It was only the first step on the road, but Wexford put down a marker as they beat Kilkenny to secure a place in the Walsh Cup final.
Victory in Callan set up a clash with Galway in the final next weekend, but the Model County are already keeping an eye on future challenges.
“I want to be hurling in July,” said winning manager Davy Fitzgerald. “That’s the goal. If we are hurling in July, we have an opportunity to get to August.”
With many faces from last year’s championship teams absent, it was a tamer affair than usual between the old foes, but Wexford did enough to stay in front for practically all the game.
Kilkenny, who trailed by six at the break (1-8 to 0-5), did get close when goalkeeper Eoin Murphy rifled home a 42nd-minute penalty. That score, followed by a point from O’Loughlin Gaels player Eoin O’Shea, left just one between the sides (1-8 to 1-7) but Wexford raised the tempo and dashed off. Two good points from Aidan Nolan helped them regain their composure. They never looked back, Nolan all but sealing their place in the final with a third-quarter goal.
The opening exchanges were a lot tighter, the sides sharing the first four points, before Wexford took a grip on the game.
Michael Dwyer did the damage with a goal on 16 minutes, a score that pushed Wexford four in front (1-3 to 0-2). With Jack O’Connor, Harry Kehoe and David Dunne to the fore the visitors went in six clear at half-time (1-8 to 0-5).
Murphy’s penalty looked like turning the tide for the Cats, but they were caught when Nolan’s scoring run. They kicked on from there, hitting more points through Jack O’Connor (2) and Conor McDonald to stretch their lead, before McDonald (free) and Harry Shore sealed a good win.
Scorers for Wexford: Jack O’Connor (0-7, 0-5 frees); Aidan Nolan (1-2); Michael Dwyer (1-0); David Dunne, Andrew Shore, Harry Kehoe (0-2 each); Paudie Foley, Gavin Bailey (0-1 each); Conor McDonald (0-1, free).
Scorers for Kilkenny: Eoin O’Shea (0-3, 0-2 frees); Eoin Murphy (1-0, penalty); Paul Holden (0-3, frees); James Maher (0-2); Ger Aylward (0-1).
WEXFORD: J. Lawlor; G. Molloy, Joe O’Connor, M. Furlong; P. Foley, R. Donohoe, G. Bailey; A. Rochford, K. Foley; Jack O’Connor, A. Nolan, D. Dunne; H. Kehoe, A. Shore, M. Dwyer.
Subs: S. Murphy for Donohoe (inj) 28th min; S. Donohoe for Foley 40th min; P. Morris for K. Foley 49th min; C. McDonald for H. Kehoe 49th min; P. Foley for M. Furlong 60th min; K. O’Grady for M. Dwyer 66th min.
KILKENNY: E. Murphy; C. Delaney, P. Deegan, C. Wallace; D. Blanchfield, C. Fogarty, T. Kenny; P. O’Carroll, J. Maher; A. Nolan, S. Murphy, P. Holden; C. Hennessy, B. Ryan, G. Aylward.
Subs: J. Burke for J. Maher ht; E. O’Shea for S. Murphy 40th min; S. Donnelly for C. Hennessy 44th min; M. Butler for P. Holden 50th min.
Referee: S. Stack (Dublin).