Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Final:
Wexford 1-24, Kilkenny 1-24 (after extra-time). Wexford win free-taking competition 3-2
If January is supposed to be a warm-up month for the GAA, then it’s time to start getting excited about what the rest of the year holds in store!
The Bord na Móna Walsh Cup final had everything you could ask from a championship duel at the height of summer – and more besides.
Level at full time, level after extra-time and – thanks to a new rule introduced for some competitions in 2018 – Wexford went home with the silverware after winning a free-taking competition 3-2 at Nowlan Park.
The result meant Wexford have now beaten Kilkenny three times in a row in competitive games, and this victory was all the more pleasing for Davy Fitzgerald considering they led for the first time in the fifth minute of the second period of extra-time!
Kilkenny looked set for victory in the 63rd minute when the sensational Alan Murphy popped over another free to give them six points breathing space – 1-20 to 0-17.
But they had been reduced to 14 players early in the second half following the dismissal of Richie Ryan. Manager, Brian Cody was sent to the stands by the referee soon after, and the intensity levels increased on the pitch as Wexford refused to wilt in an energy-sapping encounter.
The introduction of some established figures, among them Matthew O’Hanlon and Lee Chin, helped inspire a revival which included a scrambled goal by Kevin Foley and points from the reliable Paul Morris.
Kilkenny had been the dominant side when wind-assisted in the first half, but were probably a little disappointed to only lead by 1-13 to 0-11 at the break.
Five points to no score up after seven minutes, ‘The Cats’ pulled further ahead when Alan Murphy dispatched a 16th minute penalty to the net.
Now trailing by 1-6 to 0-2, Wexford stayed in touch mainly thanks to Jack Guiney and Paul Morris in a first half that featured a converted free by both goalkeepers – Eoin Murphy and Mark Fanning. Fanning also pulled off a couple of sensational saves to prevent Kilkenny raising another green flag.
Wexford hit the first four points of the second half to reduce their deficit to only one point and had the benefit of an extra player following Richie Reid’s dismissal.
Kilkenny didn’t open their second half account until the 12th minute through Alan Murphy, but then seemed capable of pulling away again with Eoin Murphy (who converted his second free), Walter Walsh and Lester Ryan on target.
But the lifeline Wexford needed came with a scrambled goal and when Lee Chin fired over a sensational point from the left wing, they lifted their game again and two more points from Morris left them all-square at the end.
In the first ten minutes of extra-time, Walter Walsh pointed for Kilkenny, but Paul Morris replied with two Wexford frees.
After a brief break, the players went at it full blast again in front of over 3,500 enthusiastic fans. Alan Murphy – who finished with a personal tally of 1-13 – equalised and we had to wait until the final minute for the next score when it appeared Conor McDonald had snatched the winner for Wexford. But Murphy sent over another free to tie the sides for the final time.
But it wasn’t time to go home just yet! Last week the Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup semi-final between Meath and Longford featured the first ever GAA free-taking competition and no-one could have expected another one so soon.
Initially, the omens looked good for Kilkenny with Eoin Murphy and Conor Martin raising white flags, after Wexford missed their opening two shots. But then Conor McDonald scored and Lester Ryan missed. Jack Guiney also scored and Alan Murphy hit wide – 2-2! Mark Fanning got another Wexford point and when John Walsh failed to score, the Model County had won, and it was a delighted captain Shaun Murphy who accepted the cup from Leinster GAA Chairman, Jim Bolger.
Wexford Scorers: Paul Morris 0-9 (6f); Jack Guiney 0-5 (3f); Kevin Foley 1-0; Harry Kehoe 0-3; Mark Fanning 0-1f; Cathal Dunbar, Eoin Moore, David Dunne, Lee Chin, Conor McDonald, Jack O’Connor all 0-1
Kilkenny Scorers: Alan Murphy 1-13 (1-0 pen, 0-7f, 0-1 ’65), Eoin Murphy 0-2 (2f) Ollie Walsh, Martin Keoghan, Walter Walsh all 0-2, Conor Fogarty, Richie Reid, Conor Martin all 0-1
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Shaun Murphy; Kevin Foley; Eanna Martin, Aaron Maddock, Eoin Moore; Joe O’Connor, Aidan Nolan; Harry Kehoe, Jack Guiney, Cathal Dunbar; Paul Morris, David Dunne.
Subs used: Damien Reck, Paudie Foley, Matthew O’Hanlon, Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Lee Chin, Conor McDonald, Jake Firman, Jack O’Connor.
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Joey Holden, Padraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan; Enda Morrissey, Conor O’Shea, Cillian Buckley; Conor Fogarty, Ollie Walsh; Martin Keoghan, Richie Reid, Pat Lyng; Alan Murphy, Walter Walsh, Conor Martin.
Subs used: Tommy Walsh, Lester Ryan, James Maher, Ger Malone, John Walsh, Chris Bolger, Conor Browne.
Referee: John O’Brien (Laois).