Kilkenny 1-17

Wexford 0-18

Captain Evan Shefflin was the hero for DJ Carey's Kilkenny under-20 hurlers after his first-half goal ultimately proved decisive against Wexford in Wednesday's exciting Leinster final at Innovate Wexford Park.

Little separated the neighbours throughout, with Wexford unlucky with a number of late raids, as Kilkenny held strong to book an All-Ireland semi-final against the Munster runners-up (Cork or Tipperary) while Wexford face the Munster champions.

Kilkenny sprung a pre-game shock when Adrian Mullen was dropped to the bench despite his influential role in the semi-final win over Galway, and James Bergin took his place.

Evan Shefflin lifts the Seán Robbins Cup

Excitement built as the sides tied on 0-3 apiece before a Niall Brassil free sent Kilkenny clear for the first-time after 16 minutes.

And DJ Carey's boys weren't long about trying to completely unhinge Wexford when Evan Shefflin swept a rebound to the net in the 17th minute after an outstanding save by Wexford 'keeper James Lawlor (1-4 to 0-3).

But, amid trying conditions, Wexford held their composure to out-shoot Kilkenny by five points to three for the remainder of the half, with two late Seán O'Connor strikes shaving the deficit to 1-7 to 0-8 at the break.

Wexford upped the ante when drawing level on 0-12 to 1-9 after 38 minutes as Charlie McGuckin, Ross Banville (2 frees) and Cian Fitzhenry (a nephew of Damien Fitzhenry) enlivened locals amongst the 6,612 strong attendance.

DJ Carey's side face the Munster runner's-up next

Kilkenny threatened to seize the initiative though when defender David Blanchfield, Seán Ryan, Eoin Cody and Eoin O'Shea powered them clear by 1-13 to 0-12 midway through the second-half.

But determined responses from Ross Banville, Conor Scallan, Cian Fitzhenry and Chris Turner meant that Wexford weren't without a shout of completing a first Model County clean-sweep of Leinster hurling crowns since 1970.

FULL MATCH DETAILS

However, Kilkenny held out under unrelenting pressure in the closing stages – including five minutes added-time – to deservedly celebrated a first Leinster title in the grade since 2017.

Kilkenny: Dean Mason; James Brennan (0-1), Conor Flynn, Mikey Butler; Conor Heary, Michael Carey (0-1), David Blanchfield (0-2); Eoin O'Shea (0-1), Evan Shefflin (1-2); Stephen Donnelly (0-1), Niall Brassil (0-5, 4 frees), Aaron Brennan; James Bergin, Seán Ryan (0-2), Eoin Cody (0-2).

Subs: Ciarán Brennan for Bergin (41); Jack Kelly for Donnelly (54); John Dowd for O'Shea (59); Jim Ryan for A Brennan (60+5).

Wexford: James Lawlor; Cathal O'Connor, Eoin Molloy, Eoin O'Leary; Niall Murphy, Mike Kelly, Conor Scallan (-1); Charlie McGuckin (0-2), Ross Banville (0-7 frees); Seán Keane-Carroll, Connall Clancy, Jack Reck (0-1); Seán O'Connor (0-3), Diarmuid Doyle, Eoin Murphy.

Subs: Cian Fitzhenry (0-2) for Keane-Carroll (5); Oran Carthy for Doyle (HT); Chris Turner (0-2, 1 free) for S O'Connor (54); Ben Maddock for Banville (58).

Referee: Mick Murtagh (Westmeath).