BY NIALL SHERRY
Photos by Maurice Walsh
Cody’s charges will face-off against Galway in provincial final
AIB Leinster GAA Senior Hurling Championship
UPMC Nowlan Park, Saturday 21st May
Kilkenny 1-18 Wexford 1-22
Wexford arrived at UPMC Nowlan Park knowing that only an unexpected victory would ensure their season would continue. And in true sporting fashion, the neighbours produced their best performance to date to topple Kilkenny.
Despite the 4-point defeat, Brian Cody’s charges qualified for next month’s provincial decider, where they will once again be reunited with their former son, Henry Shefflin and his Galway side.
If the Cats are to reverse their earlier defeat to the tribesmen, they will surely need to perform better than they did last Saturday.
There were two changes to the XV named, with Walter Walsh replacing John Donnelly and Tom Phelan in for Padraig Walsh. The decision not to start the Tullaroan man was on the tongues of many before throw-in, given the great form that P Walsh has been in this season.
Darragh Eagan’s men, clearly still smarting from their draw against Westmeath, started quickly, and had the first score on the board when Jack O’Connor struck over a might long-range score, just seconds after the throw-in. Naomh Eanna’s Conor McDonald then doubled the visitors lead when he struck over a fine point. The Cats then fired over three-in-a-row, the first from Mikey Carey and the next two from TJ Reid.
Kilkenny looked to have seized the initiative, when on eight minutes, referee Fergal Horgan played a good advantage when Cian Kenny was being fouled. The Village man laid the ball off to TJ, who moved it onto Martin Keoghan who rifled the sliotar to the net. Mossy then pointed to leave the home side a few points to the good, but it was the visitors shooting accuracy that was letting them down early on, hitting 5 wides in the opening quarter.
Lee Chin then notched his first free of the day, before midfielder Diarmuid O’Keefe hit one from out the field, to bring the Model County back in touch. The in-form Adrian Mullen then slotted over a lovely point on 16 minutes to move his side 4 ahead. That was to be Kilkenny’s last point from play in the opening period.
Wexford then hit five scores on the bounce, between the 17th and 26th minutes. Captain Lee Chin notch 2 frees and there were also scores from Simon Donohue, O’Keefe and his St Anne’s club mate Liam Óg McGovern. Kilkenny would break a 15-minute scoring drought when TJ slotted over a free in the 30th minute of play. Rory O’Connor then struck a lovely point, having taken a lovely catch before turning and shooting. TJ tagged on another free before the Yellowbellies struck for a major.
Mark Fanning’s puck-out was picked up by Oisin Foley who outpaced the home defence before striking an unstoppable shot past Eoin Murphy in the Cats goal. Kilkenny had their keeper to thank shortly after, when we somehow managed to save a blistering effort from Conor McDonald. He’s an All-Star keeper alright.
Tj Reid and Lee Chin exchanged frees, before Tipperary ref Horgan blew for half time with Wexford leading 1-11 to 1-8. The Cats will have been relieved to be only 3 points in arrears at the break, thankful for Eoin Murphy’s wonderful save and some poor shooting from Darragh Eagan’s side who registered 9 wides in the opening 35 minutes.
Some strong words must have spoken in the home changing room, as the Noresiders came out with a little more fire in their bellies. An early second half clash involving Paddy Deegan and Jack O’Connor saw Wexford boss Daragh Eagan step in to separate the pair. From the resulting sideline ball, Walter Walsh took possession and powered forward before sending over a nice point. Cian Kenny then won a free which TJ converted to leave just the minimum between the sides.
Between the 43rd and 53rd minute, the sides shared seven points, with Kilkenny outscoring the visitors four to three. A brace of frees from Lee Chin nudged Wexford two ahead, but Billy Ryan then reduced the deficit when we fired over a lovely point from the sideline. TJ then popped over another free to level matters with 61 minutes on the clock.
The Model County appeared to have a little more left in the tank than their hosts, and in the final period of the game they registered six points to just two from the Cats in response including a crazy effort from sub Mikie Dwyer. Adrian Mullen and late sub, Padraig Walsh raised flags for the home side, but it was too little too late as the Slaneysiders ran out four-point winners in UPMC Nowlan Park. Final score, Kilkenny 1-18, Wexford 1-22.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; M Butler, C Delaney, T Walsh; M Carey (0-02), R Reid, P Deegan; A Murphy, A Mullen (0-02); W Walsh (0-01), TJ Reid (0-10; 0-08f; 1 65), T Phelan; C Kenny, M Keoghan (1-1), E Cody.
Subs: B Ryan (0-01) for Phelan (44), J Maher for A Murphy (53), P Walsh (0-01) for Kenny (67), J Donnelly for Keoghan (69).
Wexford: M Fanning; S Donohoe (0-02), L Ryan (0-01), C Devitt; M O’Hanlon, D Reck, P Foley; D O’Keeffe (0-02), L Chin (0-09; 0-07 f); J O’Connor (0-01), K Foley, L Óg McGovern (0-01); O Foley (1-00), C McDonald (0-01), R O’Connor. (0-02).
Subs: C Flood (0-01) for Devitt (41), M Dwyer (0-01) for J O’Connor (54), C Dunbar (0-01) for K Foley (56), C McGuckin for O Foley (61), P Morris for McDonald (72).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)
>> SHERRY SAYS…..
So, thanks to Henry’s Galway defeating Dublin in Salthill, Kilkenny advance to the provincial decider where they will meet…. Galway of course!
That’s scheduled for next weekend at Croker. If it is anywhere near the excitement of the Salthill showdown, we will be in for a cracker!
What of Wexford’s win in our back yard? Based on the last few games, I certainly didn’t see Darragh Eagan’s men winning by 4. On the balance of play, the Model County deserved the win, and with it they breathed new life into their season.
Their captain and star man Lee Chin turned up big time last Saturday. He led his players to an unexpected victory, scoring 0-9 and earning the MOTM award. In Damien Reck, they had a defender that was prepared to put all on the line and did a great job on nullifying the threat of Eoin Cody.
For the Cats, the two Mikey’s, Carey and Butler stood out and are quickly becoming nailed on selections in the Kilkenny starting XV.
The ‘keyboard warriors’ were out in force following the Wexford defeat. “Long ball merchant”, “no plan b”, “should have changed manager in 2016”. Whatever the merits of these opinions, we need to get behind the players and management team for what remains of the championship season.
Que Sera, Sera…