Allianz HL D1: Wexford battle past Kilkenny
Allianz Hurling League Division 1
WEXFORD 1-16 KILKENNY 1-14
by Ronan Fagan at Chadwicks Wexford Park
Wexford fired themselves back firmly into the hunt for qualification for the quarter-finals after late points from sub Diarmuid O'Keeffe and free-taker Paul Morris defied neighbours Kilkenny in Sunday's edge-of-your-seats third-round Allianz NHL Division 1 Group B derby at wintry Chadwicks Wexford Park.
Kilkenny would have been happy to be within 1-10 to 0-5 at half-time after facing the gale, before Billy Ryan sank an early second-half goal which eventually helped Brian Cody's men forge ahead by 1-12 to 1-11 after 51 minutes.
But with Wexford's qualification hopes in increasing peril after the loss to Clare, the home-side thrilled their supporters amongst the 7,200 crowd with a rousing third-quarter display capped with a clever O'Keeffe score and Morris's magnificent seventh personal point to shade matters.
Kilkenny made light of facing the gale for midfielder James Maher to point them in front.
Wexford responded with the clear realisation that they needed to build serious steam while benefiting from the elements, and Conor McDonald and Jack O'Connor each pointed before O'Connor's line-ball found McDonald, who shrugged off his marker and flicked overhead to the net in the sixth-minute (1-2 to 0-1).
The margin mushroomed to 1-8 to 0-2 after 23 minutes as Damien Reck, Pádraig Foley (free), Aidan Nolan (2) and Paul Morris (2 frees) found the range.
But Kilkenny demonstrated plenty of menace during the second quarter, and Wexford 'keeper Mark Fanning (twice) and 'sweeper' Kevin Foley had to intervene to nullify serious goal threats.
Kilkenny did get it back to 1-10 to 0-6 at half-time with a flurry of scores from captain Walter Walsh (2), John Donnelly, Richie Hogan, Alan Murphy (free).
And they maintained the momentum on the resumption when Billy Ryan netted on 38 minutes after being located by Walsh.
That fuelled Kilkenny's pursuit of a third successive victory – and first over Wexford since the championship of 2018 - as Martin Keoghan, 'keeper Alan Murphy (free) and Richie Hogan (2) tied matters after 48 minutes before John Donnelly restored the initiative for Kilkenny in the 51st-minute (1-12 to 1-11).
But Wexford lifted themselves again with scores from Paul Morris (2 frees) and Jack O'Connor to reclaim a 1-14 to 1-12 lead after 57 minutes.
Kilkenny centre-back Paddy Deegan and Alan Murphy sought to deprive Wexford of victory when drawing matters on 1-14 apiece in the 67th-minute.
But, with Liam Ryan peerless at the back, substitute Diarmuid O'Keeffe ghosted up the left flank to get on the end of a pass from Rory O'Connor and fire Wexford back in front on 69 minutes, before Paul Morris (free) made it 1-16 to 1-14.
Some further Kilkenny threats were quickly snuffed out as Wexford held strong to revive ambitions of making the business-end of the league.
Scorers for Wexford: Paul Morris 0-7 (6 frees), Conor McDonald 1-1, Jack O'Connor 0-3, Aidan Nolan 0-2, Damien Reck, Pádraig Foley (free), Diarmuid O'Keeffe 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilkenny: Alan Murphy 0-4 (4 frees), Richie Hogan 0-3, Billy Ryan 1-0, John Donnelly 0-2, James Maher, Walter Walsh, Darren Brennan (free), Martin Keoghan, Paddy Deegan 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Joe O'Connor, Liam Ryan, Simon Donohoe; Shaun Murphy, Pádraig Foley, Damien Reck; Liam Óg McGovern, Aidan Rochford; Jack O'Connor, Aidan Nolan, Kevin Foley; Cathal Dunbar, Conor McDonald, Paul Morris Subs: Rory O'Connor for Dunbar (45); Lee Chin for McGovern (45); Diarmuid O'Keeffe for Nolan (50) Matthew O'Hanlon for Reck (65); Mikey Dwyer for J O'Connor (67).
KILKENNY: Darren Brennan; Conor Browne, Huw Lawlor, Ciarán Wallace; Conor Delaney, Paddy Deegan, Cillian Buckley; James Maher, Michael Carey; John Donnelly, Alan Murphy, Martin Keoghan; Billy Ryan, Richie Hogan, Walter Walsh. Subs: Darren Mullen for Carey (53); Bill Sheehan for Hogan (58); Michael Cody for Maher (64).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).