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Wexford advance to All-Ireland series after stunning upset over Kilkenny at Nowlan Park

Kilkenny 1-18 Wexford 1-22

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Oisín Foley of Wexford celebrates after the win over Kilkenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Oisín Foley of Wexford celebrates after the win over Kilkenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Oisín Foley of Wexford celebrates after the win over Kilkenny. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

All the form was with Kilkenny but in these situations Wexford can always hope to draw on their rich history of producing special performances against their old provincial rivals. They needed to and they did, a first-ever championship win over Kilkenny in Nowlan Park thrown in for good measure.

This thrilling effort goes straight into the catalogue of the most memorable of those vintage Wexford shows, the reward being a result which keeps them in the championship and eliminates Dublin, who lost in Galway.

Kilkenny didn’t surrender easily but were not able to repeat the same level of hurling they served up in Parnell Park a week earlier. They can have no complaints about the outcome and have the ample compensation of still qualifying for the Leinster final by virtue of a better scoring difference than Wexford.

Wexford, who drew with Westmeath a week earlier and looked the most likely team to be put out of the championship, knew they would need every ounce of that characteristic resilience and some good fortune to remain in the race, with nothing less than victory sufficient on a sunny evening.

Lee Chin scored 0-9, seven of those frees, and his second from play came late in the match when Wexford seemed to hit a new gear, a tremendous catch over Tommy Walsh before he shot between the posts. In the middle of the field Wexford more than matched Kilkenny and the home side’s duo of Alan Murphy and Adrian Mullen could not repeat the outstanding form of a week earlier, Murphy not lasting the full game.

Simon Donohue hit two audacious scores from distance and Liam Ryan joined in the scoring later in the match when they went for broke, finishing the stronger side. With two minutes left Billy Ryan had a shot for goal stopped by Ryan’s back, typical of Wexford’s refusal to countenance defeat. TJ Reid had a second attempt but Damien Reck made a stunning stop near the goal line and managed to collect the ball and defuse the threat.

After Kilkenny had drawn level at 1-16 each in the 61st minute, the match hung in the balance. But from there to the finish Wexford dominated, their first championship win over Kilkenny at the venue coming at the seventh attempt. They went on to outscore the home side 0-6 to 0-2 to the finish, Ryan’s point quickly followed by an inspiring score from Connal Flood and then Chin’s huge fetch and finish. Mikie Dwyer and Donohoe had the final Wexford scores to seal a deserved victory after an absorbing match.

Kilkenny made two team changes, replacing John Donnelly with Walter Walsh and Padraig Walsh with Tom Phelan and for the second successive match Conor Delaney deputised for the injured Huw Lawlor. Delaney had a huge battle with McDonald, while equally engaging was the contest between Rory O’Connor and Mikey Butler. The Kilkenny man had a fine match but O’Connor hit two outstanding scores. In the middle of the field Diarmuid O’Keeffe landed two massive scores in the first half, Wexford leading 1-11 to 1-8 at half time.

They marched off the field with fire in their bellies at the interval, having trailed by five points at one stage, picking off points out the field when the options closer to goal were closed off with typically stubborn and fierce Kilkenny defending. Kilkenny were hugely relieved when deep in first-half injury time Eoin Murphy showed his class with an astonishing save from McDonald. The full forward had been kept under high guard by Delaney, but fielded a high ball from Rory O’Connor, turned his man and blasted for goal. It seemed certain the net would dance, but Murphy managed to save it.

Wexford started off well, scoring the first two points, the opening score from Jack O’Connor coming around 20 seconds in, but Kilkenny settled and Mossy Keoghan picked up where he left off in Parnell a week earlier by scoring a goal in the eighth minute. Two minutes later a quick puck out saw Eoin Cody get possession in generous space with the point on but he spotted Keoghan free near goal and drilled a pass, looking for blood. Keoghan couldn’t find the room and had to take the point. The score had Kilkenny leading by five points with ten minutes played.

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But 13 minutes later Wexford were level, at 1-5 to 0-8, with a brilliant score from O’Keeffe virtually on the sideline and McGovern hit their fifth in a row to regain the lead. TJ Reid calmed Kilkenny nerves with a free before Rory O’Connor scored a magnificent score from out near the sideline, having missed two attempts shortly before.

Kilkenny were rocked when conceding a goal in the 34th minute, a brilliant finish by Oisin Foley and blessed they didn’t let in a second but for Murphy’s heroics.

A response was expected after half time, but Wexford made Kilkenny work hard of their recovery. They drew level though a Reid free, won by a great catch by Walter Walsh, in the 53rd minute. Mikey Carey hit two brilliant points, the second when he caught Fanning’s puck out and drove the ball over the bar from the middle of the field.

Yet for all they tried, Wexford kept coming back with more. They head on to the preliminary quarter finals, while Kilkenny prepare for Galway.

Scorers: Wexford - L Chin 0-9 (7fs); O Foley 1-0; D O’Keeffe, R O’Connor, S Donohoe 0-2 each; C McDonald, L Og McGovern, J O’Connor, L Ryan, M Dwyer, C Flood, C Dunbar 0-1 each. Kilkenny - TJ Reid 0-10 (8f, 1 65); M Keoghan 1-1; M Carey, A Mullen 0-2 each; W Walsh, B Ryan (l/b), P Walsh 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, C Delaney, T Walsh; M Carey, P Deegan, R Reid; A Murphy, A Mullen; W Walsh, TJ Reid, T Phelan; M Keoghan, C Kenny, E Cody.

Subs: B Ryan for Phelan (45); J Maher for A Murphy (54); P Walsh for Kenny (68); J Donnelly for Keoghan (69).

Wexford: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, C Devitt; S Donohoe, M O’Hanlon, P Foley; D O’Keeffe, K Foley; L Og McGovern, J O’Connor, O Foley; L Chin, C McDonald, R O’Connor.

Subs: C Flood for Devitt (inj 41); M Dwyer for J O’Connor (55); C Dunbar for K Foley (57); C McGuckin for O Foley (62); P Morris for McDonald (72).

Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, C Delaney, T Walsh; M Carey, P Deegan, R Reid; A Murphy, A Mullen; W Walsh, TJ Reid, T Phelan; M Keoghan, C Kenny, E Cody.

Subs: B Ryan for Phelan (45); J Maher for A Murphy (54); P Walsh for Kenny (68); J Donnelly for Keoghan (69).

Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).

Attendance: 13,565.


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