Kilkenny 5-25 Wexford 0-16 

Ger Aylward signalled a new era for Kilkenny hurling with a stunning 3-05 to help secure the holders' place in the Leinster final as they crushed Wexford at Nowlan Park.

The Cats were beginning their campaign without Henry Shefflin and a host of other retired icons but were rarely troubled and appear to have unearthed a new marquee talent in Glenmore attacker Aylward.

His opening goal in the 13th minute put Kilkenny six clear and, in truth, they were at their ease from there on with the lively corner-forward adding his second and third after the break at Nowlan Park.

The impressive 24-point win was a serious statement of Kilkenny's Championship intentions with strong performances also from talisman Richie Hogan, TJ Reid and Kieran Joyce.

Neither set of supporters in the 19,134 crowd were quite sure what to expect beforehand.

Wexford stumbled over the winning line against Westmeath in the quarter-finals following an Allianz league campaign that once again failed to yield promotion from Division 1B.

As for Kilkenny, they hadn't played a game in all of 12 weeks and that was a relegation play-off tie with Clare.

Manager Brian Cody was also planning without the six stalwart players who retired in the wake of last year's All-Ireland win.

JJ Delaney was the only starter from the All-Ireland replay win over Tipperary to quit though and his full-back position was ably occupied by new captain Joey Holden.

Wexford began with the stiff wind behind them and enjoyed a 0-03 to 0-02 advantage after ten minutes.

But Hogan's opening goal for Kilkenny shortly after put the hosts into a lead they would not relinquish. Michael Fennelly played the pass across goals for Hogan who was forced to improvise with a shortened grip and clever batted finish.

Just two minutes later, they struck again with Aylward capitalising on indecision in the Wexford defence after advantage was played for a foul on Hogan.

Wexford were beaten in the majority of aerial battles and Joyce lorded it in Kilkenny's defence.

The Model County were not able to use the wind for enough long-range scores either, Andrew Shore and David Remond scoring rare efforts from distance.

There was an ominous feel to proceedings when Reid shot Kilkenny's third goal from a 29th minute penalty.

Hogan was hauled down by Matthew O'Hanlon and Reid blasted a shot beyond Mark Fanning to the right side of Wexford's net.

Aylward and Reid tacked on more points to leave the holders sitting pretty at half-time on a 3-07 to 0-10 advantage.

Crucially, they would have the breeze at their backs in the second-half.

Kilkenny cantered to victory in the second-half with Aylward's goals arriving in the 48th and 53rd minutes.

The ultimate indignity for Wexford was perhaps Cody's decision to replace his key players in the closing quarter with fringe panellists.

Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, J Tyrrell; P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley (0-01); M Fennelly (0-01), C Fogarty; W Walsh, R Hogan (1-05), J Power (0-02); G Aylward (3-05), TJ Reid (1-07, 1-00 pen, 0-02 65, 0-02f), E Larkin (0-03).

Subs: K Kelly (0-01) for Power, S Prendergast for Tyrrell, R Lennon for Murphy, M Kelly for Larkin.

Wexford: M Fanning; C Kenny, L Ryan, E Moore; L Chin, M O'Hanlon, A Shore (0-01); D Redmond (0-02), D Waters; I Byrne (0-11, 0-09f), S Tomkins, D O'Keeffe; P Morris, C McDonald, L Og McGovern (0-02).

Subs: K Foley for Morris, A Nolan for Moore, H Kehoe for Tomkins, P Doran for Waters, E Martin for Shore, G Sinnott for McGovern.

Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).