Kilkenny sail through Leinster final

Wexford 1-12 Kilkenny 2-24, Croke Park

Wexford 1-12 Kilkenny 2-24, Croke Park

It was a cakewalk for the Cats as Kilkenny easily retained the Bob O'Keeffe Cup with a 15-point hammering of Wexford in today's Leinster SHC final at Croke Park.

The win saw Brian Cody collect an eighth Leinster championship since he was appointed as Kilkenny manager in November 1998, with 2004 being the only year he has missed out.

Wexford boss John Meyler said his team were 'just not good enough' and Kilkenny, were operating in fifth gear while we were in second, and the score-line undoubtedly backed up his statements.

Two goals from Willie O'Dwyer inside the first 12 minutes saw Kilkenny squeeze the life out of this Wexford side. The Cats led 2-11 to 0-6 at half-time with Henry Shefflin and Martin Comerford firing over some classy points.

Kilkenny captain Shefflin displayed two sublime pieces of skill in the opening half. He set up O'Dwyer's second goal as he outfoxed Declan Ruth with a superb flick over his head and then a first-time hand-pass for O'Dwyer to rifle home.

The Ballyhale star then showed great balance and footwork to land a stunning point off his right as Kilkenny began to tear Meyler's men apart.

Shefflin tallied up nine points by the finish, while O'Dwyer notched 2-3 and Wexford had Stephen Nolan to thank for sparing some of their blushes as he grabbed a personal haul of 1-5.

Cody was afforded the chance to substitute four of his starting backs as Wexford failed to test the defending champions, whose goalkeeper PJ Ryan also showed some very good form around his square, foiling three goal attempts.

Nolan did manage to find the Kilkenny net in the 55th-minute as he struck a close-in free low past Ryan and his defenders, but by that stage this one-sided encounter was all but over.

Lacking the intensity so evident in the recent Munster semi-finals, this game was one to forget and Meyler and his management team will have to work quickly to rally the Model men ahead of the All-Ireland quarter-finals in three weeks' time.

Lifting their 64th senior provincial title since 1888, Kilkenny made a near-perfect start as they moved 1-1 to 0-1 ahead within five minutes of the throw-in.

O'Dwyer whacked home his opening goal from the right, which deflected home off the unfortunate Ruth, and Shefflin swapped points with Nolan, who replaced Paul Carley in the Wexford starting line-up.

Two defenders got on the scoresheet next as Wexford's Richie Kehoe and Brian Hogan, who was in dominant form as Kilkenny's centre-back, both raised white flags and then an Eoin Quigley point was immediately cancelled out by O'Dwyer's second major.

Shefflin created it with a smashing dummy past Ruth and a pinpoint hand-pass which allowed O'Dwyer the time and space to beat Damien Fitzhenry from close range.

Comerford then played in O'Dwyer for a point and Wexford were suddenly 2-3 and 0-3. A disappointed Ruth was taken off and replaced by Willie Doran shortly afterwards as it became obvious that Kilkenny were having an easy time of it against the Wexford backs.

Further points from Eoin Larkin and O'Dwyer had the Cats eight points ahead, with Diarmuid Lyng, Declan Stamp and Nigel Higgins each hitting some disappointing wides for the Models.

There were ten points between the sides by the half-hour mark and Kilkenny nipped a further point ahead in injury-time when Comerford snaffled onto a puck-out and flung over a neat score.

Three minutes into the second half, 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, Comerford and Shefflin (0-2) added to Wexford's misery as they helped Kilkenny into a 2-15 to 0-6 lead.

Wexford's scores were now becoming a rarity but wing back Kehoe did land a morale-boosting free and substitute Barry Lambert did threaten to open up the Kilkenny defence with some lung-bursting runs.

Yet Kilkenny always had an ease about them as they searched for scores, while Wexford's points required plenty of build-up play. Shefflin's eighth point of the afternoon put 16 points between the sides with 20 minutes still to play.

Wexford did have a purple patch as Nolan drove a free to the Kilkenny net, just minutes after he had a similar effort saved by the impressive Ryan. The Faythe Harrier's second shot was a stinging one which left the Kilkenny stopper with little chance of keeping it out.

Shefflin and Nolan swapped frees and Comerford, with his fifth point, and O'Dwyer, with his third, kept Kilkenny ticking over with scores before Nolan - with a free and a '65' - increased his influence.

Ryan was equal to a first-time shot from Eoin Quigley soon after and a Fitzpatrick point had the Cats leading by 2-22 to 1-11 with four minutes remaining.

The game petered out with Wexford clearly second best - Eddie Brennan and Michael Rice nudged over further points for the All-Ireland champions while the latter almost got in for a goal in injury-time but veteran 'keeper Fitzhenry did well to smother the shot.

Rory Jacob, arguably Wexford's best forward on the day, struck over his side's final point from an almost impossible angle. More of the same will be required if the Models are to make their mark in the All-Ireland's knock-out stages.

WEXFORD: D Fitzhenry; P Roche, D Ruth, M Travers; R Kehoe (0-2, 0-1f), K Rossiter, C Kenny; D Lyng, E Quigley (0-1); M Jacob, D O'Connor, S Nolan (1-5, 0-3f, 0-1 '65'); N Higgins (capt), D Stamp (0-1), R Jacob (0-3).

Subs used: W Doran for Ruth (14 mins), B Lambert for Higgins, R McCarthy for M Jacob (both half-time), P White for Kenny (45), M Jordan for O'Connor (51).

KILKENNY: PJ Ryan; M Kavanagh, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan (0-1), JJ Delaney; J Fitzpatrick (0-2, 0-1f), M Fennelly; W O'Dwyer (2-3), H Shefflin (capt) (0-9, 0-4f), E Larkin (0-2); E Reid, M Comerford (0-5), E Brennan (0-1).

Subs used: J Ryall for T Walsh (46 mins), J Dalton for JJ Delaney (50), Tennyson for B Hogan (53), M Rice (0-1) for E Reid (60).

Referee: Pat O'Connor (Limerick)

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