Kilkenny’s sharpshooters pick off Wexford to take U21 crown

Model County were reduced to 14 men in the first half of Nowlan Park decider

Kilkenny celebrate their victory over Wexford in the  Bord Gais Energy Leinster  Under-21 Hurling Final at Nowlan Park. Photograph:  Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Kilkenny celebrate their victory over Wexford in the Bord Gais Energy Leinster Under-21 Hurling Final at Nowlan Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Kilkenny 0-30 Wexford 1-14

The Kilkenny under-21 hurlers returned to the Leinster throne after a classy win over 14-man Wexford at Nowlan Park.

The Cats had stars in all parts of the field – some could have played their way into the thinking of the onlooking senior manager Brian Cody for Saturday’s qualifier with Waterford – as they romped to their first provincial title since 2012.

The hosts were helped by a first-half red card for Wexford’s Brian Quigley, who was dismissed midway through the half for a pull on Richie Leahy. The reduction really hurt Wexford, who had been building a head of steam, and allowed a Kilkenny team filled with dangerous point scorers to exploit space and establish a lead the Model County couldn’t reel in.

Kilkenny opened brightly with points from Billy Ryan, Richie Leahy and Alan Murphy (free) but they were stunned when Wexford landed a hammer blow in the seventh minute, Stephen O’Gorman drilling the sliotar to the net after superbly fielding Joe O’Connor’s deep sideline cut.

The Cats had a chance to grab a quick reply and thought they had done just that when Liam Blanchfield cleverly flicked the sliotar over goalkeeper Darragh Hughes, but corner back Conor Firman was on hand to clear the ball off the line.

The game changed after Quigley’s dismissal, as Kilkenny used the extra space to rack up an impressive lead. They had plenty of scorers, with Leahy, Seán Morrissey and John Donnelly all on target before late points from Ryan and Blanchfield helped them go in eight clear at the interval (0-17 to 1-6).

Kilkenny didn’t let up in the second half, constantly picking off points that helped them leave Wexford in the distance. Helped by solid performances from Leahy, Luke Scanlon and Darren Mullen the Cats were relentless in their chase for the silverware.

Scanlon and Pat Lyng chipped in points from midfield, while subs Eoin Kenny and Shane Walsh also raised white flags. Centre back Jason Cleere also got in on the act, firing over two late points that put the seal on an impressive performance.

KILKENNY: D Brennan; M Cody, C Delaney, J Burke; D Mullen, J Cleere (0-3), T Walsh; L Scanlon (0-4), P Lyng (0-1); A Murphy (0-5, all frees), J Donnelly (0-2), S Morrissey (0-2); R Leahy (0-5), L Blanchfield (0-1), B Ryan (0-2).

Subs: R Bergin for Burke (31 mins), J Bergin (0-3, all frees) for Murphy (39 mins), E Kenny (0-1) for Blanchfield (44 mins), J Walsh for Ryan (50 mins), S Walsh (0-1) for Donnelly (57 mins).

WEXFORD: D Hughes; C Firman, D Byrne, S Reck; B Quigley, A Maddock, G Molloy; J O’Connor (0-1), R White; S Kelly, R O’Connor (0-2), J Coleman (0-5, all frees); C Dunbar (0-2), S O’Gorman (1-0), H O’Connor.

Subs: J Firman for Kelly (31 mins), D Codd (0-1) for H O’Connor (35 mins), J Doyle (0-2, one free) for Coleman (40 mins), C Moore (0-1) for White (45 mins), D Pepper for O’Gorman (48 mins).

Referee: P Murphy (Carlow)

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