AN Emmet Kent free in the 61st minute saw Wexford emerge with the narrowest of victories over arch rivals Kilkenny in an enthralling Leinster Under 21 hurling championship quarter-final at Wexford Park last night.
It took more than good hurling to separate the two sides during a thrilling and tense opening 30 minutes with referee Pat Murphy incurring the wrath of the crowd with some of his decisions. During this opening period he issued six yellow cards and two reds, one to each side, Michael O’Regan (Wexford) after 20 minutes and Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward who followed six minutes later.
The hurling was fast with both sides scrapping to take the initiative, but the decisions of the referee bordered on the bizarre, spoiling what was a thrilling contest.
Wexford enjoyed a flying start, going 0-4 to 0-0 clear inside six minutes through Pádraig Doran, Michael O’Regan, a John Leacy free and Shane Tomkins, before Ger Aylward flicked home a superb goal from a long Eoin Murphy free, to leave the minimum separating the sides, 0-4 to 1-0.
Wexford made a decisive breakthrough after 11 minutes when Paul Morris crashed home a superb goal, but the Kilkenny response was positive, retorting with a superb Thomas Breen goal two minutes later.
Both sides continued to pick off some superb long range points; Thomas Breen and John Leacy (Wexford) with the picks of the bunch, leaving the home side leading 1-11 to 2-4 at the interval.
The Cats rose to the challenge on the resumption with four points within three minutes through Eoin Murphy (free), Cathal Kenny, Walter Walsh and sub Michael Moloney, to bring the sides level.
Wexford had to wait until the 41st minute for their opening second-half score; a Liam Óg McGovern point to restore their lead, but it was nip and tuck as a thrilling battle unfolded. Kilkenny keeper Dylan Walsh saved superbly from Shane Tomkins to keep his sides’ challenge alive.
At the end of the third quarter it was an inspiring point from wing-back Shaun Murphy that lifted the home crowd as they sensed a rare victory.
With two minutes remaining Wexford were battling to protect a single point lead, but when Michael Moloney pointed one minute from the end, extra-time beckoned.
However, Wexford managed one late surge to force a 60 metre free close to the sideline. Up stepped Emmet Kent and he pointed superbly in additional time to give the Model men a dramatic and deserved victory over their great rivals.
Wexford scorers: P Morris 1-1; J Leacy, E Kent 0-3 each frees; L Og McGovern (0-3), S Tomkins 0-2; M O’Regan (f), S Murphy, H Kehoe, P Doran 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: T Breen 1-1; G Aylward 1-0; E Murphy 0-5, (4f), C Kenny 0-3; M Moloney 0-2; W Walsh 0-1.
WEXFORD: M Fanning; W Devereux, M O’Hanlon, E Moore; M O’Regan, A Shore, S Murphy; E Kent, H Kehoe; S Tomkins, J Leacy, L Og McGovern; P Morris, J Breen, P Doran.
Subs: J Gahan for Breen; I Byrne for Doran.
KILKENNY: D Walsh; I Duggan, M Walsh, A Moran; J Callinan, R Doyle, C Fogarty; J Lyng, O Walsh; T Breen, C Kenny, E Murphy; G Aylward, W Walsh, J Brennan.
Subs: M Moloney for Moran; B Kennedy for Callinan; P Walsh for Brennan; J Gannon for O Walsh.
Referee: P Murphy (Carlow).
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