been pleased with his side’s collective effort, the familiar Kilkenny work-rate visible all over the field which forced Wexford into turnovers and led directly to a number of scores.
Wexford used Kevin Foley, listed as a midfielder, as their sweeper but they still leaked scores and before the penalty Murphy tested Mark Fanning with a shot from close range after being set up by Walter Walsh. Kilkenny were 0-5 to 0-0 in front when Eoin Moore scored Wexford’s first point after 12 minutes.
Kilkenny had Padraig Walsh as their spare man and defended well but Wexford improved as the half progressed and four scores without reply coming up to half time had them within reach of their rivals, trailing 0-10 to 1-11. Paul Morris began the sequence with a pointed free, followed by a lovely effort off the stick by Cathal Dunbar. David Dunne landed another and Fanning pointed a free.
Further Kilkenny scores from Murphy and Conor Fogarty left them 1-13 to 0-11 in front at half time but the sending off rocked them and Wexford were within a point five minutes after the restart.
Despite facing wind and a man down, they showed a lot of spirit and character to respond with three points, two from top scorer Murphy, and they were six points ahead when Murphy scored his tenth point with five minutes of normal time left. That sparked a late Wexford rally. Morris pointed and Kevin Foley scrambled a goal before a monster score from Lee Chin, not long on the field, left only a point between them.
By then Wexford had many of their marquee names on the field. Harry Kehoe scored three points from play while Morris was also a strong contributor from frees and play. It was his two late scores in injury time that brought the game to extra time.
From there, with Kilkenny back to 15 players, it looked like it could go in any direction. Kilkenny went back in front through Walter Walsh before Morris had Wexford enjoying the lead for the first time with his eight and ninth scores, both frees, a lead which Wexford carried into the second period.
Murphy levelled again for Kilkenny and then Conor McDonald looked to have won it with a score in the final minute of extra time. But Matthew O’Hanlon fouled the ball and Murphy was able to land his 13th point of the afternoon to leave them on 1-24 a piece.
Scorers: Wexford - P Morris 0-9 (0-7 fs); J Guiney 0-5 (0-3 fs); K Foley 1-0; H Kehoe 0-3; C Dunbar, M Fanning (f), D Dunne, E Moore, Jack O’Connor, L Chin, C McDonald 0-1.Kilkenny - A Murphy 1-13 (0-7 fs, 0-1 65, 1-0 pen); E Murphy 0-2 (both fs), 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); A McDonald for Kehoe (62); Foley for Nolan & J Firman for Dunne (both 66; D O’Keeffe for Maddock (6 mins extra time); A Nolan for O’Connor (16 mins 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 and 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 15 mins extra time).
Referee: J O’Brien (Laois).
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