Although they rallied late, Kilkenny’s O’Neills.com Leinster U20 Hurling Championship venture began with defeat at Chadwicks Wexford Park on Saturday afternoon as goals from Cian Byrne and Luke Murphy proved crucial.
The hosts took advantage of the period when they took control of an enthralling affair as their sharper play and superior shooting saw them edge out their neighbours.
Kilkenny got off to the perfect start when they raced into a 0-06 to 0-00 lead thanks to scores from Luke Connellan (2), Cillian Hackett, James Walsh, Joe Fitzpatrick and a free from Darragh Queally.
Wexford responded with three unanswered points of their own through Luke Murphy, Jack Redmond and Dylan Purcell as they cut into their opponents lead.
Cillian Doyle and Ted Dunne got Mark Dowling’s side back on track with two fine points, but the momentum swung in the home team’s favour with a cluster of scores from Murphy, Corey Byrne Dunbar and Cian Byrne making it level at the break, Kilkenny 0-09 to 0-09 Wexford.
The second half continued in the same vein as the preceding 30 minutes as two Byrne frees met their reply with Queally and Cathal Beirne slotting over to bring an entertaining encounter back to parity.
Doyle restored Kilkenny’s lead with his second point of the afternoon, but Wexford took control from that point onwards as Byrne grabbed a superb opening goal either side of well-taken points giving the Yellowbellies a 1-14 to 0-14 advantage with ten minutes of normal time remaining.
Queally and Byrne exchanged frees before the hosts secured their victory when Luke Murphy moved his tally for the game to 1-03 with a great finish to the back of the Kilkenny net to make it a seven-point margin for the Cats to overturn with less than five minutes left on the clock.
Despite their best efforts, the visitors could not threaten Wexford enough to reduce the deficit as they began their provincial campaign with an underwhelming result.
Next up for Kilkenny is a clash with Galway, while Wexford will travel to the capital to take on Dublin.