Kilkenny showed their Championship potential with a win over Wexford in the semi-final of the Leinster Hurling Championship, the final score standing at 1-26 to 1-15.
The Black Cats ended the game with a comfortable 11-point margin and never really looked like losing to Wexford at their home ground in Wexford Park.
Kilkenny manager will be happy star man Henry Shefflin got his first Championship game under his belt since the All-Ireland final last year, scoring nine points with eight coming from frees and one from open play.
Having already lost captain Darren Stamp to injury before the match got under way, Wexford started the opening five minutes well with Garret Sinnott justifying his place in the team with two points from open play, Henry Shefflin putting Kilkenny’s first point on the board with a free in the second minute.
Richie Hogan’s seventh minute goal was the start of Kilkenny’s dominance of the first half with the Black Cats Richie Power having just been blocked from scoring by Malachy Travers.
Hogan expertly took a pass from the right of midfield out of the air, showed great strength to shrug off a tackle from the Wexford defence and fired the ball past Niall Breen and into the top corner of the net.
Wexford responded straight away with a point from debutant Sinnott, taking his third attempt well and forcing Brian Cody to switch JJ Delaney to full back to mark him.
Kilkenny kept up the pressure with three successive points through Shefflin, Power and Colin Fennelly to make it 1-04 to 0-03 in Kilkenny’s favour and further misery was put upon Wexford when Ciarán Kenny was forced off with an injury, replaced by in defence by Colin Farrell.
Rory Jacob scored a point in the 15th minute but then fired wide in the 19th minute, as did Stephen Banville and Wexford would be made to rue their missed chances as Shefflin scored another four points before the break with Power, Eoin Larkin, TJ Reid and Michael Rice all putting points on the board for Kilkenny.
Jim Berry kept Wexford hopes alive before the end of the first half with a well taken goal after Banville was fouled at the edge of the Kilkenny box, which Berry struck into the back of the net having previously been denied by a great save by Herity, the score at the end of the first half 1-14 to 1-09.
Wexford came out flying in the second half, having only won three out of their 17 puckouts in the first half.
Points from Berry, PJ Nolan and Sinnott’s fourth contributed to Wexford’s second half lift and they seemed to have a spring in their step, despite Kilkenny remaining ahead with Herity saving well from a dangerous ball after a long range effort by Harry Keogh.
Shefflin scored his eighth point from his eighth effort of the game in 46th minute and Fennelly scored a great point after striding down the left and striking the ball over the bar to make it 1-20 to 1-12 as Kilkenny started to pull away.
In the 50th minute, Jim Berry put his tally up to 1-04 with a point and Wexford escaped a second goal as Shefflin’s long range effort hit the post and Eoin Larkin’s attempt trickled just past Breen’s left hand post and wide while Richie Hogan had a chance to pass in the box but instead came close by hitting the Wexford post.
Shefflin’s first point from open play in the 57th minute was followed by points from Paul Murphy, Power and Reid before Malachy Travers pulled one back for Wexford and another when Herity saved brilliantly again from Banville with Paul Roche scoring the resultant 65.
TJ Reid scored the last point of the game after he received a ball in midfield and put over from long range, ending the game 1-26 to 1-15 to Kilkenny.
Galway or Dublin will have a tough game on their hands in the Leinster final as Kilkenny looked dominant without ever reaching top gear.
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