Quality show seals silverware
WEXFORD CLAIMED their first piece of silverware in two years by comfortably dismissing Offaly in the Leinster Senior camogie championship final at Aughrim on Sunday.
All six starting forwards were on the scoresheet, including quasi-midfielder Shelley Kehoe, as the Slaneysiders put in their second quality performance in a row, following on from their ten-point victory against Kilkenny in the semi-final.
While this wasn't as sustained a battering as the Kilkenny game, with Wexford sloppy in the final quarter as Offaly made the game seem closer than it actually was, it was yet more indication that managers John Kelly and Matty Flynn-O'Connor have the makings a decent team on their hands.
Maybe gaining confidence from beating a woeful Wexford in the final round of the league, Offaly captain Michaela Morkan stated, in the match programme, that this would be a close encounter because of the strides her county had made in recent years.
However, this had the hallmarks of the heavy losses of their early years at Senior as Offaly lost almost all of the individual battles and were completely outplayed. Arguably only Arlene Watkins and Siobhán Flannery shone for the Faithful county while Wexford had a plethora of good showings.
Back for her first county start after last season's knee injury, Una Leacy was exceptional at full-forward. The Oulart-The Ballagh attacker scored 1-3 but Offaly were indebted to Eleanor Clendennen who made two stunning saves to prevent a hat-trick.
Leacy wasn't the only Una making an impression, with Craanford-Monaseed's Una Sinnott scoring three points for the first time since making her debut last season. Deirdre Cashin simply couldn't deal with Kate Kelly, listed as '30-ish' in the programme. The 36-year-old St. Ibar's/Shelmalier forward put in another performance of someone that might describe themselves as '20-ish'.
This management team aren't the first to try Katrina Parrock deeper, as she's been deployed there for club and county, but this might be her best performance from midfield as she relished the space and bossed this game from the centre.
In defence, Wexford were strong for 40 minutes but standards slipped as legs tired late-on. Arlene Watkins won every ball played her way in the second-half but the half-back line didn't really offer their colleagues further back the protection they will need against a better quality opposition.
Offaly made the brighter start when Tina Hannon popped over a point inside two minutes. However, Wexford then scored eleven in a row. Leacy tapped over the opener from Katrina Parrock's pass before Kelly nailed a free.
When Shauna Sinnott was hooked, the ball squirmed to Leacy and she made no mistake to make it 0-3 to 0-1 after eight minutes. Another long, accurate Parrock pass picked out Leacy for her third score before the she turned Sarah O'Connor's ball into Una Sinnott for another minor.
Sinnott notched her second from just inside the '45 on the left to make it 0-6 to 0-1 after 13 minutes. Stacey Kehoe made the most of Linda Bolger's work for seven before Shelley Kehoe fed Kelly for an eighth score.
Una Sinnott pointed from another Kehoe assist for 0-9 to 0-1 after 17 minutes. Linda Bolger worked the ball back to Leacy who sent a blistering shot at the Offaly goal that Clendennen did superbly to save.
That started a ten-minute run without a score that ended when Stacey Kehoe pointed. Bolger grabbed her first score from 40 metres out moments later but Offaly nipped one off the deficit when Siobhán Flannery broke away to raise a white flag.
Two minutes into added time Shelley Kehoe's long ball found Kate Kelly. She beat one defender and drew the other before off-loading to Leacy. There was no way the Oulart-The Ballagh star was going to miss again, shooting low past the onrushing 'keeper.
With the Slaneysiders leading by 1-11 to 0-2 at the break, not much changed after the re-start. Parrock picked off her first point before Shelley Kehoe followed her with a nice effort. When Stacey Kehoe's point attempt broke down off a combination of the 'keeper's hurl and the crossbar, Kate Kelly pulled the rebound low to the net.
Wexford endured a run of several wides in a row as the third quarter moved to a conclusion. Offaly picked off their first score of the half, a Flannery free, after a foul on Watkins in the 43rd minute. Another quickly followed in the same circumstances.
Parrock pointed from Sinnott's pass in the 46th minute (2-14 to 0-4), and then Leacy smashed another rocket-shot from Bolger's pass that Clendennen once again kept out of her net. Kate Kelly converted the resulting '45.
When Watkins was fouled again, Flannery went low but Jackie Quigley saved on the line. Offaly did get a goal back when Morkan shot low past Mags D'Arcy in the 53rd minute. As the game ran down and the intensity dropped, both sides picked off four further points.
Bolger (two), Kelly and substitute Chloe Foxe were the Wexford scorers as they wrapped up an impressive victory. Next up is the start of the All-Ireland series on June 18 with the Slaneysiders hosting Limerick.
Wexford: Mags D'Arcy; Louise Sinnott, Síona Nolan, Karen Atkinson; Sarah O'Connor, Jackie Quigley, Ciara Storey; Katrina Parrock (0-2), Shauna Sinnott (capt.); Stacey Kehoe (0-2), Shelley Kehoe (0-1), Una Sinnott (0-3); Kate Kelly (1-4, 0-2 '45s, 0-1 free), Una Leacy (1-3), Linda Bolger (0-3, 1 free). Subs. - Emma Walsh for S. Sinnott (31), Louise O'Leary for Storey (46), Chloe Foxe (0-1) for Parrock (51), Marie Morrissey for Stacey Kehoe (57), also Laura Brennan, Ciara Donohoe, Amy Cardiff, Leah Walsh, Joanne Dillon, Doireann Kavanagh, Michelle Martin, Margaret Byrne, Deirdre Codd, Mary Leacy.
Offaly: Eleanor Clendennen; Deirdre Cashin, Jean Brady, Fiona Stephens; Aisling Brennan, Siobhán Flannery (0-5, 3 frees), Marion Crean; Christine Cleary, Lorraine Keena; Mairéad Jennings, Linda Sullivan, Michaela Morkan (capt., 1-0); Tina Hannon (0-2), Arlene Watkins (0-1), Lisa Gorman. Subs. - Sarah Harding (0-1) for Gorman (39), Grace Teehan for Cashen (39), Cailín Fitzgerald for Jennings (42), Orlagh Kirwan for Stephens (60), also Helen Dolan, Eimear Mooney, Sarah Walsh, Gráinne Egan, Ciara Brennan, Gráinne Dolan, Terri Delaney, Gillian Irwin, Ann Marie Guinan, Aoibhe Whelahan, Siobhán Kinsella.
Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare).