Wexford land first Leinster title in 15 years with thrilling victory over Kilkenny
Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park
WEXFORD HAVE ENDED a 15-year wait for provincial glory, seeing off Kilkenny to land the Bob O’Keeffe Cup for the 22nd time in their history.
Matthew O’Hanlon and Lee Chin lift the Bob O’Keeffe Cup.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Brian Cody came into this game in search of his 16th Leinster title but it was Davy Fitzgerald who won his first trophy as manager of Wexford.
There were rapturous scenes at the full-time whistle as Wexford celebrated the provincial title, achieved in Fitzgerald’s third year in charge. His sweeper system is often the subject of criticism inside and outside the county. After this win though, Fitzgerald’s methods should be questioned no more.
Late in this thrilling encounter, where there was never more than a couple of points between the sides, Rory O’Connor won a penalty for Wexford that Mark Fanning dispatched it into the bottom corner.
Liam Og McGovern followed it up with a huge point and Chin slotted over a free to deliver the victory in front of a sizeable 51,842 crowd.
They were beaten by Galway in the 2017 decider but huge performances from Lee Chin, Rory O’Connor and Conor McDonald secured a famous victory. That trio hit 0-17 of Wexford’s 1-23 total and their fingerprints were all over this win.
Kilkenny were right in the game until the finish although a wide tally of 12 compared to Wexford’s three told its own story.
Davy Fitzgerald never enjoyed a victory against Brian Cody’s Kilkenny during his playing days. As Wexford manager, the Clare native has now beaten Kilkenny six times across Walsh Cup, league and championship.
It’s Kilkenny’s longest drought in Leinster since they went four years without a title in the mid-90s.
Mark Fanning celebrates his crucial goal.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
After going scoreless from play in their drawn game two weeks ago, it took TJ Reid all of two minutes to raise a white flag from open play here. He was the winner of his match-up with Matthew O’Hanlon on this occasion, finishing the game with 0-12, including four from play.
Yet it was Wexford who started the brighter and showed the higher energy levels early on. Rory O’Connor buzzed about the forward line and slotted over fine four first-half scores.
With the wind at their backs, Wexford used Mark Fanning’s puck-outs as a launch pad, where they targeted the middle of the Kilkenny defence. Reid’s frees kept the Cats in touch and eventually, they started to win clean ball on the half-forward line.
Chin burned Alan Murphy down the flank and fed Simon Donohoe for a fine score from distance after 20 minutes. Then Kilkenny won a 21m free after Model sweeper Kevin Foley hauled down Murphy in front of goals.
As Reid stood over it, he picked out the run of Colin Fennelly to his right, but a free out was awarded as the ball didn’t travel the required distance. Within seconds, Chin was slotting over a placed ball at the far end for a two-point swing.
Five of Kilkenny’s front six had a score from play during the opening 35 minutes, as they went in ahead by 15-14.
Colin Fennelly sees a goal chance saved.
Source: Gary Carr/INPHO
Fennelly almost rattled the back of the net in the 41st minute after he robbed Kevin Foley, but Fanning bravely stopped the strike with his helmet. O’Keeffe grabbed a second trademark score from midfield while at the far end the Cats fired three straight wides.
Adrian Mullen was Kilkenny’s biggest scoring threat from play, although his influence wilted in the final quarter.
Chin lifted the roof off the stadium with a booming pointed free from the halfway line, moving his side two clear. Kilkenny went on a run of three scores but then Wexford’s dominance of the midfield exchanges became more pronounced and they started to pick off points from distance.
They were deadlocked at 0-21 apiece entering the final ten minutes when Reid took out the defence with a diagonal run and popped over. Drama ensued after Rory O’Connor showed a serious turn of pace before he was hauled down by Enda Morrissey. Goalkeeper Fanning buried the penalty low past Eoin Murphy.
From the next play, Liam Og McGovern put Wexford three ahead with five minutes left. Reid pointed a free and Kilkenny chased a late goal that never arrived.
Lee Chin celebrates a late score.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Scorers for Wexford: Lee Chin 0-9 (0-7f, 0-1 65), Conor McDonald and Rory O’Connor 0-4 each, Mark Fanning 1-0 (1-0 pen), Diarmuid O’Keeffe 0-2, Simon Donohoe, Paul Morris, Liam Og McGovern and Jack O’Connor 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-12 (0-5f, 0-3 65), Adrian Mullen 0-3, Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly 0-2 each, Alan Murphy, James Maher, Eoin Murphy (0-1f) and Ger Aylward 0-1.
1. Mark Fanning (Glynn Barntown)
7. Shaun Murphy (Oulart The Ballagh)
3. Liam Ryan (Rapparees)
4. Simon Donohoe (Shelmaliers)
8. Kevin Foley (Rapparees)
6. Matthew O’Hanlon (St James’)
5. Paudie Foley (Crossabeg Ballymurn)
17. Shane Reck (Oylegate Glenbrien)
10. Liam Óg McGovern (St Anne’s)
9. Diarmuid O’Keeffe (St Anne’s)
22. Jack O’Connor (St Martin’s)
11. Lee Chin (Faythe Harriers)
14. Rory O’Connor (St Martin’s)
12. Conor McDonald (Naomh Éanna)
15. Paul Morris (Ferns St Aidan’s)
18. Conor Firman (St Martin’s) for Murphy (blood sub, 14 – 16)
18. Firman for Reck (49)
13. Cathal Dunbar (Naomh Éanna) for Morris (59)
20. David Dunne (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy) for McGovern (65)
24. Harry Kehoe (Cloughbown) for McDonald (72)
1. Eoin Murphy (Glenmore)
2. Paul Murphy (Danesfort)
3. Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels)
6. Pádraig Walsh (Tullaroan)
7. Enda Morrissey (Bennettsbridge)
5. Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels)
4. Joey Holden (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
25. James Maher (St Lachtain’s)
9. Conor Fogarty (Erin’s Own)
10. Richie Leahy (The Rower Inistioge)
11. Walter Walsh (Tullogher Rosbercon)
31. TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
20. Alan Murphy (Glenmore)
14. Colin Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
15. Adrian Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
23. Ger Aylward (Glenmore) for Mullen (blood sub, 39 – 41)
23. Aylward for Murphy (42)
13. Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan) for Walter Walsh (56)
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)
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