Saturday 24 August 2019

Chip off old block Shefflin sees Cats home to foil Wexford's Leinster treble

Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-20 HC Final: Kilkenny 1-17 Wexford 0-18

Wexford's Diarmuid Doyle tries to keep Conor Flynn of Kilkenny at bay during last night's Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-20HC final. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Wexford's Diarmuid Doyle tries to keep Conor Flynn of Kilkenny at bay during last night's Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-20HC final. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Evan Shefflin played a captain's part, firing 1-2 from midfield, as Kilkenny denied Wexford a famous provincial hat-trick - their first since 1970 - with a composed display at Innovate Wexford Park last night.

Senior star Adrian Mullen didn't feature - perhaps with the bigger picture and their All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Limerick on Saturday week in mind - but DJ Carey's side still had enough to claim the spoils despite a nervy finale.

Wexford's Cian Fitzhenry in action against Mikey Butler of Kilkenny. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Wexford's Cian Fitzhenry in action against Mikey Butler of Kilkenny. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Shefflin proclaimed that "we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for DJ" as he collected provincial silverware and Carey again staked his claim to be in the conversation whenever Brian Cody does eventually call it a day as Kilkenny senior boss.

Wexford - playing with the aid of a stiff breeze - were the first to settle in difficult conditions with Ross Banville firing over two frees but they were dealt a blow as Seán Keane Carroll limped off after four minutes.

The Cats were quickly level with corner-back James Brennan striding forward to score from distance before the lively Seán Ryan sent over a lovely score. Seán O'Connor was similarly dangerous at the other end and fired over the first of his three points.

The Cats were beginning to motor, however, with Eoin Cody pointing while Ryan blazed wide when haring down on goal soon after. Niall Brassil kept them ticking over with a free before Shefflin - nephew of Kilkenny legend Henry - reacted quickest to a parried Cody shot and lashed to the net to leave them 1-4 to 0-3 ahead.

Kilkenny players celebrate after the match. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Kilkenny players celebrate after the match. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Skipper Charlie McGuckin - son of Offaly 1994 All-Ireland winner Shane - replied with a lovely point followed by a score from Jack Reck and it was tit for tat until the break.

Shefflin tagged on another before Banville sent over a free and Brassil (two frees) and O'Connor traded a pair of scores each to leave the visitors two up at the break (1-7 to 0-8).

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Kilkenny senior panellist Brassil opened the second-half scoring but Wexford were level by the 38th minute with another score from McGuckin, quickly followed by two Banville frees and another score from substitute Cian Fitzhenry (1-9 to 0-12).

The Cats weathered the Wexford storm with David Blanchfield outstanding from wing-back - he fired over two inspirational scores - to leave them four up once again by the end of the third quarter.

A plucky home side had no interest in lying down in front of 6,612 screaming fans, however, and a fine Conor Scallan effort kept them in touch.

But when Michael Carey - son of DJ - came up from defence to put them five clear in the 54th minute, it looked like Kilkenny would coast home. Wexford were having none of it and despite panicking somewhat and shooting for goals with time still on their side, they hit the next three points to leave two in it with as many minutes remaining.

Shefflin showed his leadership to settle Kilkenny with a 64th-minute score but the drama wasn't finished and sub Chris Turner almost forced extra-time when blazing over among a ruck of bodies with the last chance of the game.

After losing minor and senior Leinster deciders to the Model already this summer, the Cats bit back but with both sides through to the U-20 All-Ireland semi-finals, they could meet again before the year is out.

SCORERS - Kilkenny: N Brassil 0-5 (3f, 1 '65); E Shefflin 1-2; S Ryan, E Cody, D Blanchfield 0-2 each; J Brennan, S Donnelly, E O'Shea, M Carey 0-1 each. Wexford: R Banville 0-7f; S O'Connor 0-3; S McGuckin, C Fitzhenry, C Turner (1f) 0-2 each; C Scallan, J Reck 0-1 each.

KILKENNY - D Mason; J Brennan, C Flynn, M Butler; C Hearly, M Carey, D Blanchfield; E O'Shea, E Shefflin; S Donnelly, N Brassil, A Brennan; J Bergin, S Ryan, E Cody. Subs: C Brennan for Bergin (41), J Kelly for Donnelly (55), J Dowd for O'Shea (59), J Ryan for J Brennan (65).

WEXFORD - J Lawlor; C O'Connor, E Molloy, E O'Leary; C Scallan, M Kelly, N Murphy; C McGuckin, E Murphy; S Keane Carroll, C Clancy, J Reck; S O'Connor, R Banville, D Doyle. Subs: C Fitzhenry for Keane Carroll inj (4), O Carthy for Doyle (h-t), C Turner for O'Connor (54), B Maddock for Banville inj (58).

REF - M Murtagh (Westmeath)

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