Fitz pleads for patience in quest to end 20 years of 'not doing anything' in Wexford
Walsh Cup semi-final: Kilkenny 0-15 Wexford 0-14
A measure of the hype that has enveloped Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford hurlers could be gauged by the crowd that descended on New Ross for yesterday's Bord na Móna Walsh Cup semi-final.
An estimated 3,000 braved the dank, drizzly conditions to watch Wexford pit their wits against the Black-and-Amber benchmark - and they came agonisingly close to victory at the death, as Cathal Dunbar's glorious goal chance in the 74th minute was repelled by Richie Reid.
Lee Chin could have forced extra-time from the resultant '65' - and it would have been the least Wexford deserved.
But Chin's attempt at a tenth point trailed wide and so it's Kilkenny who advance to next Sunday's decider against Galway.
Davy Fitz was delighted with the efforts of his players, both yesterday and over his first three months in charge, but he pleaded for patience from supporters. "If they got it in the league they'd be delighted," he said of the O'Kennedy Park attendance.
"You can sense the crowd even getting frustrated at times in the first half. They've got to stop - they've got to give the lads a chance. They've spent the last 20 years and they haven't done anything."
Both sides were missing several marquee men, although Kilkenny started with something closely resembling a championship defence. It was certainly no day for weaving pretty forward patterns, reflected in the stat that each side managed just five points from play apiece.
Kilkenny senior debutant Alan Murphy - younger brother of current All Star 'keeper Eoin - shaded the free-taking battle by nailing ten of his 15 placed ball attempts.
His final score, on 73 minutes, followed one of Kilkenny's best moves involving Cillian Buckley, Paul Murphy and Padraig Walsh before Michael Malone's high catch led to a foul by Liam Ryan.
But Wexford shaded the tie in general play as they recovered from a double-scores deficit (0-8 to 0-4 shortly after half-time). Three times they drew level; crucially they never edged ahead.
Brian Cody declared himself "happy, absolutely" with what Kilkenny are getting from the Walsh Cup.
His opposite number is unsure if Conor McDonald will be fit for their league opener against Limerick on February 12, after the star forward was hospitalised following complications from a leg injury suffered against Dublin.
"It's a cut he got. Something got into his blood or something. Hopefully another week or two, he'll be back," Fitzgerald ventured.
As for the bigger picture, he concluded: "I'm in the job three months so I'm trying to work on different things. That's not going to happen overnight. When we went to Clare it took us maybe a year and a bit to get to grips with it.
"It's great to see the crowd there today and I want to give them something to shout about. But they just have to give us a small bit of time."
SCORERS - Kilkenny: A Murphy 0-10f, P Lyng 0-2, C Martin, C Buckley, P Deegan 0-1 each.
Wexford: L Chin 0-9 (8f), J O'Connor 0-2 (1 sideline cut), E Moore, M O'Hanlon, P Doran 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: R Reid; J Holden, R Lennon, P Walsh; C Buckley, P Murphy, C Fogarty; O Walsh, P Deegan; P Lyng, C Martin, J Maher; A Murphy, JJ Farrell, R Leahy. Subs: S Morrissey for Maher (ht), L Ryan for O Walsh (50), M Malone for Martin (64).
WEXFORD: M Fanning; S Donohue, L Ryan, E Moore; S O'Gorman, M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe; S Murphy, J O'Connor; A Maddock, D Redmond, K Foley; N Kirwan, L Chin, P Doran. Subs: D Dunne for O'Connor (47), C Dunbarr for Kirwan (59), A Nolan for Foley (64), H Kehoe for Redmond (64).
WIDES: Kilkenny 8 (4+4); Wexford 12 (6+6).
YELLOW: Kilkenny 3 (Farrell 5, P Murphy 26, Leahy 69); Wexford 2 (Ryan 5, O'Keeffe 69).
REF: B Gavin (Offaly).
ATT: 3,000 (estimated).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Matthew O'Hanlon (Wexford).