The Kilkenny v Wexford rivalry which dominated Leinster hurling for so long reignited in spectacular fashion last season and continues again this Saturday in the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup final.
The counties clashed three times in competitive action last year and Davy Fitzgerald went home smiling after two of those games, marking a return to prominence for Wexford following years of Kilkenny dominance.
The only victory for The Cats came in the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup semi-final and they went on to defeat Galway in the final, despite not scoring a goal in either game.
But Wexford knocked Kilkenny out of both the Allianz League and Leinster Championship, so it’s safe to assume Brian Cody will be determined to reverse that trend at Nowlan Park this Saturday.
Kilkenny came through a testing semi-final away to Offaly last weekend and it remains to be seen if they continue the policy of selecting mostly experienced defenders and players out to prove a point at midfield and up front.
One way or the other, they’ll benefit from another intense game ahead of their trip to Cork seven days later, particularly as they weren’t seriously challenged by either Laois (6-24 to 1-11) or Kildare (3-18 to 0-8) in the group stages.
Richie Reid netted two goals against Laois and John Walsh achieved the same feat against Kildare, but it was the half back line of Conor Fogarty, Cillian Buckley and Padraig Walsh who curtailed Offaly’s momentum in the second half last time out.
Wexford were pushed all the way by Carlow in their first outing of 2018, before picking up both points in Group 1 with a 1-20 to 0-18 win and they then dismissed Wicklow by 6-36 to 1-12.
It’s debatable whether the Slaney-siders would have progressed from last Sunday’s semi-final had Dublin not been reduced to 14 players in the second half. At that stage, Pat Gilroy’s side led by 15 points to 10, but Cathal Dunbar then fired home a goal for Wexford. Points flowed from then on through Paul Morris, David Dunne, Jack Guiney and Kevin Foley, giving them a 1-20 to 0-16 winning margin.
Wexford haven’t won the Walsh Cup since completing an eight-in-a-row in 2002, and have been runners-up on five occasions since. Their desire to extend their winning run against Kilkenny, and the hosts’ determination to impress their home support at Nowlan Park, should ensure this is a game worth watching. Throw in is at 2pm.