Leacy rocket earns vital win
Wexford knuckle down to defeat champions Cork
As the game-clock clicked towards the 60-minute mark, Una Leacy plucked Kate Kelly's line ball out of the sky, cut inside and flashed an unstoppable shot past Aoife Murray to give Wexford a crucial victory.
Wexford 1-9 Cork 0-9
It was typical Leacy. There's no forward in the game as dangerous around the edge of the square, and it's unlikely that anyone possesses a shot as powerful. The Oulart-The Ballagh attacker is the player for just that situation; one chance, bang, game over.
After two ropey Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior camogie championship performances in a row, the Slaneysiders knuckled down in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday and eked out a victory against visitors Cork.
It wasn't pretty but a strong wind and wet, slippery conditions were never going to allow it to be so. What was important for Wexford was the return of the dogged, full throttle displays that earned them a Leinster title.
Did they get there? Not quite, but this was a step in the right direction after poor performances against Offaly and Waterford in the two previous weeks. Much of the work was done in the first-half, after which Wexford trailed by just four (0-7 to 0-3), despite playing against a gale.
Cork boss Paudie Murray won't miss out on too much sleep over this one, especially after losing to Wexford in the round-robin stages last year only to go on and complete a marvellous pair of back-to-back All-Ireland titles.
However, his tactics certainly snookered his side in the first-half. Wexford understandably set up to suck the life out of the game against the elements. The heat-map of the whole half-forward line would have shown more action on their own side of midfield than their opponents.
Cork chose not to follow. It constantly left three free visiting defenders marking space and twiddling their thumbs. That became four when Aisling Thompson sat back off Katrina Parrock as she mucked in with defensive duties.
Okay, the advantages might come after Wexford cleared but the hosts were clever. When the chances to break came, the Slaneysiders worked the ball into midfield with short stuff and then over the two free wing-backs into the corners and attacked from there.
A first-half that was a massive win for Wexford, and their management team, started with Orla Cotter tapping over a free after Orla Cronin was fouled. Kate Kelly responded in kind after Parrock was taken down moments later.
Aoife Murray pulled back an Una Leacy point attempt that was heading over the crossbar but Wexford did take the lead when Kelly converted her second dead-ball in the seventh minute.
Hannah Looney replied to level the game for the second time a minute later.
Wexford thought they had their goal against the breeze when Leacy nonchalantly flicked Shelley Kehoe's pass into the net, but the major was correctly ruled out for a square ball.
Cork took the lead when Eimear O'Sullivan pointed in the 13th minute. Seven minutes later Katriona Mackey latched on to a huge Murray free and tapped over to make it 0-4 to 0-2. When Leacy was fouled breaking out to the right wing, Kelly converted her third free of the half.
Both Cork midfielders pointed in the 25th minute to move the visitors into a double-scores lead, and when Cotter added her third point of the half in added-time the Rebelettes took a 0-7 to 0-3 lead in at the interval.
Kate Kelly took nine seconds after the interval to signal her side's intent. Seven minutes later Kelly's fifth pointcut the deficit to two. Good work by Una Sinnott and Shelley Kehoe presented Linda Bolger with a chance to point in the 38th minute, which she took.
Leacy was fouled in the corner but the free was taken away for a retaliatory pull. Laura Treacy shoved her back and both players were booked. Kelly levelled the game in the 42nd minute after Parrock's long ball was deflected behind for a '45.
Straddling the midpoint of the half, Wexford missed a few chances to take the lead and they fell behind again when Amy O'Connor got away to point in the 47th minute, a score that the umpire looked less than sure about.
Substitute Chloe Foxe did well on the left wing to recycle possession to Shelley Kehoe who nipped the ball inside to Emma Walsh, and the Glynn-Barntown newcomer held her nerve from 45 metres out to level the tie for the fourth time.
Kate Kelly was fouled and she converted the resulting free to put Wexford ahead for the first time since the seventh minute, with nine to go (0-9 to 0-8). Then Aisling Thompson was dismissed, a second yellow card for a foul on Parrock in midfield.
Yet Cork responded like champions and levelled again through Cotter after O'Connor was fouled tight on the left touchline. Their forays forward were rare and Wexford still looked like the more likely winners.
When Sarah O'Connor was fouled on her own '45 in the 60th minute, Wexford sent the free down the right touchline and won a line ball. Kelly arrowed it towards Leacy and she did the rest, flashing to the net to give her county a hard-earned win.
The Slaneysiders head west next week to take on Clare in their final group game. An automatic semi-final spot is unlikely but not completely impossible. A Limerick win against Cork would give Wexford a chance to nab top spot in the group.
Importantly, a win out west would guarantee a quarter-final spot regardless of other results. A loss would leave Wexford sweating with a poor points difference, hoping that Cork beat Limerick to ensure they don't get nabbed by the Treaty for the final spot in the knockouts.
Wexford: Mags D'Arcy; Ciara Storey, Síona Nolan (capt.), Karen Atkinson; Sarah O'Connor, Mary Leacy, Deirdre Codd; Emma Walsh (0-1), Shelley Kehoe; Stacey Kehoe, Katrina Parrock, Una Sinnott; Kate Kelly (0-7, 5 frees, 1 '45), Una Leacy (1-0), Linda Bolger (0-1). Subs. - Chloe Foxe for Sinnott (44), also Laura Brennan, Ciara Donohoe, Jackie Quigley, Louise O'Leary, Marie Morrissey, Louise Sinnott, Amy Cardiff, Shauna Sinnott, Margaret Byrne, Joanne Dillon, Michelle Martin, Shauna Kelly.
Cork: Aoife Murray; Leanne O'Sullivan, Laura Treacy, Pamela Mackey; Maeve Cahalane, Gemma O'Connor, Rena Buckley; Orla Cotter (0-4, 2 frees), Aisling Thompson (capt., 0-1); Eimear O'Sullivan (0-1), Hannah Looney (0-1), Katriona Mackey (0-1); Briege Corkery, Orla Cronin, Amy O'Connor (0-1).
Referee: Eamonn Cassidy (Derry).