Antrim 1-08 Wexford 1-20
JJ Doyle’s Leinster champions Wexford have booked their place in next month’s Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland Under-21 hurling final after a 1-20 to 1-08 victory against Antrim at Semple Stadium.
Wexford, who were beaten finalists last season, had a seven-point haul from full-forward Conor McDonald to break down an Antrim team that lined out with wing forwards Maoi Connolly and Michael Dudley operating as sweepers.
Despite registering 19 wides, including 13 in the first half alone, Wexford’s victory was never in doubt.
Antrim manager Kevin Ryan, taking charge of the county for the final time, had predicted a “massive hiding” for his charges, but they kept going right to the finish.
Antrim were rewarded with Christy McNaughton’s goal nine minutes from time but they lost Damon McMullan to a second yellow card at the death.
By then, the end result was long decided as Wexford kicked on in the second half, having established a 0-08 to 0-03 interval lead.
Devitt’s 34th minute goal was a thing of beauty as McDonald produced an outrageous flick to free Conor Devitt for a fine goal.
It was a piece of individual brilliance reminiscent of McDonald’s touch that set up Colin Dunbar for that memorable goal against Offaly in the Leinster Championship, a goal that went viral on social media.
Wexford will now contest a second successive All-Ireland Under-21 hurling final next month as they look to win the title for the first time since 1965.
Despite McNaughton’s eighth-minute free that tied the game at 0-01 apiece, the Ulster champions rarely looked threatening in the opening half.
Wexford, despite racking up a baker’s dozen of wides in the first half, did pretty much what they pleased as McDonald led the way in attack.
But it still took the Model County 17 minutes to open their account from play, after McDonald had landed three placed balls.
After Tony French’s point, McDonald then cut over a beautiful sideline and added another score from play to extend a widening gap.
Cathal Dunbar and Kevin Foley tagged on points for Wexford before Eoghan Campbell opened Antrim’s account from play five minutes before the break with a long-range score.
Wexford’s goal chances were being restricted as Antrim flooded their backline but Dunbar, who scored two goals in the Leinster final victory over Kilkenny, flashed a shot wide approaching half-time.
Antrim finished the half better against the breeze, however, as McNaughton’s free left five points between the sides at the break.
Antrim: C Heyden; T Ó’Ciaráin, T Burns, D O’Hara; G Walsh, E Campbell (0-02), R McCambridge (0-01); J Connolly, D McMullan (0-01); M Connolly (0-01), C McNaughton (1-02, 0-02f), M Dudley; P McBride, S McCaughan (0-01f), J O’Connell
Subs: C Ross for J Connolly (43), D Traynor for McBride (47), D Murphy for O’Connell (50)
Wexford: O O’Leary; S Donohoe, L Ryan, E Conroy; J White, P Foley (0-01), J O’Connor; C Devitt (1-02), T French (0-03); A Kenny (0-02), K Foley (0-02), J Cash; C Dunbar (0-02), C McDonald (0-07, 4f, 1 65, 1 sl), P Sutton
Subs: J Firman for Cash (49), S Murphy for Sutton (49), S Kelly for Kenny (53), L McDonald for O’Connor (53), S Kenny (0-01) for K Foley (60)
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny)