Cats take back Leinster SHC title

Brian Cody's Kilkenny have reclaimed the Leinster SHC title - beating holders Wexford in an action-packed final played out in front of 35,010 spectators at Croke Park.

GUINNESS LEINSTER SHC FINAL: FT:

Kilkenny 0-22 Wexford 1-16, Croke Park

Brian Cody's Kilkenny have reclaimed the Leinster SHC title - beating holders Wexford in an action-packed final played out in front of 35,010 spectators at Croke Park.

The Cats lifted their 62nd senior provincial crown and the newly-installed Bob O'Keeffe Cup - a Yorkshire-based racing trophy which was acquired recently by the GAA to replaced the battered old one - after an epic battle with the 2004 champions.

Wexford, bidding for successive championship defeats of their great rivals for the first time since 1996-97, made a bilstering start and had Cody's charges - who were minus benched legend DJ Carey - on the ropes, and down by seven clear points by the 14th-minute.

Paul Carley and Rory Jacob (0-2) ensured an early three-point buffer for the Model men before captain Michael Jacob slotted over a fourth from a crafty Adrian Fenlon set-up.

Kilkenny's championship top scorer Henry Shefflin opened their account from a 12th-minute free, but three minutes later, the Wexford hordes were celebrating a goal.

James Ryall's attempted clearance was blocked down, snapped up by Michael Jacob and he showed great awareness to turn and feed the unmarked Dessie Mythen who flashed an unstoppable shot to the bottom right corner of the Kilkenny net.

Rory Jacob tagged on an immediate point for a 1-5 to 0-1 lead and Wexford were motoring. More is the pity that this was the time Cody's Cats awoke from their nap.

Shefflin (free) traded points with Mitch Jacob, then Eoin Larkin found his range from 30 metres out before Wexford centre-forward Eoin Quigley scored the point of the match - trapping the sliotar in mid-air before lashing a thunderous drive over on 21 minutes.

Shefflin increased his influence by winning and pointing a '65, and successive overs from Shefflin (free), Larkin (0-2), Conor Phelan, who took Carey's place, Richie Power and Tommy Walsh soon had Kilkenny back level at 0-10 to 1-7.

Declan Ruth managed to push Wexford back in front in first half injury-time, but with the last puck of the half, Shefflin squared things up again.

Who had the greater will to win in the second half? For a time it looked like Seamus Murphy's Wexford side might hold sway.

Quigley had another glorious effort sandwiched by a brace from Walsh, and Rory Jacob, substitute Redmond Barry and McCarthy all found the target to push Wexford back in front.

Goalscorer Mythen traded scores with Shefflin (free), Kilkenny sub Eoin McCormack and Power exhanged points with Jordan, while Wexford's bulldozing defender Doc O'Connor reacted brilliantly to direct away a McCormack goal shot.

Shefflin tied things back at 0-17 to 1-14 with twenty minutes remaining in a pulsating encounter.

Kilkenny drove on and points from Brian Barry and Shefflin, notching his eighth free, gave them a bit of a daylight. A clinching goal was never going to come for last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists however.

Wexford goalkeeper Damien Fitzhenry was in magnificent form and three times he kept out what looked odds-on to be certain Cats' goals. Most notably, the Model stopper dived full-length to bat out a Martin Comerford shot.

Walsh's fourth point play was cancelled out by Rory Jacob (free) and a fifth Jacob placed ball on 62 minutes pulled Wexford back within a single score at 1-16 to 0-20 down.

Showing every bit of the experience which saw them edge Wexford nineteen times in previous Leinster deciders, Kilkenny bridged a three-point gap by the finish as Power and sub Eddie Brennan cracked over two late points to two final wides from the vanquished holders.

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