When the need was greatest, Wexford produce the answers 

Wexford manager Darragh Egan reckons this final 10 minutes or so has the potential to ignite their entire season as they advance now to the All-Ireland series
When the need was greatest, Wexford produce the answers 

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody reacts during the closing stages of Saturday's Leinster SHC R5 game at UPMC Nowlan Park. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Leinster SHC (R5)

Wexford 1-22 

Kilkenny 1-18

 

The last of TJ Reid's 10 points at UPMC Nowlan Park came from a 61st minute free, a passage of play that began with Adrian Mullen turning the ball over in midfield with a brilliant block on Lee Chin.

Reid's score levelled a tense arm wrestle for the sixth time at 1-16 apiece though Kilkenny, who'd scored the last two points, appeared to have seized momentum at just the right time.

From there, Wexford outscored the favourites and back to back provincial champions by 0-6 to 0-2, the quality of each of those points - Mikie Dwyer's solo point in particular was arguably the score of the Championship so far - matching their importance in a season defining game.

Wexford manager Darragh Egan reckons this final 10 minutes or so has the potential to ignite their entire season as they advance now to the All-Ireland series.

"It has to be a huge launchpad," said Egan whose side drew with Westmeath seven days earlier. "And look, we can only go off our training performances. I can say this without any hesitation, our training performances in the last three or four weeks have been absolutely top notch.

"We hurled well against Laois in the second-half and we blew them away. We were so wasteful up in Mullingar against Westmeath and it hurt us ultimately. We had 21 wides, made a few mistakes, just not good enough. But we knew it was always going to be a standalone fixture with Kilkenny.

"We knew that we were going to have to go there and get something and that's how it transpired."

Even Kilkenny fans in the 13,565 crowd got their money's worth from a terrific Championship game that had it all. The highlights reel will contain half a dozen pearlers of points but it was the ferocity of the exchanges, the daring interceptions and wholehearted blocks that set this match apart.

How Eoin Murphy, for example, got his hurl up in time to save Conor McDonald's snapshot just before half-time is anyone's guess. Egan described it as an 'outrageous save' though Wexford still led 1-11 to 1-8 at the break, courtesy of Oisin Foley's goal minutes earlier. Or how about Damien Reck, lying flat on his belly close to his own goalline in the 68th minute, firstly blocking Reid's shot and then having the composure to roll-lift it up and jump to his feet.

"The lads showed there's great character in that dressing-room," said Egan. "And they have shown that over the last few years. Every time they're knocked back, they always come out fighting and swinging. The big thing for us is over the next three weeks, can we get that level of consistency, can we keep the level of consistency in our training and make sure when we go to our preliminary quarter-final that we're in good shape and ready to attack the All-Ireland championship." 

Kilkenny are still through to the Leinster final on June 4 against Galway, by virtue of scoring difference. This defeat will sting for a while though. Essentially they were out-Kilkennyed in the closing minutes. 

"Wexford won the battle," shrugged Kilkenny manager Brian Cody who looked immediately to the rematch with Henry Shefflin's Galway. "Our challenge and our responsibility now is to get the right formula on the field to try to be competitive in the Leinster final."

Scorers for Wexford: 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 Óg McGovern, L Ryan, C Flood, M Dwyer, C Dunbar (0-1).

Scorers for Kilkenny: 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 Óg 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); C McGuckin for O Foley (62); P Morris for McDonald (72).

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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