Mark Fanning’s penalty goal was the decisive score as Wexford beat neighbours Kilkenny by 1-23 to 0-23 at sunny Croke Park.
A first provincial title in 15 years means Davy Fitzgerald’s men – who came through their Leinster campaign unbeaten - march though to an All-Ireland semi-final, while the Noresiders must brush themselves down for a quarter-final date with either Cork or Westmeath in a fortnight.
With 51,842 watching a fascinating contest where the sides were level on no fewer than ten times, the largest attendance of the championship to date, the defining moment arrived on 64 minutes when goalkeeper Fanning emphatically fired a penalty past his Kilkenny counterpart Eoin Murphy to the bottom right corner of the net at the Davin End to propel the Model men into a two-point lead after Man of the Match Rory O’Connor had been felled as he bore down purposefully on goal.
Brian Cody’s men just about edged a tense opening period to lead by 0-15 to 0-14 at half time.
There were two late changes to the Wexford starting team: Shane Reck replaced brother Damien in defence, while Jack O'Connor came into attack at the expense of Cathal Dunbar. For the Cats, Alan Murphy and James Maher replaced Cillian Buckley and Billy Ryan from the off.
TJ Reid, wearing the unfamiliar No.31 jersey, cancelled out Conor McDonald’s excellent opener and Lee Chin’s simple free from 22 metres on four minutes restored the Model County’s advantage before Rory O’Connor made it three points to one.
Colin Fennelly and McDonald traded points, Walter Walsh and Paul Morris doing likewise before Reid’s eleventh-minute free brought it back to a one-point game, 0-5 to 0-4. Rory O’Connor turned Joey Holden to supply Wexford’s sixth score, but a brace of trademark Reid frees tied the scores up at six point apiece, Chin and Maher trading points as the sides remained deadlocked after 16 minutes – 0-7 apiece.
Wexford joint captains Matthew O'Hanlon and Lee Chin raise the Bob O'Keeffe Cup
Chin whipped a free between the Hill 16 posts after Murphy pointed the Black & Amber ahead for the first time, corner back Simon Donohoe restoring the Slaneysiders’ lead from nigh on 80 yards after Chin almost literally ghosted past Murphy.
Reid’s free levelled the scores for the fifth time and the Cats nudged two clear when Reid and Fennelly followed up with quickfire points from play, Adrian Mullen replying in style to Rory O’Connor’s third. Reid pointed a free in between two from Chin and arced over a sublime ‘65’, Mullen grabbing his second in response to O’Connor’s fourth.
Diarmuid O’Keeffe brilliantly fired over the closing score of the first half from the right sideline as the Cats led by the odd point from 29 at the short whistle.
When the action resumed, Chin slotted a free from the middle of the pitch in response to a Walter Walsh strike and O’Keeffe equalised on 40 minutes, 0-16 each. The heroic Fanning narrowed the angles and denied Fennelly a Kilkenny goal, Reid sending the ‘65’ wide before McDonald struck Wexford’s third successive point to push them back in front. Chin’s excellent free from distance doubled the difference but Kilkenny were level again by the 48th minute thanks to points from substitute Ger Aylward and Reid, with a sublime dummy and finish.
Kilkenny netminder Murphy notched the lead point from a long-range free; Chin relying in kind and Jack O’Connor’s missile from inside his half pushing the Purple & Gold back in front at the midway stage in the second half. Mullen made it 20 each with 14 minutes to go.
McDonald and Reid (free) swapped points and Reid foraged a splendid point from play before Rory O’Connor ran at the heart of the Kilkenny defence and was dragged down for the Wexford penalty, which Fanning dispatched, followed by a Liam Og McGovern point – 1-22 to 0-22.
Check out the best of the action from the Leinster Final here! pic.twitter.com/gbDaObUK7R— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 30, 2019
Reid replied from a ‘65’, reducing the deficit to two, but the unerring Chin arrowed over a Wexford ‘65’ and Fennelly’s toe-poked attempt at an equalising goal flew left of the post and wide. Kilkenny panicked and went for goal early; Wexford calmly kept them at bay to win their 21st Leinster title.
Wexford - M Fanning (1-0pen); S Murphy, L Ryan, S Donohoe (0-1); M O'Hanlon, P Foley, S Reck; D O'Keeffe (0-2), L Og McGovern (0-1); J O'Connor (0-1), L Chin (0-9, 7f, 1'65), R O'Connor (0-4); K Foley, C McDonald (0-4), P Morris (0-1). Subs: C Firman for S Reck, C Dunbar for P Morris, D Dunne for L Og McGovern, H Kehoe for C McDonald.
Kilkenny - E Murphy (0-1f); P Murphy, H Lawlor, P Walsh; E Morrissey, P Deegan, J Holden; J Maher (0-1), C Fogarty; R Leahy, TJ Reid (0-12, 5f, 3‘65), A Mullen (0-3); A Murphy (0-1), C Fennelly (0-2), W Walsh (0-2). Subs: G Aylward (0-1) for A Murphy, B Ryan for W Walsh, R Hogan for C Fennelly.
Referee - J Keenan.Tweet