KILKENNY 0-23, WEXFORD 2-17
Kilkenny weren’t at the best at Nowlan Park, where Wexford were good value for a draw. However, with a place in the final already secured, it was understandable that there was no great urgency about Brian Cody’s side. Even so, Wexford will take an amount of confidence from their performance against Ireland’s premier team and they can now look forward to the Leinster championship meeting of the two counties on June 8.
“It’s a pity we let it slip at the end,” Wexford manager John Conran said. “That’s our best performance in the league, though and I’m particularly pleased because we were missing so many players through injury.” Without the services of Darragh Ryan, Darren Stamp, Liam Dunne and David O’Connor, Conran had every reason to be content as his side played with real instensity.
If Paul Codd was their inspiration — an outstanding total of 1-10 was matched by Kilkenny’s scoring machine Henry Shefflin — Wexford’s was an impressive collective effort despite the fact that they failed to hold on to a 2-9 to 0-11 interval lead.
Barry Goff and Codd scored the first half goals, the first coming from a powerful run and shot and the second when Codd outjumped Noel Hickey, but all the while Shefflin’s unerring accuracy from frees was keeping Kilkenny in the hunt.
With Charlie Carter on for the injured D.J. Carey, Kilkenny gradually closed the gap, and with the game swaying in both directions during the last quarter, Wexford were a point in front going into injury time when Codd conceded a free as J.J. Delaney surged up the field. Predictably, Shefflin once again found the target to earn his side a share of the points.
TIPPERARY 0-22, CLARE 0-14
Kilkenny’s opponents in the final were making most easier work of an understrength Clare in Ennis, where the scoreline was an indication of Tipp’s superiority. The win was achieved comfortably enough even though Clare made a fast start, and squandered several goal-scoring chances, but this was a contest in front of just 3,000 spectators that fell far short of championship standard.
Clare were always going to struggle without Brian Lohan and Colin Lynch, while manager Cyril Lyons only chose to introduce Jamesie O’Connor at halftime, but they could have been closer had Niall Gilligan not had such an unproductive day. Gilligan blasted a wasteful series of wides and then blew a perfect goal chance five minutes before the break when he missed the target from just 10 meters.
Tipp assumed full control after the changeover as Mark O’Leary, Eoin Kelly and Eugene O’Neill all made important contributions in attack, while Tommy Dunne hit four valuable points.
“Injuries are the big fear over the next few weeks,” admitted Tipp’s manager, Michael Doyle, “but we’re very pleased to have reached the final. We set out to give a good account of ourselves in the competition and we achieved that.”
CORK 1-18, GALWAY 1-14
In the other game in Div. 1, Group 1, Cork signed off with a victrory over Galway at Pearse Park. With only pride at stake, there was little edge to the game and some impressive attacking play by Joe Deane and Setanta O hAilpin saw the winners through.
In Group 2, Limerick crushed Dublin by 5-26 to 0-10 in an embarrassment of a game at Kilmallock with the Moran brothers Olly and Niall scoring 3-5 between them. Meanwhile, 2-5 from Paul Flynn made the difference as Waterford got the better of Offaly by 4-18 to 2-16 in Birr, and Laois defeated relegated Derry by 1-16 to 0-10.
In Div. 2, Kerry snatched a dramatic one-point victory over Down at Portaferry to earn a place in the final against Antrim. A Shane Brick point three minutes into injury time was enough to give Kerry a hard-earned win by 1-14 to 2-10. Elsewhere, Antrim made sure of their spot in the decider with a 3-10 to 0-15 success against Carlow at Dr Cullen Park while Meath defeated Westmeath by 4-17 to 3-11 in Navan.
Mayo qualified for the Div. 3 decider when they eased past Monaghan by 1-14 to 0-4, while their opponents next Monday, Sligo, defeated Tyrone by 2-11 to 1-9 to edge out Louth on scoring difference.
Also, Dublin’s Under 21 footballers retained their Leinster title with a convincing 3-13 to 1-6 victory over Longford at Mullingar last Sunday. Two goals by John Noonan, another by Declan Lally and three points from Declan O’Mahoney propelled the Dubs to a second consecutive provincial success.
Meanwhile, a long-range free in injury time by Sue Ramsbottom gave Laois a dramatic 2-10 to 2-9 victory over Kerry in the women’s football league final in Ennis. Kerry blew their chance of the title by failing to score in the last 10 minutes, but Laois kept their nerve for a first triumph in the competition since 1993.