A FREE in the final seconds of normal time saw Wexford’s under-21 hurlers trip Kilkenny up at the first hurdle in the Leinster championship, 1-16 to 2-12.
The Wexford midfielder Emmet Kent showed nerves of steel as the Model County edged out their local rivals in Wexford Park last night (Tuesday) in a game where cards, more than scores, drew most of the attention.
Having fought their way back into the game, Kilkenny looked all set for extra-time when Cathal Kenny and sub Michael Moloney picked off two points with 60 seconds to spare, scores that left the sides all square (KK 2-12, Wexford 1-15).
However, the Model County men were given a final chance to nick the game after Cats half-back Conor Fogarty was adjudged to have overcarried the ball close to his own 65m line just seconds from the end of normal time. Midfielder Kent stepped up to the pressure free and held his nerve, striking the winner to leave the large Wexford support in raptures.
Wexford had been the first team on the scoreboard also. Four points within eight minutes, the pick of the bunch coming from Padraig Doran, saw the hosts use the strong wind at their backs to race in front.
It took Kilkenny longer to open their account, but when they did it was a stunner. Eoin Murphy tried for a point from a free but mis-hit his shot. Wexford were about to relax, but Ger Aylward kept his eye on the sliotar, connecting with the dropping ball at the corner of the square to send it whizzing into the far corner of Mark Fanning’s net.
Wexford were shocked by that goal, but quickly hit back with one of their own. Racing on to a long Shaun Murphy line ball, Paul Morris rattled the net with a fierce 12th minute strike, but Kilkenny were not done yet. Bouncing back they notched up their second goal of the game after just 14 minutes, Thomas Breen rifling a shot to the top right corner of the net from the fringe of the large square.
The goals were the highlights of a pulsating first quarter, by which time Wexford led by two points (1-5 to 2-0), but the real talking points were just minutes away. By that stage Wexford had pushed further ahead thanks to three points from Harry Kehoe, Paul Morris and Shane Tomkins, scores that cancelled out Cathal Kenny’s fine point, but Wexford’s evening looked like taking a turn for the worse when half-back Michael O’Regan was dismissed for a second yellow card seven minutes from half-time.
The red card looked harsh, something even Kilkenny supporters were quick to say - but was followed by another as referee Pat Murphy sent Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward to the line four minutes later for his second yellow of the evening. The sides played on with 14 men apiece - as well as the two reds, referee Murphy also issued four other yellow cards in the first 30 minutes alone - but Wexford stayed four points clear at the interval (1-11 to 2-4).
The second half started in whirlwind fashion for Kilkenny. Despite playing with a slighter breeze they rattled off four quick scores through Eoin Murphy (free), Cathal Kenny, Walter Walsh and sub Michael Moloney, to snuff out Wexford’s advantage within four minutes.
A previously sharp Wexford had to wait until the 41st minute for their first score of the half, a Liam Og McGovern point, but Shaun Murphy added another to edge them two clear (1-13 to 2-8) by the 45th minute.
The points were few and far between after that, but as scores dwindled the tension increased. Kilkenny continued to pick off points where they could, but each time they made an advance Wexford hit back to stay that step ahead. It looked like their hard work had paid off with those two late Kenny and Moloney scores, but there was still time for that last sting in the tail from Kent.
Kilkenny - D. Walsh (Thomastown), I. Duggan (Mullinavat), M. Walsh (Young Irelands), A. Moran (Erin’s Own), J. Callinan (Erin’s Own), R. Doyle (Barrow Rangers), C. Fogarty (Erin’s Own), J. Lyng (Rower-Inistioge), O. Walsh (Dicksboro), T. Breen (St Martin’s, 1-1), C. Kenny (Barrow Rangers, 0-3), E. Murphy (Glenmore, 0-5, 0-4 frees), G. Aylward (Glenmore, 1-0), W. Walsh (Tullogher-Rosbercon, 0-1), J. Brennan (St Patrick’s). Subs: B. Kennedy (St Lachtain’s) for Moran, 31 mins; M. Moloney (Blacks & Whites, 0-2) for Callinan, 31 mins; P. Walsh (Tullaroan) for Brennan, 40 mins; J. Gannon (St Patrick’s) for O. Walsh, 46 mins.
Wexford - M. Fanning, W. Devereux, M. O’Hanlon, E. Moore, M. O’Regan (0-1, free), A. Shore, S. Murphy (0-1), E. Kent (0-3, frees), H. Kehoe (0-2), S. Tomkins (0-2), J. Leacy (0-3, 0-2 frees), L. Og McGovern (0-2, 0-1 free), P. Morris (1-1), J. Breen, P. Doran (0-1). Subs: J. Gahan for Breen, 51 mins; I. Byrne for Doran, 59 mins.
Referee - P. Murphy (Carlow)