BGE LEINSTER U21 HURLING FINAL: WEXFORD 4-17 KILKENNY 1-9
By Michael Dwyer at Innovate Wexford Park for www.gaa.ie
A golden display from Man-of-the-Match Conor McDonald, who landed a haul of 1-11 (0-7 frees), led the hosts to a third Bord Gáis Energy Under-21 Leinster hurling title in a row at the expense of old rivals Kilkenny at Innovate Wexford Park.
Wexford’s first-half performance was a feat of brilliance. In spite of conceding 1-1 inside the first 30 seconds, they completed a remarkable recovery to lead by ten points just over 20 minutes later. The hosts repaired their defensive blunders in a stunning fashion.
Chris Bolger and Liam Hickey wriggled their way through on a number of occasions but Eoin Conroy, Pádraig Foley and Jack O’Connor were quick to fight back and launch some splendid counter-attacks.
Kilkenny opened with a classic onslaught. Paddy Deegan broke from the throw-in, jinked his way through to find Liam Hickey.
With the Wexford defence in disarray, Hickey fired a low drive to Oliver O’Leary’s net after just 13 seconds. Midfielder Willie Brennan added the visitors’ first point seconds later.
Although the Cats dominated from the off, flooding Wexford players in pairs, the home side soon got to grips with their physicality and began to outwit them.
All of the visitors’ hopes were dashed within between the 17th and 24th minute when Wexford delivered a sucker-punch to their opponents in the form of a trio of goals.
First Pádraig Foley cast a perfect ball to Naomh Éanna attacker McDonald who fired a shot to the Clonard-end net, then McDonald and Andrew Kenny combined with flicks to set up James Cash for a goal and county senior squad member Kenny followed suit with a sweet goal.
Those three fatal strikes contributed to Wexford’s halftime lead of 3-8 to 1-4.
Cathal Dunbar made his mark on the scoresheet as he raised a green-flag within three minutes of the restart.
At the other end, Conor Martin and Seán Morrissey tested Oliver O’Leary on the goal-line, but the Buffers Alley clubman repelled their shots.
Conor McDonald tagged on points to seize the spoils for Wexford as JJ Doyle’s men exhibited a vibrant style of hurling. Captain Eoin Conroy was euphoric as he accepted the trophy, which marks a three-in-a-row of provincial titles for the Model county, the first since the three won from 1969 to 1971.
Scorers for Wexford: C McDonald 1-11 (7f), K Foley 0-3, C Dunbar 1-1, J Cash 1-0, A Kenny 1-0 J O’Connor 0-1, Shane Murphy 0-1
Scorers for Kilkenny: L Hickey 1-0, C Martin 0-3 (3f), L Blanchfield 0-2, W Brennan 0-1, E Cody 0-1, S Morrissey 0-1, C Ryan 0-1
WEXFORD: O O’Leary; S Donohoe, L Ryan, E Conroy; J White, P Foley, J O’Connor; C Devitt, G Bailey; A Kenny, K Foley, J Cash; C Dunbar, C McDonald, P Sutton. Subs: T French for P Sutton (46), Shane Murphy for G Bailey (47), S Kelly for J Cash (51), S Kenny for L Ryan (57), Sean Murphy for S Dohohoe (59).
KILKENNY: D Brennan; E Cody, C Delaney, C Wallace; J Cleere, E Morrissey, D Cody; P Deegan, W Brennan; M Mansfield, C Martin, L Blanchfield; K Kenny, C Bolger, L Hickey. Subs: J Maher for M Mansfield (22); S Morrissey for J Maher (HT); C Ryan for W Brennan (36); B Troy for J Cleere (36); T Phelan for K Kenny (53).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow)