Kilkenny and Wexford set up under-21 hurling final

The Cats were behind for much of the game but avoided an upset against Westmeath

Kilkenny’s Eoin Kenny with Westmeath’s Sean Quinn. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Kilkenny 1-21 Westmeath 1-11

Kilkenny got their expected win in Wednesday’s Leinster under-21 hurling semi-final in Mullingar but the scoreline was harsh on Westmeath who looked like they might replicate last year’s historic win at the same venue for three quarters of what was a keenly contested game.

Wind-assisted Westmeath hurled very well from the outset, with Niall Mitchell pointing after a mere seven seconds. An opportunist goal in the 18th minute by James Goonery, put the hosts 1-4 to 0-5 ahead. A Killian Doyle free with the last puck of the half left them ahead by 1-7 to 0-9 at the break.

Kilkenny played with more urgency on the change of ends and their substitutes made telling contributions. They led by just a single point (0-14 to 1-10) midway through the second half but their superior power and skill set showed in the final quarter. Sean Maher pulled off two great saves to keep Westmeath in touch but he was eventually beaten by the outstanding Alan Murphy in the last minute of normal time.


KILKENNY: D Brennan; M Cody, C Delaney, J Burke; C Doheny, J Cleere, T Walsh; L Scanlon (0-1), P Lyng (0-2); A Murphy (1-8, seven frees, one '65'), J Donnelly (0-3), S Morrissey (0-3); S Walsh, L Blanchfield (0-1), B Ryan. Subs: D Mullen for Doheny (h-t), R Leahy (0-2) for S Walsh (h-t), E Kenny (0-1) for Blanchfield (43), R Bergin for Burke (57), C Hennessy for Donnelly (60 + 1).

WESTMEATH: S Maher; S Quinn, C Shaw, D Giles; N McKenna, D Egerton, J Rabbitte; M Daly, S Clavin; D Clinton, K Doyle (0-8, six frees), N Mitchell (0-3); J Goonery (1-0), C Doyle, J Galvin. Subs: D Finn for Rabbitte (46), J Bermingham for Goonery (57), A Loughlin for Clinton (60 + 1).

Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).

Wexford 3-16 Carlow 1-12

Three superbly taken goals from corner-forward Cathal Dunbar inspired Wexford to a hugely impressive 10 point victory over a battling Carlow outfit in this Bord Gais Energy Leinster Under-21 hurling championship semi-final at Innovate Wexford Park.

Carlow, who came into the game as underdogs, opened impressively with Kevin McDonald pointing within 30 seconds of the start. While Wexford’s Joe O’Connor responded almost immediately with the levelling point it was two Chris Nolan pointed frees that had the visitors leading 0-3 to 0-1 after 10 minutes.

While Carlow were continuing to impose themselves on the game, it was Wexford who struck for the games opening goal, when a long ball to the fringe of the square broke for the alert Cathal Dunbar to finish explosively from 14 metres, giving his side a 1-1 to 0-3 lead after 12 minutes. Not to be denied, Carlow responded to level through a Nolan pointed free, but it was Wexford who gradually took the initiative.

Wexford struck back with four unanswered points through Joe Coleman, with three and a long range effort from wing-back Gary Molloy to lead 1-5 to 0-4 five minutes from the break. It was Wexford who finished the half strongest with Dunbar crashing home his second goal, having collected a long Darragh Hughes puck-out, while a Coleman pointed free left Wexford leading 2-6 to 0-5 at the interval.

Wexford introduced the exam-tied Rory O’Connor at the interval and he marked his introduction with a point inside 30 seconds of the restart. This led to a flourish of Wexford points from Joe Colemn to extend them into a 2-10 to 0-5 lead, with Carlow having their opening second half point from the accurate Chris Nolan after 38 minutes.

Carlow were battling to stay in contention as the sides exchanged points through Darragh Pepper and Nolan, while a Conor Foley 41st minute gal reduced the deficit to 2-11 to 1-7. When Nolan added a pointed free Carlow looked like bouncing back, but at the end of the third quarter a superb catch and run from Cathal Dunbar ended with a superb goal leaving his side leading 3-11 to 1-8.

With the game now moving into the closing 10 minutes Wexford had taken the initiative with Coleman firing over some over some excellent points leaving them comfortable winners in the end after what was an impressive performance particularly through the second thirty minutes.

Scorers – Wexford: J Coleman (7f) 0-10, C Dunbar 3-0, D Pepper, R O'Connor 0-2 each, G Molloy, J O'Connor 0-1 each. Carlow: C Nolan (7f) 0-8, C Foley 1-0, K McDonald 0-2, O Roberts, S Brennan 0-1 each.

WEXFORD: D Hughes; B Quigley, D Byrne, S Reck; R White, A Maddock, G Molloy; J O'Connor, D Barden; H O'Connor, S Kelly, J Coleman; C Dunbar, S O'Gorman, D Pepper. Subs: C Firman for Barden (ht), R O'Connor for Kelly (ht), J Firman for H O'Connor (43), C Moore for White (59).

CARLOW: D Jordan; A Casey, A Amond, P Coughlan; G Lawlor, E Redmond, A Dunne; G Coady, K McDonald; J Murphy, C Foley, O Roberts; C Tracey, C Nolan, S Whelan. Subs: J Wall for Lawlor (b.s. 13), Lawlor for Wall (18), S Brennan for Murphy (23).

Referee: J O'Brien (Laois).