Inters share the spoils

Wexford 2-11 Kilkenny 3-8

Dean Goodison

Aisling Cronin of Wexford on the move against Kilkenny
Aisling Cronin of Wexford on the move against Kilkenny
Sorcha Foley of Wexford steals a march on Kilkenny's Eilish Regan during Saturday's drawn clash

On the face of it, any point in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate camogie championship is a good one for a Wexford side which hasn't had too many in recent years.

Then throw in the fact that Kilkenny were leading by eight points early in the second-half in Bellefield on Saturday and it certainly seems like a very decent afternoon's work.

In many ways it was, as the hosts showed a serious backbone, one that was nowhere to be seen when they were taking pastings in recent campaigns. They also showed flashes of quality and could have had a couple more goals.

For all the struggles of the Seniors, by and large, good work has been done with these players to make them competitive. Despite all that, this still feels like a game that Wexford should have won.

Remember, this is Kilkenny's third string, after their seconds won the All-Ireland last year. Wexford more than matched them around the middle of the park but the visitors didn't always have to work as hard for their scores.

It's close with this team, and just a few tweaks could be the difference between a semi-final place and an early bath.

A little thought about distribution into the inside forwards from deep is crucial; know who you're aiming at has to be the message to those playing the providing role.

High balls in on top of Mags Byrne are pointless, but any kind of low ball favours the Kilrush forward. Joanne Dillon, on the other hand, has a fighting chance with that type of delivery, while Aoife Sheil will battle away for anything.

Byrne showed her ability in the early stages. She broke away on the right in the opening minute and whizzed a shot across goal that Noelle Murphy did well to keep out of the net.

After Dillon popped over the first of ten for the afternoon, she turned provider for Byrne. The speedy attacker raced away from her marker and flashed a controlled, accurate finish to the Kilkenny net.

It was a fantastic start against the breeze but Wexford couldn't maintain it. After points from Orla Hanrick (two) and Christine Lyng, the Kittens squired away from the hosts' defence for their first goal, scored by Bridget Kilbane after great persistence from Eadaoin Murphy.

Wexford chipped away with Dillon frees, although the umpires didn't always come to uniform agreement on what was over or wide. Kilkenny went in 2-6 to 1-5 ahead thanks to a Murphy goal that came after a fortunate break off a paw from Mary O'Connell's long ball found her in acres of space.

If Wexford are going to kick themselves about any part of this game in particular, it should be about how they started the second-half. Kilkenny just came out after the interval with a better intensity and their third goal, a messy one from Niamh Bambrick, was a real kick in the teeth.

When Handrick scored her fifth free, three minutes after the re-start, Kilkenny led by 3-7 to 1-5. She and her side would register just one more point though, a 43rd-minute dead-ball, as Wexford bossed the second period.

The home side chipped away with Dillon points but they really believed when Deirdre McMahon's speculative effort slid off Noelle Murphy's open hand and nestled in the bottom of the visitors' net.

Wexford got within one with a Dillon score in the 54th minute but watched in agony as Mags Byrne clanked the upright two minutes later. The Kilrush starlet broke out of a huddle, sprinted away and nailed the equaliser in the last minute of normal time.

Both sides had spells of pressure but no clear shot to grab a winner, and the game ended level.

Next up for Wexford is a trip to Tipp on June 24 to face the Premier county, twelve-point losers in their opening game against Antrim.

That's followed by two home ties on the bounce against northern opposition, the first against the saffrons, the second against Derry, before they close out the group stages with a spin to Kildare.

Wexford: Gemma Doyle; Clodagh Jackman, Marie Claire Morrissey, Chloe Cashe; Michelle Harding, Nicole Fortune, Leah Walsh (capt.); Aisling Cronin, Eimear Nolan; Shauna Kelly, Joanne Dillon (0-10, 8 frees, 1 '45), Deirdre McMahon (1-0); Aoife Sheil, Margaret Byrne (1-1), Sorcha Foley. Subs. - Aoife McCrea for Cashe (38), Anais Curran for Nolan (48), also Mary Cummins, Mairéad Sheehan, Aideen Brennan, Nancy Dunphy, Róisín Kelly.

Kilkenny: Noelle Murphy; Tara Clifford, Ailish Butler, Clara Murphy; Aobha O'Gorman, Eilish Regan, Clara O'Shea; Mary O'Connell, Lydia Fitzpatrick; Marguerite Hoynes (0-1), Mags Fennelly, Orla Hanrick (0-6 frees); Eadaoin Murphy (1-0), Bridget Kilbane (1-0), Christine Lyng (0-1). Sub. - Niamh Bambrick (1-0) for Kilbane (25).

Referee: Alan Doheny (Laois).

Wexford People