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Thursday 19 October 2017

Sorry season ends with drubbing by Dubs

Dublin 1-16 Wexford 0-12

Dean Goodison

Wexford’s Stacey Kehoe goes to ground and grimaces after this strong challenge from Aoife Woods of Dublin
Wexford’s Stacey Kehoe goes to ground and grimaces after this strong challenge from Aoife Woods of Dublin
The Wexford squad before Saturday’s crushing quarter-final defeat to Dublin in Semple Stadium

Wexford brought a sorry season to an end in fitting fashion, with a dreadful defeat to Dublin in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior camogie championship quarter-final at Semple Stadium on Saturday.

The plaudits are ringing out for the girls from the capital but the story behind the story is how Wexford, All-Ireland champions just five years ago, are now simply also-rans in a championship dominated by three counties.

There has been talk of this being a stunning upset but that's playing into the history of the tie. It has not got any basis in the present. Wexford went to Cork last month and left embarrassed after they were given the runaround, much like Dublin were against Galway and Kilkenny.

The Slaneysiders should still have enough to beat the girls in blue, of course they should, and they didn't because Dublin were the better, hungrier team on the day. However, this is real proof, if more was needed, that the glory days of Wexford camogie are well and truly over.

And what of the girls of 2010 to '12, the ones that have continued on because they love the game? Maybe the time is right for them to all get away from the inter-county scene, as they owe Wexford nothing and will get nothing but hardship in the next few years if they choose to stay on.

Wexford could have a different look next season altogether, as Karen Atkinson, Mary and Una Leacy and Bríd Gordon have all been through the wringer for the county, with the scars to prove it and this can't be fun anymore.

And then what? This is the problem the County Board didn't address five years ago. By all accounts, current Development Officer Joe Roche is putting in the hard yards but with the County Board struggling financially, does he have the resources he needs to get Wexford back to the top?

They are a long way off the pace, there's absolutely no doubt about that. This was the second loss to Dublin, cannon fodder a couple of seasons ago, and while they've come on a bit but as the semi-final against Kilkenny will show on Sunday week, they are still well off the pace.

Yet, they fully deserved this win and there's no hard luck stories for Wexford, no sulky appeals about added time, no looking for excuses, they were beaten by the better team. Dublin wanted this and more importantly believed they could get it. This was just their fourth win this season and now they are in an All-Ireland semi-final.

This game lacked quality as a whole. The handling was poor and Wexford's distribution was aimless, as they reverted back to working the ball out of the backs and gave up multiple scores because of wayward short passes.

One valid excuse the players could give is that they can't be comfortable playing together. Managers John Kelly and Matty Flynn-O'Connor have chopped and changed the team all season. There's no continuity and Wexford looked like strangers playing together for much of this tie.

The substitutions were uninspiring too. Talking off Chloe Foxe when she was contributing more than most was baffling, as was management's refusal to give Mags Byrne a chance in an attack that is crying out for searing pace, for a game-changer. An attack that produced stunted performances all season long went missing again.

Not that the defence was good enough either. This was Dublin after all and allowing 1-16 is not going to win many matches at this level.

Again, they haven't been allowed gel as a unit either, as both personnel wise and positionally there have been too many changes, unecessary changes.

Wexford actually came out of the dressing-room on the front foot and scored three points inside five minutes through the Kehoe twins and Chloe Foxe. However, they would only add one further first-half score, through Stacey Kehoe in the 19th minute, as Dublin dominated.

They were back level by the eleventh minute after scores from Aisling Maher (two) and Siobhán Kehoe. Hannah Hegarty intercepted a wayward pass and drilled over from distance before Maher did likewise from closer in.

The scores kept flowing for Dublin and they went 0-9 to 0-4 ahead after a couple of Eimear McCarthy points, plus efforts from Ellen McGovern and Maher. The big chance of the half came for Wexford in added time and a goal at that stage could have made a massive difference.

Una Leacy broke onto Stacey Kehoe's ball across goal and was taken down by Gráinne Quinn for a penalty. Now, unless she needs an amputation or is unable to stand, Leacy should be taking penalties, but it was Sarah O'Connor who took it and Faye McCarthy made a routine save.

Down by five at the break, Wexford waited until the fourth quarter to find their response. In the meantime Dublin move serenely on, outscoring the Slaneysiders by 0-5 to 0-3 in the third quarter.

Foxe got all three scores for her side, including an excellent point from tight on the right wing, but she was quickly withdrawn for Linda Bolger.

Three more Maher points, an Ali Twomey point and a long dead-ball from Faye McCarthy moved Dublin 0-14 to 0-7 ahead with 15 minutes remaining. For just over two minutes Wexford played well, scoring four quick points from Bolger, Shelley Kehoe (two) and Sarah O'Connor.

Siobhán Kehoe managed to pick up a convenient injury off the ball to half the momentum and it worked a treat for the victors. Wexford managed just one more Una Leacy point in added time, and by then the game was already over.

The big moment came in the 53rd minute. Kehoe, remarkably well recovered, did superbly to force the ball across goal, Nicole Fortune dropped it and Ali Twomey needed no second invitation to pull home (1-14 to 0-11).

Twomey and Faye McCarthy added insurance points to open the lead to eight and Wexford were a beaten team. They went looking for goals and Una Leacy went closest to getting one when whipping wide after Stacey Kehoe's initial shot was saved.

Wexford now stare into the off-season with much uncertainty. Whether management would be willing to return or not, it's questionable if they will be wanted back by the County Board.

There is sure to be some turnover of players too, so all in all there are more questions than answers heading into the break.

Wexford: Nicole Fortune; Sarah O'Connor (0-1 free), Ciara Storey, Karen Atkinson; Áine Lacey, Mary Leacy, Síona Nolan; Amy Cardiff, Bríd Gordon (capt.); Chloe Foxe (0-4, 2 frees, 1 '45), Shelley Kehoe (0-3), Emma Walsh; Una Leacy (0-1 free), Stacey Kehoe (0-2), Joanne Dillon. Subs. - Shauna Sinnott for Atkinson, inj. (22), Linda Bolger (0-1) for Foxe (40), Una Sinnott for Cardiff (45), Leah Walsh for Shelley Kehoe (58), also Niamh Potter, Ciara Donohoe, Aideen Brennan, Shauna Kelly, Aisling Cronin, Róisín Kelly, Michelle Harding, Margaret Byrne, Clodagh Jackman, Aoife Sheil, Deirdre McMahon.

Dublin: Faye McCarthy (0-2 frees); Áine Woods, Eve O'Brien (capt.), Gráinne Quinn; Hannah Hegarty (0-1), Aisling Carolan, Eve Marie Elliott; Miriam Twomey, Eimear McCarthy (0-2); Ali Twomey (1-2), Alison Maguire, Ellen McGovern (0-1); Siobhán Kehoe (0-1), Aisling Maher (0-7, 4 frees), Emma Flanagan. Subs. - Claire Donnelly for Maguire (31), Máirí Moynihan for McGovern (51), Eimear O'Leary for Flanagan (59).

Referee: Cathal Egan (Cork).

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