The team selections may have had an experimental look but there was no dilution in terms of passion when Wexford hosted Kilkenny in this fiery Walsh Cup semi-final yesterday.
Wexford claimed a three-point victory after a game which saw Jack O’Connor and Liam Blanchfield receive straight red cards four minutes into the second half following a mass brawl.
Despite early-season bragging rights, Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald was keeping his feet on the ground.
“We were down a number of players while Kilkenny were short practically their first team. We now have another game coming up, Galway in the final, but we need a number of our players back. This was good preparation for the league.”
Kilkenny boss Brian Cody said: “it was a competitive game but there are difficult weeks ahead for the players with the Fitzgibbon Cup starting next weekend and then the league the following weekend.
Cody revealed that while Padraig Walsh is back in training, Cillian Buckley will miss the start of the league having undergone knee surgery.
Kilkenny began with points from Conor Fogarty and Luke Scanlon before Wexford opened their account through a long-range Paudie Foley free. Foley’s long-range efforts plus late frees from Harry Kehoe (who assumed the free-taking role midway through the half) kept Wexford in touch, but with Kieran Kelly knocking over four frees along with a fine Conor Delaney sideline it was Kilkenny who led 0-8 to 0-7 at the interval.
Sub Jack O’Connor equalised within two minutes of the restart, but two minutes later he and Blanchfield received their marching orders following a stormy clash.
The sides exchanged scores through Martin Keoghan’s fine effort off the wing and a Conor McDonald free. After Keoghan lofted over another fine point Foley (2) and Aidan Nolan nudged the hosts 0-12 to 0-10 clear after 54 minutes.
Wexford, playing with more fluency, struck over points through Foley and Dee O’Keeffe. A Paddy Deegan effort left Kilkenny three adrift (0-15 to 0-12) lead entering the closing five minutes. Sub Richie Hogan had Kilkenny’s final score before Seamus Casey, Wexford’s fourth free-taker of the afternoon, completed the scoring as the hosts claimed a three-point win.
WEXFORD: E Martin; S Reck, L Ryan, C Firman; S Donohoe, P Foley (0-7, 0-6 frees), S Murphy; A Nolan (0-1), D O’Keeffe (0-1); H Kehoe (0-3 frees), K Foley, I Byrne (0-1); D Dunne, C Dunbar, C McDonald (0-1 free).
Subs: L Og McGovern for Byrne (ht); J O’Connor (0-1 free) for Kehoe (ht); S Casey (0-1 free) for Dunne (58); D Byrne for Murphy (62).
KILKENNY: D Brennan; R Lennon, H Lawlor, T Walsh; C Delaney (0-1), P Deegan (0-1), E Morrissey; J Cleere, C Fogarty (0-1); G Malone (0-1), M Keoghan (0-2), L Blanchfield; K Kelly (0-5, 0-4 frees), J Donnelly, L Scanlon (0-1).
Subs: P Murphy for Cleere (ht); R Hogan (0-1 free) for Kelly (45); N Brassil for Donnelly (65).