A goal from their Captain Marvel, Evan Shefflin, helped the Kilkenny under-20 hurlers get their hands on some precious Leinster silverware.
The Ballyhale Shamrocks man was in the right place at the right time to strike the goal that proved decisive as DJ Carey’s side stopped Wexford from making it a clean sweep of provincial wins over the Cats.
Eoin Cody did the legwork, dashing down the left to flick a teasing ball across the goalmouth in the 17th minute. ’Keeper James Lawlor did well to swat it away, but couldn’t prevent Evan Shefflin from racing in to sweep the loose ball home.
The goal really hurt Wexford, who made a nervy start and paid for it. They took some time to settle - it could have been so different had Sean Keane Carroll’s shot not cannoned back off the crossbar after two minutes – but frees from Ross Banville saw them edge their way ahead by the seventh minute.
Kilkenny had their work cut out tackling the growing breeze, but they showed their attacking teeth when required. Corner-back James Brennan picked off a fine point before Sean Ryan’s like score levelled matters.
There was little between the sides for long spells but Shefflin’s goal pushed Kilkenny into a lead they would hold going into half-time. A game Wexford responded, Charlie McGuckin and Jack Reck hitting fine points, but Brassil (65, free) and Shefflin kept the Cats at arms length. Sean O’Connor hit two fine points in succession, lifting the home support, but they still trailed by a brace at the break (1-7 to 0-8).
With a strong defensive spine Kilkenny remained composed in the second half. While Wexford did get back on level terms by the 38th minute Kilkenny were quick to get ahead again. David Blanchfield broke from defence to get his name on the scoresheet, then Sean Ryan added another to push the Cats two clear with 20 minutes left (1-11 to 0-12).
The intensity ramped up in the final quarter, but Kilkenny held firm. Defenders David Blanchfield and Michael Carey weighed in with impressive points, scores that pushed their side towards the title. Wexford did hit them with a late charge – five minutes of injury-time helped them cut the gap to two through Banville (free), Chris Turner (0-2) and Cian Fitzhenry – but the Cats stayed cool to collect the spoils.
SCORERS: Kilkenny – Evan Shefflin (1-2); Niall Brassil (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65); David Blanchfield, Sean Ryan, Eoin Cody (0-2 each); Michael Carey, Eoin O’Shea, Stephen Donnelly, James Brennan (0-1 each).
Wexford – Ross Banville (0-7, frees); Sean O’Connor (0-3); Chris Turner (0-2, 0-1 free); Charlie McGuckin, Cian Fitzhenry (0-2 each); Conor Scallan, Jack Reck (0-1 each).
Kilkenny – Dean Mason; James Brennan, Conor Flynn, Mikey Butler; Conor Heary, Michael Carey, David Blanchfield; Eoin O’Shea, Evan Shefflin; James Bergin, Niall Brassil, Aaron Brennan; Stephen Donnelly, Sean Ryan, Eoin Cody. Subs: Ciaran Brennan for Bergin, 41 mins; Jack Kelly for Donnelly, 55 mins; John Dowd for O’Shea, 59 mins; Jim Ryan for A Brennan, 60 mins.
Wexford – James Lawlor; Cathal O’Connor, Eoin Molloy, Eoin O’Leary; Niall Murphy, Mike Kelly, Conor Scallan; Charlie McGuckin, Eoin Murphy; Sean Keane Carroll, Ross Banville, Jack Reck; Sean O’Connor, Connall Clancy, Diarmuid Doyle. Subs: Cian Fitzhenry for Keane Carroll, 4 mins; Oran Carthy for Doyle, 31 mins; Chris Turner for O’Connor, 54 mins; Ben Maddock for Banville, 58 mins.
Referee – Mick Murtagh (Westmeath).