Kilkenny snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford
There will be more questions than answers after Kilkenny’s two-point loss to Wexford in the National Hurling league – a defeat that seemed almost impossible with 25 minutes to play.
This may go down to the changes on the park, and if we have to be bruatally honest, Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald won that battle today, bringing on the likes of Lee Chin, Matt Hanlon and Rory O’Connor to wrestle back control. Kilkenny took off Richie Hogan after he knocked over two sweet points and seemed to be singing.
Billy Ryan’s goal a minute into the second half confirmed what most thought: that Wexford didn’t score enough with the wind in the first half. This kick-started Kilkenny’s comeback and what appeared to the the road to victory.
But Davy Fitzgerald has instilled a steeliness in this Wexford team which means they can never be taken lightly. Kilkenny ripped into Wexford at the start of the second half and many thought the game was done. They were wrong.
Playing with the aid of a gale in the first half, Wexford’s half-time lead of just seven points just didn’t seem to be enough to hold of a Kilkenny charge with the wind at the Cats back.
Kilkenny managed to hold Wexford to 1-10 in the first half, scoring six points themselves mainly through Alan Murphy’s accuracy with the deadball. Richie Hogan started instead of Ger Alyward, got a lovely score, just after John Donnelly tagged on one to cut the half time deficit to just seven.
Wexford, into the gale, got the first point of the second half and maybe those gathered in Wexford Park thought Davy Fitzgearld’s team could pull this game out of the bag.
It took one puck out to dispel that theory. Unlike Wexford in the first half, who with the breeze persisted with a short ball game, goalie Darren Brennan in for Eoin Murphy launched a long puck out Billy Ryan picked it out of the sky, bore down on goal and buried it to the net. Game back to five points.
As the clouds rolled in and the rain approached Kilkenny got point after point, Richie Hogan with a quick brace to draw Kilkenny level on 45 minutes.
The heavens opened, Davy cleared the bench sending on Lee Chin and Rory O’Connor, and it seemed to stem Kilkenny’s flow. It took Kilkenny six minutes to find their next score through John Donnelly again.
Wexford levelled through a pointed free from a nervous Paul Morris and then somehow, to the surprise of the hardy crowd went back into the lead. The rampant Kilkenny which scored 1-6 without reply in the first 10 minutes of the second half seemed to have vanished. But with 15 minutes to go and the wind at their back Kilkenny, the Cats held all the aces, or so we thought.
Kilkenny’s composure, however, seemed to elude them at the crucial point in the game. Some poor tackles and wild pulls gave Wexford a few frees that broke up the flow of the game and Model-men them the opportunity to stick their noses back in front, getting three points in a row into the heart of Storm Dennis to go back two in front with ten minutes to go. A Lee Chin free close to the 45 showed how tough the conditions were, the ball barely making it to the penalty box.
Paddy Deegan popped up in the 63 minute to gets the Cat’s first point in more than 10 minutes, a much needed score. Kilkenny a point behind with six minutes to go. Alan Murphy levelled the game on 68 minutes with another free.
With the clock running down to 70 minutes, Wexford’s D O’Keeffe scored a stunning point from out the field. Wexford back in front again with the clock in the red.
Five minutes of injury time left to go and game in the balance. Wexford’s hunger for the battle seemed to come to the fore. Wexford awarded a free, Paul Morris – much more assured now extended Wexford’s lead to two points.
Kilkenny just couldn’t find the answer and there will be a lot of head scratching in the Kilkenny camp after this one, how they let this slip when they had levelled the game with 20 minutes to go.
Wexford’s bench made all the difference and helped them across the line. The game ended in a shower of hail and it is amazing the players put on such a display in such conditions. A deserved victory for Wexford, a few questions for Kilkenny to answer.