Depleted Down still too strong
Miserable start for seconds
Wexford got off to a miserable start in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate camogie championship with a nine-point loss to Down in Oylegate on Saturday.
Down 1-17 Wexford 1-8
The Slaneysiders were completely outplayed in the opening half, with the Ulster visitors given way too much space to operate in the hosts' half of the field. It wasn't until the last few minutes that a sweeper was deployed and by then it was already too late to salvage the result.
Most of Tom Dunphy's side's best performances in the league came with added protection for the back six, but without that added solidity the first-half was a procession for Down.
Martin Mallon's side might have looked like they were arriving in Wexford as lambs to the slaughter, with just 16 players available to the Down manager, but he only needed the bare minimum to head home with the points.
The Mournewomen clattered Geraldine Curtis' post in the opening minute from Paula Gribbin's long-range effort and hit the front soon after when Fionnuala Carr popped over a free.
Wexford responded with a dead ball from Ellen Kelly but were smothered under wave after wave of Down attacks thereafter. The superb Niamh Mallon grabbed four points, Carr two more and Dearbhla Magee also hit the target to open up an 0-8 to 0-1 lead.
Things got even worse when Curtis could only flip a clearance from a long ball into the path of Mallon. The deadly attacker latched onto the breaking ball and forced a shot past the Wexford goalkeeper.
There was still time for points from Carrie Killen, Magee and Mallon before the interval, although Wexford did reply when Marie Morrissey was fouled and Kelly added a second point (1-11 to 0-2 at half-time).
The second-half was much better for the hosts in windy conditions that were crossfield but slightly helping Wexford after the intermission. Good play between Clodagh Fitzhenry and Deirdre McMahon saw Kelly point, only for Mallon to reply.
Hopes were raised when Louise Sinnott added a classy finish after more good work from Fitzhenry and Marie Morrissey (1-12 to 1-3). Points by Kelly and Morrissey were partially cancelled out by Mallon as Wexford went into the final quarter trailing by just eight.
However, three in a row from Down hurt the home side, as did narrow misses by Amy Ryan and Kelly. Wexford did add late points through Sarah O'Connor, Kelly and Ellen Roche but it wasn't near enough and they'll need to improve for the visit of Galway on Saturday.
Wexford: Geraldine Curtis; Nancy Dunphy, Farren Byrne, Aisling O'Connor (capt.); Brídín Doyle, Sarah O'Connor (0-1 free), Marie Claire Morrissey; Louise Sinnott (1-0), Louise Stafford; Ellen Roche (0-1), Deirdre McMahon, Ellen Kelly (0-5, 4 frees); Amy Ryan, Clodagh Fitzhenry, Marie Morrissey (0-1). Subs. - Laura Dempsey for Stafford (40), Marguerite Doyle for Fitzhenry (47), Nessa Wickham for M.C. Morrissey, inj. (52).
Down: Joanna Sloan; Nicola O'Gorman, Catherine McGourty, Cliona Murtagh; Claire McGilligan, Fionnuala Carr (0-4 frees), Deirdre McCabe; Paula Gribbin, Dearbhla Magee (0-2); Neisha McCullough, Aimee McAleenan, Cassie Fitzpatrick (0-1); Elizabeth Wilson, Niamh Mallon (capt., 1-9, 0-4 frees), Carrie Killen (0-1).
Referee: Mike Sheehan (Cork).