IN THE end maturity and the sort of physical strength that comes with age made a difference as Wexford thundered to a good win over the Kilkenny Development Squad to qualify for a Walsh Cup senior hurling showdown with Dublin next weekend. The Slaneysiders won by 2-18 to 0-16, writes John Knox.
The Cats gave the Development Squad a second chance in the Walsh Cup after doing well when beating NUI Galway the previous week, but this time Wexford proved too good, an advantage in physical strength being hugely important as they over ran the visitors during the closing stages in Blackwater on Sunday.
“We can’t be too disappointed,” insisted Kilkenny manager and under-21 team boss, Richie Mulrooney, who supervised the Walsh Cup effort with his under-age cohorts, Adrian Finan, Brian Ryan and Niall Lacey (physical trainer).
“We deserved to be ahead at half-time,” he continued. “After conceding the goal from a penalty on half-time we were left with too much to do afterwards. Overall the experience was good for players, and it will stand to them later in the season.”
The losers finished with 11 players from the under-21 squad on the field, so it can truly be said that youth was given its fling.
“It was too much of an ask for a young team like ours to come down to Wexford and beat them,” Mr Mulrooney continued. “It was an entertaining game and the players put in a very good effort. We did well.
Lot of positives
“There were a lot of positives in the game for us, and it served a purpose. We can now look forward to our own campaign later. We will do a bit of work over the next four or five weeks and when March comes we will start organising challenge games and so on.”
Kilkenny produced their best hurling when wind assisted during the opening half when the likes of driving centre-back, Luke Harney, Tomás Breen, Rory Hickey and Mark Bergin played very well. Matthew Ruth got on the ball more than anyone else afterwards and he looked the most likely one in attack to do damage when the team struggled.
However, the concession of a goal from a penalty right on the ‘whistle’ meant they retired level at the break at 0-10 to 1-7 when they should have been in front. After the change Wexford got on top slowly but surely, and the visitors were restricted to a single point, the last one of the match, during the closing 10 minutes.
It was a simple case of Wexford grabbing hold of the game and driving through the opposition with Richie Kehoe, Andrew Shore, Eoin Doyle, Gary Moore, Padge Doran and Lee Chin leading the charge.
There was good purpose and energy about Kilkenny’s play during the first half, during which they were never headed. After the opening four points were equally divided, the visitors hit the front with a pointed free from Rory Hickey in the seventh minute.
Involved in best work
The Lisdowney man was central to a lot of Kilkenny’s best work during this half. By the break he had five points in the bag, four from frees.
Wexford trailed by five points at one stage (0-9 to 0-4). On a pitch that was tight and exposed - it is on an elevated site - the team with the wind (Kilkenny in this half) had a fair advantage.
At the stage of their biggest lead the Cats might have sneaked a goal. However, a close range attempt by Shane Maher was blocked by a defender’s leg after a long delivery from Brian Kennedy ended with the ball breaking around the square.
Wexford got back on track with a point from free taker Gary Moore. They out-scored the visitors during the following minutes with contributions from Moore and P.J. Nolan.
Then on the stroke of half-time full-forward, Michael O’Regan was man handled to the ground after claiming a drive from Lee Chin. The referee had no hesitation in awarded a penalty. Gary Moore was successful with the effort.
The score at half-time was 0-10 to 1-7. The home side were lucky and unlucky – the former thanks to the late goal; the latter because they shot six wides during the half. Kilkenny had one wide, in the 25th minute, when they already had nine points on the ’board, which was fair shooting.
Anyway, the second half unfolded with the scores being level three times during the opening 12 minutes. Wexford grabbed the initiative in the 50th minute when Padge Doran swept a ground shot to the net from close quarters on the right after a defender had batted out an incoming free from Richie Kehoe. Within seconds Eoin Doyle arrowed over a point.
That was it – Wexford had the upper-hand. They were leaders by 2-11 to 0-13. They roared on from there, growing in confidence as the scores flowed and the match progressed.
There was just no holding them as they rifled over points from all angles and distances.
Scorers: Wexford – Gary Moore (1-4, goal penalty, points frees); Padge Doran (1-3); P.J. Nolan (0-4); Eoin Doyle, Paul Morris (0-2 each); Richie Kehoe, Harry Kehoe, Garrett Sinnott (0-1 each). Kilkenny - Rory Hickey (0-10, nine frees); Matthew Ruth, Ger Aylward, Mark Bergin (0-2 each).
Kilkenny – Aaron Duggan (Dicksboro), Jason Corcoran (John Lockes), Padraig Keating (Erin’s Own), Padraig Walsh (Tullaroan), Joey Holden (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Luke Harney (Kilmacow), Brian Kennedy (St Lachtain’s), Owen McGrath (John Lockes), Tomás Breen (St Martin’s), Mark Bergin (O’Loughlin Gaels), Rory Hickey (Lisdowney), Mark Kelly (O’Loughlin Gaels), Matthew Ruth (James Stephens), Shane Maher (Dicksboro), Ger Aylward (Glenmore). Subs – Ollie Walsh, Conor Martin (Emeralds), Shane Donnelly (St Lachtain’s), Richie Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Ger Teehan (Graigue-Ballycallan), Martin Power (Piltown) blood sub.
Wexford – N. Breen, B. Kenny, A Shore, E. Moore, A. Kenny, R. Kehoe, J. Tonks, L. Chin, E. Doyle, H. Kehoe, P. Morris, G. Moore, P.J. Nolan, M. O’Regan, P. Doran. Subs – D. Redmond, G. Sinnott, S. Murphy.
Referee – David Hughes (Carlow).