SCORING bursts in either half helped Kilkenny collect their fourth straight provincial title at this level at Nowlan Park last night against a battling Wexford side.
Led by Eoin Murphy and Ger Shelly, the Cats had too much firepower for Wexford to cope with although the final scoreline was somewhat flattering to the victors.
Kilkenny led by six at half-time, 1-9 to 1-3, but looked in danger of being caught when Nigel Higgins fired home a venomous goal to cut the gap to two (1-12 to 2-7) with 15 minutes to play.
Sensing trouble, Shelly helped Kilkenny back on their way with a goal, before JJ Farrell and Murphy moved them 2-14 to 2-7 ahead.
Having got so close once, there was little resistance from Wexford after that. Following a tame start to the game, Wexford had ended the first quarter with a slender 1-1 to 0-3 lead, as Tomas O'Leary gathered a breaking ball and hammered it to the Kilkenny net to give the underdogs hope.
However, that goal stirred the Cats into action, as points from Shelly and Murphy (free) drew them level by the 22nd minute.
Just a few minutes later they were in front again, Murphy giving Wexford goalkeeper Ben O'Connor no chance with a searing strike from close range.
They quickly built on that advantage, as the forwards clicked into gear. Adrian Stapleton grabbed a brace of points, with Murphy adding another as they moved six clear at the halfway stage.
Scorers -- Kilkenny: E Murphy 1-7 (0-5f, 0-1 '65'), G Shelly 1-2, A Stapleton 0-3, JJ Farrell 0-2, K Joyce, W O'Dwyer, W Walsh, S Burke, S Kenny 0-1 each. Wexford: T O'Leary, N Higgins 1-1 each, J O'Connor 0-3f, B Jordan, P Whitley, C O'Shaughnessy 0-1 each.
Kilkenny -- R O'Neill; I Duggan, M Walsh, S Phelan; P J Rowe, S Byrne, R Doyle; C Conway, K Joyce; E Murphy, W O'Dwyer, W Walsh; A Stapleton, J J Farrell, G Shelly Subs: M Grace for Conway (36); S Burke for Byrne (46); L Harney for Rowe (57); E Hickey for Stapleton (57); S Kenny for Farrell (59).
Wexford -- B O'Connor; D Kehoe, E Boggan, B Kehoe; B Jordan, B Hobbs, B Travers; P Whitley, C O'Shaughnessy; P Murphy, F Cullen, E Furlong; T O'Leary, N Higgins, B O'Leary. Subs: J O'Connor for Murphy (34); J Dwyer for Kehoe (50); J Breen for O'Leary (54).
Ref -- P Murphy (Carlow).