AN INJURY-TIME goal saw Wexford snatch a dramatic victory and wrestle the Leinster under-21 hurling title from Kilkenny’s hands.
Wexford Park erupted in an explosion of noise and colour as sub Niall Murphy netted a late, late winner to sink the Cats on a 1-21 to 0-20 scoreline last night (Wednesday).
The teams looked all set to meet for a second time after 20 minutes of extra-time failed to find a winner. That all changed in injury-time when Kilkenny’s Aaron Duggan spilled Murphy’s close range shot and couldn’t prevent the sliotar from crossing the line.
It was a cruel blow to take for Kilkenny, who weathered an early Wexford storm to take control of the game. Having trailed by 0-4 to 0-1 inside eight minutes the accuracy of John Power (four frees, one from play) plus further scores from Ger Aylward (2) and Richie Reid helped them creep two points ahead (0-8 to 0-6) by the 21st minute.
They held the advantage until half-time of what was a tense and tight game. Wexford free-takers Jack Guiney (2) and Ian Byrne kept the Model County in the game, but Kevin Kelly (2) and Power (two frees) ensured Kilkenny led by 0-12 to 0-9 at the interval.
The second half was another cagey affair. Kilkenny’s hopes of forging a big lead were dashed when Ger Aylward was denied a goal by Brian Murphy’s save. That was a miss the Cats would rue as, by the 50th minute, Wexford had levelled matters after Brady shot the 28th point of the evening from a 65.
Kilkenny, who now had Cillian Buckley on the field of play, charged back into lead when Kevin Kelly and Richie Reid grabbed a brace in quick succession but, buoyed by their fans, Guiney (free) and Brady (sideline cut) restored parity.
Wexford’s fight looked to be in vein when, following a needless foul, Power tipped the Cats into the lead with a free as time began to run out. Yet they proved they had enough left in the tank for extra-time, Guiney converting an injury-time free to leave the sides facing an additional 20 minutes.
Wexford’s proficiency from placed balls dominated the first period of extra-time. Guiney struck two, Ian Brady another, as they opened up a two-point lead with 10 minutes to play. However, Kevin Kelly showed a keen eye too, converting three frees in the second half to leave Kilkenny narrowly ahead (0-21 to 0-20).
Wexford were chasing the game again, but looked to have secured a draw when Guiney struck a close-range free to level matters. A replay seemed on the cards, but Murphy’s injury-time goal saw Wexford stun the Cats and wrestle the title from their grasp.
SCORERS: Wexford – Jack Guiney (0-9, frees); Ian Byrne (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65); Niall Murphy (1-0); Conor McDonald, Rhys Clarke (0-2 each); Gary Moore, Barry Carton (0-1 each). Kilkenny – John Power (0-9, 0-8 frees); Kevin Kelly (0-7, 0-4 frees); Richie Reid (0-3); Ger Aylward (0-2).