When Wexford, who led by two points at half-time, increased their lead within minutes of the restart through a Stephen Nolan free, the champions looked in real trouble. But it was the accuracy of Larkin that eventually saw them through, but not without a real battle.
Wexford were battling for every ball and with Nolan punishing every indiscretion in the visitors’ defence they led 0-14 to 1-10 at the end of the third quarter. But it was Larkin’s goal, finishing a rebound after his 21m free had been saved, that changed the course of the game.
Wexford had a goal opportunity minutes later but Nolan saw his 21m free rise over the bar. That proved their last goal chance despite laying siege to the Kilkenny goal in the closing minutes.
It was important for Wexford that they got a good start and this they managed to achieve mainly through the scoring exploits of Stephen Nolan and a solid defence that was giving the highly-rated Kilkenny attack little room in which to display their undoubted skills.
After Eoin Larkin and Pierce White had exchanged points in the opening two minutes very little was to separate the sides during the opening quarter at the end of which they were deadlocked 0-3 apiece.
Eoin Larkin pointed the reigning champions back in front on 18 minutes, while two minutes later a Willie O’Dwyer run through the centre opened the Wexford defence and his lay-off was finished superbly to the net by James Fitzpatrick. Wexford showed their battling qualities for it was in the remaining ten minutes of the half that Nolan stepped into the game striking five superb points, three frees, while Kilkenny could only manage an Eoin Larkin pointed free and a point from Eoin Reid, but it was the homeside who led 0-11 to 1-6 at the interval.
Scorers for Kilkenny: E Larkin 1-7, 6 frees; J Fitzpatrick 1-1; E Reid, M Rice 0-2 each; C Hoyne 0-1.
Wexford: S Nolan 0-9, 7 frees; M Kelly 0-3; J Berry, M Doyle, P White 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: D Fogarty, D Cody, J Tennyson, P Holden, J Dalton, P J Delaney, S Maher, M Fennelly, E O'Gorman, W O'Dwyer, E Larkin, R Power, E Reid, M Rice, J Fitzpatrick. Subs: C Hoyne for Cody; D McCormack for Fitzpatrick.
WEXFORD: D Flynn, J Roche, B Kenny, A Kavanagh, J Tonks, C Kenny, R Kehoe, C. Breen, M Heffernan, P Doran, M Doyle, J Berry, P White, S Nolan, M Kelly. Subs: D Foran for White; P J Nolan for Berry.
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).