It has suffered plenty of knocks before, but can Gaelic football in Kilkenny recover from this hammer blow?
The county’s minors were the latest side to feel the sting of a landslide loss when they were torn apart by ravenous Wexford in their one-sided Leinster championship clash in Nowlan Park on Saturday.
The visitors helped themselves to 17 - seventeen - goals over the course of the hour as they romped to a 71-point success on an afternoon which left a black mark on Kilkenny sporting history.
Now the question - where to from here? Will Kilkenny ever regain some level of respectability on the inter-county scene or is there no way back?
Whatever the outcome, a lot of work needs to be undertaken, especially as the county’s senior side doesn’t compete in the League or even a national championship in this country.
While they did lift the British junior title last season, a result which seemed to send a few shoots of recovery breaking through, this hammering of the under-age side may have done irreparable damage to their cause.
Regarding Saturday’s game, the result was all but decided inside 10 minutes, as Wexford amassed an impressive advantage. By that stage the Model County had hit the Cats for 3-3, Mickie Dwyer blasting two close-range strikes to the net while Jamie Myler helped himself to 1-2.
As hard as Kilkenny found it to gain ground territorially - and how they tried, with Sean Ryan leading the way from midfield - Wexford gave nothing away easily. Backboned by a strong Good Counsel (New Ross) contingent that had won the junior All-Ireland a few years ago their movement was impressive.
Stringing hand-passes together they cut through the Kilkenny tackles as they focused their attacks on the City End posts.
With Myler and Dwyer leading a strong attack Wexford were merciless when it came to picking off scores. The gap between the sides grew and grew - the Cats were entrenched in their own half as they tried to mount a solid defence; every time they attempted to make a clearance they were forced backwards.
Wexford had no such problem, boosting their tally with further goals from Mark Rossiter, Myler and Dwyer. By half-time they were already assured of their quarter-final berth, as they led by 6-13 to 0-0.
The second half didn’t get any easier for Kilkenny. Any hopes they had of Wexford easing off were quashed inside a devastating three-minute spell. Opening with swift point from Cathal Walsh, Wexford surged on.
Their next three attacks yielded goals for Myler (2) and Dwyer - it made for cruel, almost unbearable, viewing.
What was noticeable was how deathly silent the small crowd became as the game wore on. With Wexford showing no signs of satisfying their hunger for more goals the match almost became an exercise in shoe-gazing - people almost preferred to look down rather than out at the game as the scoreboard continued to turn.
Myler ended his day with 5-5 before coming off with 10 minutes to go. Dwyer racked up 7-3. Kilkenny’s sole score, an injury-time Sean Boyd free, was greeted with cheers of relief from the home support - but it did little to raise the spirits.
With a qualifier game to come against either Carlow or Laois, Kilkenny need a big response to this defeat. Failure to do so could see football consigned to the scrapheap altogether.
Note: Don’t blame the players. They tried, and will try again the next day. Many others, including clubs, don’t even bother.
SCORERS: Wexford - Mickie Dwyer (7-3); Jamie Myler (5-5); Luke Sinnott (2-1); Mark Rossiter (1-3, 0-1 free); Sam Wall (1-2); Robbie Brooks (1-0); Cathal Walsh (0-2, 0-1 free); Mark O’Neill (0-2); Ronan Devereux, Barry O’Connor, Sean Nolan (0-1 each). Kilkenny - Sean Boyd (0-1, free).
Kilkenny - Conor Hackett; Sean Nolan, Brian Farrell, Jamie McLoughlin; Ian Foley, Sean Boyd, Zac Power; Sean Ryan, Samuel O’Dwyer; Mitchell Maher, Ryan Poyntz, Steven Scallan; Stuart Dunne Maher, Liam Rafter, Kevin Brennan. Subs: Andrew Parsons for McLoughlin, 17 mins; Matthew Cullen for Nolan, 38 mins; Ciaran Cody for Power, 38 mins; Daragh Doyle for Dunne Maher, 46 mins; Killian Phelan for Foley, 48 mins; Robert Boyd for Poyntz, 55 mins.
Wexford - Darragh O’Connor; Martin O’Connor, Ronan Devereux, Seamus O’Donnell; Tadhg Cody, Mark O’Neill, John Dunne; Andrew Walsh, Cathal Walsh; Sean Nolan, Mark Rossiter, Barry O’Connor; Jamie Myler, Mickie Dwyer, Sam Wall. Subs: Richie Waters for A. Walsh, 37 mins; Luke Sinnott for Nolan, 38 mins; Peadar Cowman for O’Donnell, 47 mins; Richie Ryan for O’Connor, 48 mins; Ben Moore for Rossiter, 48 mins; Robbie Brooks for Myler, 50 mins.
Referee - David Hickey (Carlow).
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