It was a bad time at the office for Kilkenny. First they got their team wrong. Then they got it right, but a fatal error finished them.
It all left manager, Pat O’Grady, scratching his head and pondering a missed opportunity: “We could have won.”
In the groove Wexford visited Nowlan Park on a high after their under-21 team had won the Leinster championship; after their senior team beat Waterford in a qualifier at the same venue four days earlier. They left smiling again, with the Leinster intermediate hurling title in the bag.
“If we had the chance over again we think we would have been strong enough to win,” the manager added honestly.
“This is part of the territory with not having previous rounds or whatever. This was the first time we had that full team together.
“In that situation you were trying to pick on form rather than anything we had seen before. There were seven points in it at half-time. We had to make a lot of changes at half-time. For lads to get just half an hour to change the game was a big ask.
“They did change it. We were back level with 10 minutes or so to go. An elementary mistake, when two players burst into each other, killed us. If we had been able to get a point ahead at that stage we could possibly have won.”
He was disappointed, but he wished Wexford well and expressed his delight that they were back in the Leinster championship. There was no provincial series 12 months ago when Kilkenny’s entire programme was made up by an All-Ireland semi-final and final.
Took their chances
“Wexford took their chances better,” O’Grady continued. “It’s great to have them back in the championship. You have to have Wexford involved , and Dublin, Laois and Offaly as well to add prestige to the championship. Hopefully all will be involved next season.”
The story? Kilkenny had the first scoring opportunity from a free after 90 seconds. They missed; the first of eight wides registered during the half. Wexford opened with a good point from 45 metres by Jim Berry in the second minute.
They ran up 1-4 on the ’board before the opposition made a mark through Michael Grace, following a foul on Willie O’Dwyer, in the 9th minute (1-4 to 0-1). With things running for them, Wexford looked sharper. They were quicker breaking to the ball, quicker moving it along.
There was just no spark to the home team. When they introduced their first sub, Seoirse Kenny, in the 24th minute, things livened up in attack.
During the break, three more subs were introduced. The team was switched all over the place with forwards going to the backs and so on. They performed!
Half-time score: Wexford 1-8, Kilkenny 0-4.
From the restart Kilkenny were dominant, with midfielder Willie Phelan their main scorer. The points flowed - Phelan, Michael Grace, Phelan, Phelan (free), Phelan (free again), Joe Brennan and Willie O’Dwyer with the equaliser in the 46th minute (1-8 to 0-11). Wexford looked in serious, serious trouble.
An exchange of points followed so that they were still level in the 50th minute. Then in a rushed raid the Slaneysiders pumped a long ball towards the country end goal.
Two defenders went for the ball and knocked over each other. The sliotar broke forward for Redmond Barry, who had a clear run at the target. Goal. Game over.
SCORERS: Wexford - Jim Berry (0-5, two frees); Jamie Reck (1-1); Redmond Barry (1-0); Tommy Dwyer, Garry Doran, Michael O’Hanlon, Benny Jordan (0-1 each); Joey Lawlor (0-1, free). Kilkenny - Willie Phelan (0-5, two frees); Michael Grace (0-2, frees); Owen McGrath, Willie O’Dwyer, Joe Brennan (0-2 each); Padraig Phelan (0-1).
Kilkenny - Liam Tierney (Rower-Inistioge), Eoin Doyle (Rower-Inistioge), Michael Walsh (Young Irelands), Sean Cummins (Rower-Inistioge), Joe Lyng (Rower-Inistioge), Pat Hartley (Tullogher-Rosbercon), Richie Doyle (Barrow Rangers), Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Willie Phelan (Dunnamaggin), Owen McGrath (John Lockes), Geoff Brennan (St Patrick’s), Michael Grace (Rower-Inistioge), Cathal Kenny (Barrow Rangers), Willie O’Dwyer (Mullinavat), Joe Brennan (St Patrick’s). Subs: Seoirse Kenny (St Patrick’s) for Kenny 24th min; Ian Duggan (Mullinavat) for Deegan ht; Padraig Phelan (Emeralds) for Hartley ht; Luke Harney (Kilmacow) for Doyle ht; Niall Walsh (Slieverue) for Grace 55th min.
Wexford - Niall Breen, Brendan Mulligan, James Breen, Barry Kehoe, Mark Maloney, Mick Jacob, Patrick Naughter, Bob Jacob, Tommy Dwyer, Emmet Kent, Garry Doran, Jim Berry, Jamie Reck, Michael O’Hanlon, Redmond Barry. Subs: Peter Murphy for O’Hanlon 25th min; Benny Jordan for Kent 40th min; Tomas O’Leary for Berry 52nd min; Joey Lawlor for G. Doran 58th min.
Referee - D. Harrington (Dublin).