Friday 15 December 2017

Walsh leads revival as Cats cut loose to blitz Wexford

KILKENNY 3-20
WEXFORD 4-6
LEINSTER U-21 HC SEMI-FINAL

Kilkenny’s Cathal Kenny tries to get away from Willie Deveraux during the Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-21 Hurling Championship semi-final at Nowlan Park
Kilkenny’s Cathal Kenny tries to get away from Willie Deveraux during the Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-21 Hurling Championship semi-final at Nowlan Park

They were slow out of the blocks, but once Kilkenny flexed their muscles they pounded Wexford into submission and forced a knockout long before the end of this one-sided match at Nowlan Park last night.

The losers opened like an express train and had 1-4 on the scoreboard before Kilkenny knew what hit them. However, what followed from Wexford was poor and long before the end of proceedings the ticket into the final against Laois belonged to Kilkenny.

The winners turned a one-time, opening-half deficit of six points into a 2-9 to 1-5 lead by the break thanks to some slick hurling.

Within 14 seconds of the restart Kevin Kelly set Walter Walsh up for his second goal and it was more or less game over for the visitors. Then, it all went really downhill for Wexford in the 35th minute when defender Willie Devereaux was sent to the line after receiving a second yellow card. His team was already 3-12 to 1-5 down and fading fast.

The Cats, with Walsh, Richie Doyle, Ger Aylward, John Power, Geoff Brennan and Ollie Walsh among the stars, purred on smoothly. They were 3-18 to 2-5 in front before the Slaneysiders put in a late burst.

Kelly shot some lovely points, while Padraig Walsh, brother of senior star Tommy, was also on target.

Two smashing goals from close-in frees by Wexford's Jack Guiney, in the 52nd and 56th minutes, did little more than add a bit of gloss to his side's part of the scoreboard.

Wexford opened as if they were going to run away with the game. Thanks to an 11th minute goal from Barry Carton -- batted home from the edge of the square after a bullet-like shot by Gary Moore had been blocked out -- they led by 1-4 to 0-1 against hesitant opponents.

Within a minute Kilkenny were back in the game, courtesy of a solo goal from towering full-forward Walsh. From there to the end of the half they dominated as Wexford threw away chances and ran up eight wides by the break.

Wexford also failed to gain any reward from a 27th-minute penalty, when Guiney's well-struck shot was saved by Richie Doyle on the Kilkenny goalline.

Soon after Walsh's goal, the Cats began to move with more purpose. They picked up the pace with points from Kelly (two frees) before John Power, who received an eleventh-hour call-up in place of senior star Cillian Buckley, scored a brilliant individual goal. Power, brother of senior star, Richie, carried the sliotar along the endline before slipping it into the net past the advancing 'keeper.

Suddenly Kilkenny were all over the opposition. By half-time they turned a six-point deficit into a seven-point lead, 2-9 to 1-5.

They were flying and within 15 seconds of the restart the game was over as a contest.

The make-up of the Kilkenny team will leave fans wondering about the senior side to face Dublin in the Leinster championship in Portlaoise on Saturday.

Senior star Cillian Buckley, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, was picked to start at wing-forward, but he was withdrawn before the start.

This throws his participation in Saturday's match into doubt, because he aggravated the injury last week and has been unable to train at full pace since.

Scorers -- Kilkenny: K Kelly 0-9 (7f), W Walsh 2-1, J Power 1-1, G Aylward, M Gaffney 0-3 each, G Brennan, C Kenny, P Walsh 0-1 each. Wexford: J Guiney 2-1 (2-1f), M O'Regan 1-2, B Carton 1-1, I Byrne, G Moore 0-1 each.

Kilkenny -- D Walsh; J Corcoran, W Phelan, J Lyng; L Harney, R Doyle, B Kennedy; G Brennan, O Walsh; C Kenny, P Walsh, J Power; G Aylward, W Walsh, K Kelly. Subs: M Gaffney for C Kenny (43); P Buggy for K Kelly (51); P O'Carroll for R Doyle (53); O McGrath for J Power 56.

Wexford -- M Fanning; W Deveraux, M O'Hanlon, A Nolan; C Goff, J Lacey, D O'Keeffe; A Nolan, M Maloney; L Chin, M O'Regan, G Moore; L Og McGovern, J Guiney, B Carton. Subs: S O'Gorman for M Maloney (29); K Nimmo for A Nolan (38); I Byrne for B Carton (45); B O'Gorman for A Nolan (47); A Nash for L Og McGovern (54).

Ref -- D Hughes (Carlow).

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