Wexford boss Darragh Egan lauds the composure of his players against Kilkenny

Brian Cody's Kilkenny still take second spot in the group phase, so will play Galway in the Leinster final on June 4 at Croke Park
Wexford boss Darragh Egan lauds the composure of his players against Kilkenny

WEXFORD'S Conor McDonald is challenged by Conor Delaney of Kilkenny during the Leinster SHC game at UPMC Nowlan Park. 

Leinster SHC: Wexford 1-22 Kilkenny 1-18.

DARRAGH Egan hailed the composure of his Wexford team after a thrilling finale that yielded a landmark Leinster SHC win over Kilkenny, maintaining their interest in the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

The 2019 Leinster champions picked a great time to deliver their best display of the provincial campaign as they simply had to win to advance to an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final.

The sides were level for the sixth time at 1-16 apiece late on in Kilkenny city when Wexford took off, reeling off six of the game's last eight points to win with some to spare.

Asked if it was a victory for Wexford's composure, Tipperary man Egan nodded and pointed to the performances of his substitutes in particular with Connal Flood, Mikie Dwyer and Cathal Dunbar all pointing during that late blitz.

"It was composure ultimately," said Egan. "Cathal Dunbar got a very important score, Mikie Dwyer got a really, really important score. We ran ourselves into the ground in the last few minutes.

"Tony Kelly referenced it last week, where sometimes you finish with a stronger 15 than you start with and that's ultimately the way this Championship is going to go.

"These games are coming so thick and fast it's hard to put lads out week on week. We are trying to build that panel element into our squad.

"I suppose a lot of lads starting out this year would have felt we didn't give them enough action. Well, we are giving them plenty of action and you have to be delighted for the work that the likes of Oisin Foley put in, Charlie McGuckin, these lads that have never played for Wexford before.

"And you can see the impact they made on our team today. They are really vital panel members. We need loads of lads putting up their hand over the next few weeks."

Wexford will play the McDonagh Cup runner-up, either Antrim or Kerry, in an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final tie on the weekend of June 11/12. They will be strong favourites for that encounter though after surprisingly drawing with Westmeath in Round 4 last weekend, Egan smiled.

"We went in as favourites in Mullingar last week as well," he quipped. "We will be well aware of what's coming down the tracks. There was a lot of late drama in the Joe McDonagh today. The winners and losers of that final are going to come out into the preliminary quarter-finals thinking that they have a real, real big chance. We just need to be ready for that."

Led again by Lee Chin, Wexford shook off the disappointment of their draw with Westmeath by pulling out their best performance of the provincial campaign so far to beat the back to back title holders.

Chin helped himself to nine points in total and was among a dozen different Wexford players to get on the scoresheet in a thrilling final round encounter.

In what amounted to a tense arm wrestle at times, the sides were level for the sixth time in the game at 1-16 apiece with nine minutes of normal time remaining.

From there, Wexford reeled off points from substitutes Mikie Dwyer, Connal Flood and Cathal Dunbar, along with Chin and Simon Donohoe, to secure their second win of the campaign and third spot in the table.

The upshot is that Kilkenny still take second spot, so will play Galway in the Leinster final on June 4 at Croke Park, while third placed Wexford will take on the Joe McDonagh Cup runner-up the following weekend.

Wexford were clearly keen to make a big statement after their shock Round 4 draw with raging underdogs Westmeath.

Their ferocity and appetite for destruction was evident from the opening seconds when Jack O'Connor split the posts from long range.

Conor McDonald followed his lead and suddenly Wexford were two points clear.

Kilkenny's initial response was impressive as they reeled off 1-4 without response between the fourth and 10th minutes to take apparent control of the game in front of 13,565.

Martin Keoghan fired the Kilkenny goal in the eighth minute after referee Fergal Horgan sensibly played advantage following Matthew O'Hanlon's foul on Cian Kenny, clearing Kenny to feed Reid who, in turn, played in Keoghan.

In-form full-forward Keoghan, fresh from his 2-1 haul against Dublin, added a point shortly after and Kilkenny were up and running with a 1-4 to 0-2 advantage.

From there, things surprisingly went downhill at a rapid rate for the hosts who only scored once more from play before half-time, an Adrian Mullen 15th minute point.

With their season on the line, Wexford moved up a gear and came roaring into the contest, outscoring the Cats by 1-9 to 0-4 between the 10th minute and half-time and reeling off five points in a row at one stage.

Lee Chin hammered over three frees, Donohoe boomed a beauty from distance and there were points too from Rory O'Connor and Diarmuid O'Keeffe.

Kilkenny’s Rory O’Connor puts pressure on Martin Keoghan of Wexford
Kilkenny’s Rory O’Connor puts pressure on Martin Keoghan of Wexford

The scores were tied at 1-7 to 0-10 when Oisin Foley swooped for Wexford's 34th minute goal.

It was a cracker too and came straight from a Mark Fanning puck-out as Foley seized possession on the left and raced clear before flashing a shot beyond Eoin Murphy.

Kilkenny 'keeper Murphy did brilliantly in first-half stoppage time to somehow block a drive from Conor McDonald though Wexford still led 1-11 to 1-8 at the break.

Wexford had vital momentum too though Kilkenny wrestled it back with a morale boosting score after the restart.

It followed a minor melee in which Wexford manager Darragh Egan had to separate Jack O'Connor and Paddy Deegan, Reid getting play underway again with a quick sideline ball to Walter Walsh who took off and volleyed over.

Kenny then won a free for Reid to convert, leaving just one in it.

Kilkenny twice got back to level terms in the following 15 minutes or so but Wexford, crucially, never fell behind and the visitors saved a strong kick for the finale, registering six points to Kilkenny's two in the closing minutes to seal a landmark win.

Wexford scorers: L Chin (0-9, 7 frees); O Foley (1-0); D O'Keeffe, R O'Connor, S Donohoe (0-2); C McDonald, J O'Connor, L Og McGovern, L Ryan, C Flood, M Dwyer, C Dunbar (0-1).

Kilkenny scorers: TJ Reid (0-10, 8 frees, 1 '65); M Keoghan (1-1); M Carey, A Mullen (0-2); B Ryan (0-1, 1 sideline), W Walsh (0-1), P Walsh (0-1).

WEXFORD: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, C Devitt; S Donohoe, M O'Hanlon, P Foley; D O'Keeffe, L Og McGovern; J O'Connor, K Foley, O Foley; R O'Connor, C McDonald, L Chin.

Subs: C Flood for Devitt (42-f/t, blood); M Dwyer for J O'Connor (55); C Dunbar for K Foley (57); O Foley for C McGuckin (62).

KILKENNY: E Murphy; T Walsh, C Delaney, M Butler; M Carey, R Reid, P Deegan; A Murphy, A Mullen; W Walsh, TJ Reid, T Phelan; C Kenny, M Keoghan, E Cody.

Subs: B Ryan for Phelan (45); J Maher for Murphy (54); P Walsh for Kenny (68); J Donnelly for Keoghan (69).

Ref: F Horgan (Tipperary).

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