Paddy Deegan recovered from injury and is ready to go
Surprisingly for two counties who have a long-standing rivalry, tomorrow's decider between Kilkenny and Wexford will be their first Leinster final meeting since 2008.
Readers of an age will remember the days - the days when Wexford and Kilkenny dominated the provincial scene.
In the seventies, for example, the counties contested all 10 finals. Kilkenny won seven of them, while the Slaneysiders took the Bob O’Keeffe Cup in 1970, 1976 and 1977.
In the eighties, Offaly burst on the scene big time to break up the party.
The midlanders took the title in 1980, retained it in 1981 and also put their name on it in 1984 and 1985 before completing the three in-a-row between 1988 and 1990.
Sadly, hurling times have changed for Offaly.
Chasing 72nd title
Kilkenny are looking for their 72nd Leinster title, with Wexford aiming to win their 21st.
Provincial finals between the counties have a history of following no set script.
They generally explode; the action can just take off like no other hurling contest around.
That is the Kilkenny/Wexford thing. Expect nothing less tommorow.
Fans got a gripping preview on Saturday week, so they know what to expect.
At times in the past these knock-out championship games - Brian Cody would well remember them - used to be a coach’s nightmare, with high scores conceded.
The hurling would be hell for leather from the throw-in to the final whistle. Huge fortune swings were not unusual.
But that didn’t matter. It was all about the end result.
And even if there will be life beyond for the losers tomorrow, wanting to drive on as winners will be the only thing motivating Brian and Davy’s men.
The hard to credit turn of events that unfolded in Leinster generally this season has done great things for the promotion of the game in the province.
The Leinster championship is no small brother to the Munster championship. It is an alive and vibrant championship, well capable of throwing up tales of the unexpected.
The departure of a smashing team like Galway, the All-Ireland champions as recent as 2017, highlights the point.
While injuries continue to dog the Cats, their indomitable spirit has been huge in helping them cope in testing times.
Tigerish defender, Paddy Deegan, one of the most improved players in the country, was the latest one to suffer an injury, but he made the team. He didn’t get to half-time in Wexford Park, but there was no way he was going to miss this one.
Cody and fellow selectors, Michael Dempsey, James McGarry and Derek Lyng won’t know what to do the next time they have a full fit panel to pick from. But by golly, will they be well off that day!
Kilkenny 2019 are a true championship team - one that has shown improvement with every outing.
No team starts any championship as the finished product.
It is the way they grow; how they cope with problems and challenges; how new players slot into the system during the campaign that all combine to make a difference.
Kilkenny are in a decent place; a place that is full of possibilities and opportunities. Croke Park will be rocking tomorrow, have no doubt about that.
The last time Wexford appeared in the final was 2017 when their terrific fans helped to all but fill the place.
The attendance was a massive 60,032. Wexford were beaten (0-29 to 1-17) by Galway but they turned the Leinster final into something different that day. Expect another bumper attendance this time.
There is a rising in Wexford again, and Davy’s army is on the march.
Kilkenny lost last year’s final against Galway by 1-28 to 3-15.
Subsequently they were unlucky losers against eventual All-Ireland winners, Limerick in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
There is a rising mood of optimism on the Noreside again. Old hurling times are here again, for the moment at least.
Paths to the final
Kilkenny 2-23, Dublin 1-21
Kilkenny 3-22, Carlow 1-14
Galway 3-20, Kilkenny 2-22
Kilkenny 1-18, Wexford 0-21
Top scorers -
TJ Reid (5-42, 0-32 frees, 2-0 penalties, 0-3 65s), Colin Fennelly (1-4), Adrian Mullen (1-3), Alan Murphy (0-6), Ger Aylward (1-3).
Dublin 1-22, Wexford 2-19
Galway 0-16, Wexford 0-16
Wexford 2-28, Carlow 0-19
Wexford 0-21, Kilkenny 1-18
Lee Chin (0-35, 0-26 frees, 0-5 65s), Rory O’Connor (2-5), Conor McDonald (0-10, 0-2 line balls), Diarmuid O’Keeffe (0-7), Cathal Dunbar (0-5).
Last five championship meetings
2019 - Leinster round robin: Kilkenny 1-18, Wexford 0-21
2018 - Leinster round robin: Kilkenny 0-22, Wexford 1-18
2017 - Leinster semi-final: Wexford 1-20, Kilkenny 3-11
2015 - Leinster semi-final: Kilkenny 5-25, Wexford 0-16
2011 - Leinster semi-final: Kilkenny 1-26, Wexford 1-15
Last five Leinster final meetings
2008: Kilkenny 5-21, Wexford 0-17
2007: Kilkenny 2-24, Wexford 1-12
2006: Kilkenny 1-23, Wexford 2-12
2005: Kilkenny 0-22, Wexford 1-16
2003: Kilkenny 2-23, Wexford 2-12
Wexford last won the Leinster title in 2004 when they beat Offaly in the final. Kilkenny’s last Leinster success was in 2016.
The counties have met 14 times in the championship since Brian Cody took over as Kilkenny manager.
The record stands at 11-2 in Kilkenny’s favour.
The Round Robin draw in Wexford a fortnight ago was the first time the sides have shared the spoils in the Cody era.
Wexford’s two wins were in the Leinster semi-final of 2004 and 2017.
The last time Wexford beat Kilkenny in a Leinster final was in 1997.
The reigning All-Ireland champions at the time, the Model County scored a 2-14 to 1-11 win over the Cats. Sub Billy Byrne was the hero for Wexford, hitting 1-2 while Tom Dempsey also scored 1-1.
Kilkenny’s goal scorer that day was PJ Delaney.
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