A stunning second-half comeback by Kilkenny this evening saw them exact revenge on Wexford for last year’s Leinster semi-final defeat.
They will face Galway in the provincial showdown on July 1 after turning around a nine-point deficit, help by seven unanswered second-half points.
A crowd of 17,516 in Nowlan Park witnessed Wexford tear into their neighbours only to wilt towards the end despite the best efforts of Paudie Foley. Led by Pádraig Walsh, a fresher Kilkenny took control after Wexford went nine up a minute into the second half.
The Cats’ substitutes made a difference, three of them scoring five points between them, but it was the might of their defence that gave them the platform to go ahead and reach the final.
Kilkenny made four late changes to the team named, which had been identical to that which started the defeat to Galway. Richie Hogan was one of the alterations but had three wides to his name by half-time.
The home side registered just two points from play in the first half, the last of them in the 11th minute, as their forward line again made little impact. Wexford, on the other hand, looked a different team to the one that limped to a sad loss against Galway in Wexford Park the previous week, spraying balls cleverly to the wings where Conor McDonald and Paul Morris were winning their individual battles.
Wexford sent over six points in a row between the 17th and 26th minutes and then topped that period with a goal in the 28th minute, Lee Chin doing well to set up David Dunne who in turn assisted Morris whose volley avoided Eoin Murphy.
At that stage, Wexford were hungrier, as exemplified by Dunne’s relentless sprint to foil Cillian Buckley. Kilkenny broke their 18-minute scoring duck on the half-hour mark and Chin was fortunate to remain on the field two minutes later when clearly seen to strike Paddy Deegan. Despite that incident, the visitors were a most deserved 1-11 to 0-7 ahead at half-time.
Scorers for Kilkenny: T.J. Reid (0-11, 9 frees, 1 65); R. Leahy. C. Fogarty, J. Donnelly (0-2 each); E. Murphy (free), J. Maher, P. Walsh, J. Holden, E. Morrissey (0-1 each).
Scorers for Wexford: R. O’Connor (2 frees) P. Foley (4 frees) (0-5 each); P. Morris (1-1); L. Chin (0-3); C. McDonald (0-2); D. O’Keeffe, K. Foley (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: E. Murphy; P. Murphy, P. Walsh, P. Deegan; C. O’Shea, C. Buckley (c), E. Morrissey; C. Fogarty, J. Maher; W. Walsh C. Fennelly, T.J. Reid; B. Sheehan, R. Hogan, L. Scanlon.
Subs for Kilkenny: M. Keoghan for C. Fennelly, R. Leahy for R. Hogan. J. Holden for C. O’Shea (all h-t); L. Blanchfield for B. Sheehan (47); J. Donnelly for L. Scanlon (65).
WEXFORD: M. Fanning; D. Reck, L. Ryan, C. Firman; S. Murphy; M. O’Hanlon (j-c), D. O’Keeffe, P. Foley; K. Foley, D. Dunne; L. Chin (j-c), R. O’Connor, A. Nolan; C. McDonald, P. Morris.
Subs for Wexford: H. Kehoe for K. Foley, J. O’Connor for D. Dunne (both 54); S. Donohue for D. O’Keeffe (63).
Referee: J. McGrath (Westmeath).