Kilkenny 1-18 Wexford 1-22
So plenty of fire in the yellow bellies still, Wexford digging deep within themselves and somewhere else too to keep their summer and championship alive after scoring a brilliant win over close rivals Kilkenny.
The end result doesn’t change things for Kilkenny, who still press on to meet Galway in the Leinster final, their fifth successive appearance. It changes everything for Wexford though, who needed to win here to skip above Dublin on points difference after they lost to Galway, and made well sure of it too, a first championship win over Kilkenny since 2017, after losing last year’s semi-final by eight points.
After building a three-point cushion at half-time, Wexford made sure they kept themselves alive throughout the second half too, even after Kilkenny drew ominously level again on the hour mark thanks to the free-taking of TJ Reid.
Wexford were in no mood to concede anything after that, Lee Chin leading from the front and by example as ever, finishing with 0-9, two from play. Scores from replacements Conal Flood, Mikie Dwyer and Cathal Dunbar also ensured Wexford finished the stronger. They ended up with 12 different scorers, the near complete team performance and by some distance their best of the season.
That end game included Damien Reck's incredible goal-line interception on 68 minutes, Eoin Cody seemingly through in front of goal, and there was no let up even with four minutes of added-time, Wexford simply refusing to back down.
Pádraig Walsh came off the bench for Kilkenny to bring it back to a three-point game in added-time, before Dunbar had the last say with a terrific point down through the middle – another of the many wow points of the second half.
Played in front of an eager 13,565 on a pleasant evening in the Marble City, Wexford arrived with a single win over Laois, drawing with Galway and Westmeath, losing to Dublin: on the back of that alone they were bound to rally with something.
The first half played up and out in a near knock-out frenzy, momentum swinging one-way only, then right back around in the other, treated with some spectacular scores and near misses.
After exchanging two points each, Kilkenny grabbed that proper momentum first, in the eighth minute, taking full advantage of a free called on Cian Kenny, TJ Reid keeping the ball alive to feed the ball out to Martin Keoghan, who smashed the net – promptly adding to the 2-1 he hit against Dublin last weekend. Keoghan then scored from play, and with that Wexford were five points down after 10 minutes, the early signs not looking good – hitting five wide in that period to boot.
Soon they fought back with that abundant verve and spirit, Chin scoring his first free, quickly followed by the trademark long-range point from Diarmuid O’Keeffe, deep inside his own half.
Keoghan then set up a neat score for Adrian Mullen, settled well at midfield, bringing Kilkenny to 1-5; they wouldn't score for another 15 minutes.
Wexford got busy, two more frees from Chin, Simon Donohoe hitting from distance and another from O'Keeffe bringing them level on 23 minutes, all that momentum now with Wexford, and they'd carry it through to half-time.
Clearly invigorated, Wexford started hunting for goals, Liam Óg McGovern scoring from distance to put them ahead, before TJ Reid ended Kilkenny’s wait for a score with another free on the half-hour.
That Wexford goal was coming, though, and on 34 minutes, latching straight on to a long puck-out, Oisín Foley drove it home with considerable style, into the top right of Eoin Murphy’s goal from close range. Nothing he could do about it. In the two minutes of added-time, Conor McDonald also latched on to a long ball from Rory O’Connor, close to Murphy’s goal, and it seemed he’d have no say in that either, only he did, brilliantly saving this time.
Still, with eight different scorers in that first half, Wexford were fully deserved of their three-point advantage, 1-11 to 1-8, also sending nine wide in that period. They might well have been comfortable – still it didn’t matter in the end, Wexford alive and fire the old belly too.
KILKENNY: 1 E Murphy; 4 T Walsh, 3 C Delaney, 7 P Deegan; 5 M Carey (0-2), 6 R Reid, 2 M Butler; 8 A Murphy, 9 A Mullen (0-2); 23 W Walsh (0-1), 11 TJ Reid (0-10, eight frees, one 65), 26 T Phelan; 13 C Kenny, 15 E Cody, 14 M Keoghan (1-1).
Subs: 24 B Ryan (0-1, a sideline) for Phelan (45 mins), 22 James Maher for Murphy (54), 12 P Walsh (0-1) for Kenny, 10 J Donnelly for Keoghan (both 69).
WEXFORD: 1 M Fanning; 6 D Reck, 3 L Ryan (0-1), 4 C Devitt; 2 S Donoghue (0-2), 5 M O'Hanlon, 7 P Foley; 12 L Óg McGovern (0-1), 8 D O'Keeffe (0-2); 10 J O'Connor (0-1), 11 K Foley, 13 O Foley (1-0); 15 R O'Connor (0-2), 14 C McDonald (0-1), 9 L Chin (0-9, seven frees).
Subs: 21 C Flood (0-1) for Devitt (42 mins, inj), 20 M Dwyer (0-1) for J O'Connor (55 mins), 19 C Dunbar (0-1) for Foley (57 mins), 23 C McGuckin for Foley (62 mins).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).