Kevin Foley was a class apart at Tullamore tonight as holders Wexford defeated Offaly by 2-16 to 1-12 to book a place in the provincial decider.
Forty-yards man Foley notched seven points from play and the victors were also well served by fellow county seniors Conor McDonald and Liam Ryan at full forward and full back respectively. Seeking a third successive provincial title at this level, JJ Doyle's charges will meet Kilkenny in the final at Wexford Park in a fortnight's time.
The hosts led by the odd point from 15 at the break, with impressive full forward Emmet Nolan on target three times during the course of the opening half-hour, while No.11 Foley supplied three of the Slaneysiders' first-half score.
Wing back Jack O'Connor had the defending champions ahead inside 50 seconds but Ciaran McDonald's side were ahead by the fifth minute thanks to a converted Dylan Murray free and a wonderful Nolan point on the run. Murray's second free of the evening made it 0-3 to 0-1 to the challengers after seven minutes.
Foley reduced the gap but a monster free from Offaly centre back and captain Conor Doughan made it double scores with ten minutes played. Model midfielder Gavin Bailey saw his point cancelled out by another successful free from Kilcormac Killoughey ace Murray and the hosts came close to registering a goal at the midway stage in the opening period only for Birr clubman Nolan's mis-hit effort to bounce harmlessly across the goalmouth.
Nolan added to the home team's tally after Wexford talisman McDonald had finally got off the mark with a sweetly-struck '65' and the Offaly No.14 was on fire as he lofted over another point on 23 minutes to leave three between the sides, 0-7 to 0-4.
McDonald converted another '65' after Offaly goalkeeper Kevin O'Connor had thwarted Foley, who drilled over the sixth and seventh Wexford points, with midfielder Cathal Mahon on target for the Faithfuls in between.
McDonald won and dispatched a free to tie the scores up within two minutes of the restart and Foley's fourth score - a beauty from the left wing - had JJ Doyle's men ahead again five minutes into the second half. The superb Foley increased the gap with another sumptuous finish: 0-10 to 0-8.
After Nolan replied, McDonald whipped a powerful 39th-minute drive to the back of the Offaly net to bring his tally to 1-3 and Foley instantly clipped over his sixth point. When Murray responded with a free, substitute Cathal Dunbar made it 1-12 to 0-10 before the totally unplayable Foley added yet another classy score to leave six points between the teams.
Murray's free closed the gap to five again and both teams recorded wides, while Offaly were denied a clear free-in from close to the posts as the scores dried up until the 52nd minute when the visitors struck for the killer blow: McDonald's exquisite first-time flick picked out Dunbar, who drilled the sliothar low to the net from close range: 2-13 to 0-12.
Points were swapped before McDonald whacked over a free to leave nine in it with five minutes left. Offaly wing back Cillian Kiely picked up a second yellow card - and a red - in the last minute and McDonald claimed his first point from play in injury time. There was still time for Matthew Maloney to burst through for a consolation goal for the hosts with the last puck of the game but it is Wexford who progress to the provincial final on Wednesday week.
Wexford - O O'Leary; S Donohoe, L Ryan, E Conroy; J White, P Foley, J O'Connor (0-1); C Devitt, G Bailey (0-1); A Kenny, K Foley (0-7), J Cash; P Sutton, C McDonald (1-5, 0-2f, 0-2'65), S Murphy. Subs: C Dunbar (1-1) for S Donohoe, S Kelly for S Murphy, T French (0-1) for P Sutton, S Kenny for J Cash.
Offaly - K O'Connor; D Corbett, D Doughan, P Rigney; G Crowe, C Doughan (0-1f), C Kiely; C Mahon (0-1), P Guinan; M Maloney (1-0), J O'Toole Greene, J Maher; A Cleary, E Nolan (0-4), D Murray (0-5, 4f, 1'65). Subs: S Guinan (0-1) for J Maher, A Connolly for J O'Toole Greene, P Kinsella for A Cleary.
Referee - P Burke.