Two goals from danger-man Cian Loy helped the Kilkenny & District League’s Youths open their inter-league campaign with a hard-earned point.
The Freebooters player struck a powerful second half equaliser as the Cats got off the ropes and recovered from a sucker-punch to pull back Wexford and earn a share of the spoils in Derdimus on Saturday.
Hit by two calamitous first half goals, the second right on the stroke of the interval, it looked like Kilkenny were in trouble as the buoyed-up visitors went looking for all three points in their first game.
However, they didn’t reckon on Kilkenny raising their spirits - and their performance - as they fought back for a deserved share of the spoils.
The Cats had to wait until the 70th minute to claw their way back to parity, but the goal was a reward for their due patience.
Fashioning a drive from midfield, skipper Mark O’Neill and Alex Conway linked up well to release Peter Henebry. His clever pass unlocked the Wexford back four, giving Sam Watkins time to charge into the box, but his shot was stopped by a mass defensive effort.
Wexford thought they had survived, but their joy was shortlived. Pressing the clearance, the hosts forced the ball back into the box, where Loy pounced. Finding time to take a touch, Loy controlled the ball then slammed a wicked shot beyond netminder Dylan Furlong.
The goal was exactly what John Maclean’s side deserved - and Loy in particular. He proved to be a real handful in the second half, carving out chances that, on another day, could have seen him leave Derdimus with a bagful of goals.
He went very close to making it 2-2 in the 53rd minute when, after being fouled by Eric Quinn, he curled a venomous free-kick around the wall, but Furlong got two strong hands behind the ball to push it to safety.
Loy was at it again a few minutes later. This time he used his head, popping up at the back post to get on the end of a deep Watkins cross, but his downward header was straight at Wexford’s Number One.
Loy, who also had a 58th minute header hooked clear, went closer still when a 67th minute ball from the hard-working Christian Lapuste broke kindly for Loy. Racing into the box he unleashed a stinging diagonal shot, but Furlong made a super save, getting down well to push the ball around the post.
Patience was a key component for Kilkenny, who had to weather something of a Wexford storm in the early stages. The visitors attacked from the off and almost grabbed a quick goal inside four minutes.
Pouncing on mishit kick-out, Jessie Farrell picked up play and send Mikey Lawlor free down the right. Lawlor arrowed a dangerous ball across the box but Seamus Casey miscued his strike with the goal at his mercy.
Wexford, who looked composed and confident, tested Kilkenny for most of the opening quarter, but a quick reshuffle paid off handsomely for the hosts.
With Peter Henebry moving to the left of the front three, Alex Conway to the right and Cian Loy in the middle, Kilkenny stormed into a 20th minute lead. Conway was the provider with a quick pass to Loy, who waltzed into the corner of the box and fired a low shot inside Dylan Furlong’s left post.
The goal was a good way to lift the pressure, but another wave of Wexford attention soon followed. Ivan Meegan picked off a misdirected Kilkenny pass and slipped Jessie Farrell through on goal, but Aidan Hynes dived at his feet to make the stop.
The netminder was called into action again in the 23rd minute, this time on the double. First he had to deal with a powerful Lawlor header, then got up to instinctively stop Farrell’s follow-up shot with his feet.
The pressure was growing and finally told with 33 minutes on the clock. Working the ball out from the back, Wexford sent full-back Eric Quinn careering down the left. Allowed to drive into the box, Quinn brought a good save from Hynes, but the ’keeper couldn’t prevent Farrell from tapping in the rebound.
Kilkenny settled well after that setback, but a momentary lapse saw Wexford steal the advantage in injury-time.
Trying to play their way out of trouble, the Cats were sunk when Meegan seized on another misplaced pass and tore on. He didn’t let up until he reached the box where, rounding the advancing Hynes, he coolly slipped the ball home.
The goal was a setback for the hosts, but they didn’t give up. The introduction of Nathan Coady for the second half saw them raise their game, something which brought its reward with Loy’s leveller.
The day could have ended even better for Kilkenny, who had chances to nick all three points but missed that little rub of the green. Alex Conway saw his 74th minute shot cannon back off the post while, in stoppage time, netminder Furlong did well to push a Loy header up in the air. Conway was waiting to pounce as the ball came back down in the six-yard box, but Martin O’Connor nipped in to head the ball to safety, preserving Wexford’s share of the spoils.
Kilkenny & District League: Aidan Hynes, Matthew Lowth (Nathan Coady, 46 mins), Declan Wall, Dylan Kavanagh, Chris Keane, Christian Lapuste, Peter Henebry, Mark O’Neill (John McEvoy, 84 mins), Cian Loy, Sam Watkins, Alex Conway.
Wexford & District League: Dylan Furlong, Martin O’Connor, Eric Quinn, Amjad Yousseff, Ryan Cullen, Ross Moore, Dion Leeson (Dale Donohue, 79 mins), Seamus Casey, Jessie Farrell, Ivan Meegan, Mikey Lawlor (Dale Kirwan, 56 mins).
Referee: Nicky Marnell. Linesmen: Ollie Falsey, Lee Kill.