Undefeated Kilkenny seek to ‘improve’ after controversial Model victory

Of the many, many permutations that filled the papers last week, the labyrinth of what ifs, the one we least expected to transpire in Nowlan Park yesterday was both managers going home satisfied.

Not that Keith Rossiter was enamoured with all the day’s events – Wexford’s strong recent record against Kilkenny meant they crossed the border yesterday more in expectation than hope. Their resurrection job on a summer that flirted with Armageddon lacked the moment that defines any good Wexford season, a victory against Kilkenny.

But, as he acknowledged afterwards, had Rossiter been offered a place in the All-Ireland series at the end of April, the evening Wexford lost to Antrim in Corrigan Park, he’d have “taken the arm off you.

​“I said it to the players as well, it’s a credit to them and that’s why I’m extremely proud of them,” Rossiter acknowledged.

“It was a lonely journey down from Belfast but the players put us in a position today to compete for a Leinster final and that’s what we were looking at all year, to try get back to a Leinster final and we put ourselves in a position right down to the wire to get into that.

“The consolation prize is not a bad consolation prize, we are still hurling in June.”

They won’t build any statues to Derek Lyng in Kilkenny for navigating this year’s Leinster round-robin undefeated but given the unfolding anarchy everywhere else in the province, it’s not to be sniffed at.

It could have been very different. Having drawn with Carlow and a Galway team that history won’t be kind to, and rode their luck in Parnell Park two Saturdays back, Kilkenny trailed by five at one point in the first half yesterday.

Nothing terminal, necessarily. But Wexford appeared to have brought the more functional attack, even with a well-marshalled Lee Chin. Kilkenny’s joy had come from long-range shooting.

Only a score or two more from Wexford before the break and we could have been looking at a first Wexford v Dublin Leinster final since the 1960s. Instead, Kilkenny hit three on the spin to cut their arrears to just two points at the break. Then they stormed into the second half, scoring six of the first seven points to quickly dictate the terms of the engagement. “Yeah it is but, at the same time, we know we need to keep improving,” said Lyng when asked whether coming through the round-robin stage of the season unbeaten was something to be proud about.

“At times, in spells in some of the games we’ve been really good and then there’s other times then where we’re not so good and we have to get a little bit more consistency in the 70 minutes but I thought overall today, we were playing a top-class team and we’re never going to stroll away from them or anything.

“I knew it was going to be a score or two in the end and that’s the way it’s been for the last few years. I just think, the way we worked it out in the last few minutes was really pleasing. Like I said, still a bit to do and but I’m, for now, very satisfied.”

The game had spun sharply Kilkenny’s way by the time they were awarded a penalty. But it was still a key moment, one that Wexford seemed to have reason to gripe about, were they so inclined.

Eoin Cody was fouled what looked a least a foot outside the 21-metre line. Liam Gordon gave the penalty but issued no black card to Liam Ryan, who made the foul. TJ Reid, who finished with 1-13, all from placed balls, did the rest.

“I was disappointed by the way it came about,” Rossiter said, refusing to issue blame or an easy excuse, “in relation to the position of where it was.

“Once the referee spreads out his two arms, there’s no argument from me, there’s not much I can do. I’m looking forward to seeing it later on to see where it actually was. We were beaten at the end of the day so there is no point me having sour grapes about it.

“Maybe Kilkenny might have had one before that, I don’t know – so I was told anyhow that they might have had one before that. So, it’s give and take.”

Chin, having an awesome season, had averaged 0-8 per game in championship games against Kilkenny since making his debut in 2013. They kept him to a point from play yesterday, 0-7 in all, and was never the totemic force around which the Wexford attack usually revolves.

Cian Byrne got their second goal to inject some energy into the closing stages but Kilkenny’s defence was exceptional in that second half.

“Obviously we drew with Galway and we just got over the line against Dublin,” Lyng said, looking ahead to the Leinster final.

“Two huge games at the time but last week was a really tough, tough game at Parnell Park. we had to go right to the end to just get over the line and there was huge physicality again, pace in it.

“So I wasn’t surprised that Dublin came through and, look, it’s going to be a massive game for us because they have huge pace, hurlers all over the pitch as well and it’s going to be a big test but delighted to be there first of all and we have two weeks now to get ready for it.”

​SCORERS – Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-13 (1-0 pen, 12f, 1 s-l); P Deegan, B Ryan 0-3 each; M Carey, R Reid, J Donnelly, M Keoghan, E Cody 0-1 each. Wexford: L Chin 0-7 (6f); C Byrne 1-3; C McDonald 1-2; C Dunbar, R O’Connor 0-2 each; C Hearne, L Óg McGovern, K Foley, J O’Connor 0-1 each.

KILKENNY: E Murphy 7; M Butler 6, H Lawlor 7, T Walsh 7; D Blanchfield 6, R Reid 7, M Carey 7; P Deegan 8, C Kenny 7; J Donnelly 7, TJ Reid 8, T Phelan 5; M Keoghan 6, B Ryan 7, E Cody 6. Subs: C Fogarty 6 for Phelan (h-t), W Walsh 6 for Keoghan (62), O Wall 6 for Ryan (72), H Shine 6 for Kenny (73).

WEXFORD: M Fanning 7; R Reck 7, M O’Hanlon 6, L Ryan 7; C Foley, D Reck 6, S Reck 6; C Hearne 7, R Lawlor 5; C Dunbar 5, R O’Connor 7, L Óg McGovern 6; C Byrne 8, L Chin 7, C McDonald 7. Subs: K Foley 7 for Lawlor (52), J O’Connor 6 for Dunbar (56). C McGuckin 6 for McGovern (60).

REF: L Gordon (Galway)

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