Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody and his new look backroom team made it business as usual as an experimental side managed a good win.
As if to show they were on a mission, the Cats won with two points in the closing minutes to snatch victory over Wexford in this Tomas Waters benefit senior hurling challenge at O’Kennedy Park, New Ross, on Sunday.
Tomas Waters took his place in the dug-out as both sides opened their preparations for the 2014 season in what was a competitive and entertaining game. The lead changed hands on several occasions during the 70 minutes, but it was a typical Kilkenny finish that decided it.
Waters has had a season to forget since picking up an horrific knee injury against Clare in a Qualifier game. Having developed into a top class full-back in his first season as a defender, eventually leading to an All Star nomination, Waters has spent some 48 days in hospital having undergone surgery to a cruciate knee injury, while also having had a cartilage removed.
The operation was further complicated when it was found that he also needed surgery to the chipped knee bone. With subsequent infections, the self-employed building contractor has undergone a difficult few months with recurring infections leading to further hospitalisation.
Clearly delighted with the response of Wexford and Kilkenny along with the large crowd, Waters is now looking forward.
“Hopefully it’s now behind me. I am about to start rehab over the coming months. I realise it’s a long road back but hopefully when the championship comes round everything will be fine. It’s an ambition to get back so I am not going to rule it out,” said Waters.
Managers Liam Dunne and Brian Cody were in experimental mode with their respective selections, but it did not take from the competitive nature of the game. Both sets of players were determined to lay down their own individual mark on proceedings.
Wexford started with a scoring flourish, going 0-4 to 0-0 ahead inside five minutes through Ian Byrne, Diarmuid O’Keeffe (2) and Conor McDonald. Kilkenny opened their account with a Padraig Walsh point. They went ahead five minutes later through a Walter Walsh goal, finishing a Colin Fennelly pass to the net from close in.
Diarmuid O’Keeffe was making some probing runs out of midfield leading to some well executed points, while his partner Conor Devitt, despite his football exertions 24 hours earlier, also got through an amount of positive hurling. With Ian Byrne playing impressively in the half-forward line, while the young full-forward trio of Gary Moore, Jack Guiney and Conor McDonald were also stepping up to the mark, with Podge Doran striking over two fine points.
Kilkenny were not wasting any chances. The forward line revolved around the experienced Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan, with John Power and Jonjo Farrell having bright moments. Cillian Buckley was beginning to win more ball in midfield, and with Shane Prendergast, Michael Walsh and Richie Doyle getting through effective work they began to close out the home attack.
Hogan was showing his usual accuracy from frees to go alongside a goal from sub Jonjo Farrell approaching the break, after home ’keeper, Mark Fanning, had minutes earlier denied Fennelly with a well timed advance, but it still had them leading 2-8 to 0-9 at the interval.
There was no deflection from the intensity of the exchanges on the resumption. Colin Fennelly and Geoffrey Brennan extended their side’s lead, but with Paul Morris and Gary Moore picking off fine points the home side managed to remain in contention.
Wexford led by 0-21 to 2-14 with two minutes remaining. In typical Kilkenny fashion they managed to close out the game with points from Joe Brennan and Liam Ryan, leaving them the narrowest of winners.
Scorers: Kilkenny - Richie Hogan (0-6, five frees); Jonjo Farrell (1-2); Walter Walsh (1-0); Geoffrey Brennan (0-2); Conor Fogarty, Padraig Walsh, Colin Fennelly, Paul Rockett, Liam Ryan, Joe Brennan (0-1 each). Wexford - Jack Guiney (0-4, frees); Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Paul Morris, Gary Moore, Ian Byrne (0-3 each); Podge Doran, Conor McDonald (0-2 each); Conor Devitt (0-1).
Kilkenny - Eoin Murphy; Conor Fogarty, Michael Walsh, Brian Kennedy; Richie Doyle, Shane Prendergast, Joseph Holden; Paraic Phelan, Cillian Buckley; Walter Walsh, Padraig Walsh, Richie Hogan; Tomas Breen, Colin Fennelly, John Power. Subs - Rory Hickey for Walsh; Jonjo Farrell for P Walsh; Paul Rockett for Hogan; Tomas Keogh for Kennedy; Geoffrey Brennan for P. Phelan; Liam Ryan for Breen; Joe Brennan for Power; Paddy Nolan for Holden; Michael Fagan for Prendergast.
Wexford - Mark Fanning; Bobby Kenny, Matthew O’Hanlon, Ciaran Kenny; Lee Chin, Richie Kehoe, Andrew Shore; Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Conor Devitt; Harry Kehoe, Podge Doran, Ian Byrne; Gary Moore, Jack Guiney, Conor McDonald. Subs - Paul Morris for H. Kehoe; James Tonks for R. Kehoe; Benny Jordan for Devitt; Rhys Clarke for Doran.
Referee - Dickie Murphy (Wexford).