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Holders Kilkenny defy Minors’ spirited push. Report: Ronan Fagan, Photos Noel Reddy

KILKENNY 1-15, WEXFORD 2-10

Wexford’s brave-hearted Minor hurlers were denied a second Leinster championship title within the space of three years by remarkable Kilkenny defiance during injury-time in Wednesday’s provincial decider at Carlow’s Netwatch Cullen Park.

Goals from Adam O’Grady and Simon Roche either side of half-time propelled Wexford into a 2-5 to 1-5 advantage. Although Kilkenny responded to lead 1-15 to 2-9 after 60 minutes, the purple-and-gold twice went within inches of snatching glory in added-time.

Indeed, it took a smart intervention by Kilkenny ‘keeper Alan Dunphy – when denying sub Cian Doyle at the expense of a ‘65 – and full-back Bill Hughes – diverting a last gasp goaling attempt from Luke Murphy over the ‘bar – to prevent Wexford from booking an All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Galway.

Wexford started with three survivors from last year’s Leinster semi-final loss to the Cats – Cian Ó Tuama, Luke Roche and Luke Murphy – while Kilkenny retained five players, including captain Harry Shine and Killian Doyle, both of whom settled the holders into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead before seeing a tenth minute Killian Carey goal disallowed following a thrown pass by Shine.

Wexford were competing favourably, but they were lacking the necessary cut and thrust upfront and were overly reliant on steady free-taker Luke Roche as they trailed by 0-4 to 0-5 after 28 minutes.

Kilkenny appeared to have stolen a decided edge after 30 minutes when a free from Harry Shine was doubled on inside by Ted Dunne to net a 1-5 to 0-4 advantage.

But Wexford reacted with tremendous character as they threw the cat back amongst the pigeons. Luke Roche pointed a fifth free before a placed-ball from deep by Seán Cooney was fielded by Adam O’Grady and kicked to the net on the stroke of half-time to tie matters on 1-5 apiece.

And Wexford made a further statement four minutes into the second-half when a free from Roche was latched upon by Simon Roche and stabbed to the net for the Model County’s first taste of the lead (2-5 to 1-5).

But Kilkenny responded with seven of the next ten points to battle back in front after 48 minutes (1-12 to 2-8) as Shine (3) led the way.

Wexford’s Luke Roche had a blistering goaling effort cleared off the ‘line by Joe Fitzpatrick, while sub Cian Doyle fired into the side-netting before a seventh free courtesy of Luke Roche tied matters once again after 51 minutes (2-9 to 1-12).

Kilkenny then struck a decisive unanswered burst of points through Danny Glennon, Shine (free) and Ted Dunne (1-15 to 2-9).

Wexford certainly didn’t give up the ghost as they almost snatched a second Leinster title within the space of two years – but Kilkenny ‘keeper Alan Dunphy denied sub Cian Doyle at the expense of a fruitless ‘65, before full-back Bill Hughes diverted a powerful shot from Luke Murphy over the crossbar in the dying seconds as the black-and-amber erupted in celebration to book an All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Galway on August 14th.

Kilkenny: Alan Dunphy; Evan Rudkins, Bill Hughes, Seán Moore; Joe Fitzpatrick, Gearóid Dunne (0-1), Eoghan Lyng; Jeff Neary (0-1), Killian Doyle (0-1); Ted Dunne (1-1), Harry Shine (capt., 0-6, 4 frees), Killian Carey (0-1); Darragh Queally (0-1), Danny Glennon (0-3), Cillian Hackett.

Subs: Ben Whitty for Neary (47), James Walsh for Queally (51), Michael Brennan for Glennon (60+2).

Wexford: Tirnan Doyle (Faythe Harriers); Robbie Chapman (Duffry Rovers), Eoin Whelan (Fethard), Cian Ó Tuama (Naomh Éanna); Seán Cooney (Glynn-Barntown), Dylan Purcell (Duffry Rovers), Páidí Doyle (St. Anne’s); Seán Rowley (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Cillian Byrne (Fethard); Darby Purcell (Faythe Harriers), Adam O’Grady (Fethard, 1-1), Fionn Walsh (Monageer-Boolavogue); Simon Roche (Oulart-The Ballagh, 1-1), Luke Roche (Shelmaliers, 0-7 frees), Luke Murphy (Faythe Harriers, 0-1).

Subs: Cian Doyle (Shelmaliers) for Walsh (18), also Cian Turner (Glynn-Barntown), Cathal Parker (Horeswood), Edward Harney (Buffers Alley), Andrew Moran (St. Anne’s), Bertie Finn (Oulart-The Ballagh), Robbie Delaney (Shelmaliers), Joe Mernagh (St. Martin’s), Tadhg Brohan (St. Mary’s-Rosslare).

Referee: Thomas Gleeson (Dublin).

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