Winning start from Wexford
Kelly, Leacy and Shelley Kehoe in strong scoring form
Wexford manoeuvred, without incident, past arguably the toughest of their opening three opponents, Limerick, in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior camogie championship at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
Wexford 3-17 Limerick 1-16
The Slaneysiders came into the opening round fixture in excellent form after blitzing through the Leinster championship, and they kept up that momentum for most of this tie. More than enough damage was done in the first three-quarters, and a lax showing in the final 15 minutes was somewhat understandable.
Gratifying for the management must have been the sheer volume of goal chances created. Wexford couldn't buy a major in the league, but with Una Leacy and Kate Kelly in the full-forward line they could hardly be more explosive.
The balance of the team is superb at the moment, with the midfield of Katrina Parrock and Emma Walsh outstanding. Glynn-Barntown starlet Walsh has almost come out of nowhere and is clearly the biggest benefactor of the league 'trials' as she goes from strength to strength.
This team is built on speed, and possesses it in abundance. Limerick certainly couldn't handle it as they conceded heavily and really could have shipped another three or four goals.
Are there question marks? Yes, there has to be when one opposing player scores 1-14, but overall it was another good performance.
There were less than 15 seconds on the clock when Shelley Kehoe opened the scoring with a point from the superb Kate Kelly flick sideways. However, Niamh Mulcahy, Limerick's only real danger, responded with her opening point of 14 in the third minute.
From Mags D'Arcy's long puck-out that rode the breeze, Kelly added her first point. Less than a minute later Katrina Parrock's pass fell to her clubmate just inside the '20, and Kelly dribbled through soccer-style, fell over but still forced the ball to the net.
It was another excellent day in a Wexford jersey for Shelley Kehoe, and she popped over her second score in the sixth minute to make it 1-3 to 0-1. After twin Stacey won possession, Kehoe registered for the third time.
Ciara Storey fed long into the centre for Kelly in the 13th minute. Her handpass was perfectly timed for Una Leacy and the Wexford full-forward made no mistake from close range. The Oulart-The Ballagh forward followed it with an excellent point from a tight angle on the left.
When Kelly deftly flicked around her marker and pointed, Wexford led by 2-6 to 0-1. A different criteria seemed to exist for the underdogs when it came to winning and conceding frees, and slowly Ray Kelly's inconsistency started to aid the visitors.
Mulcahy scored five of the next seven points, three from placed balls. At the other end Kate Kelly added three more points before the break while, in separate attacks, Una Leacy was twice denied by Claire Keating in the Limerick goal.
Leading by 2-9 to 0-6, Wexford eased further clear after the break. Leacy tapped over from Linda Bolger's crossfield pass, Katrina Parrock scored a long-range minor, and Emma Walsh's work presented Kelly with another chance to raise a white flag, which she took.
After Mulcahy added her seventh point, Walsh and Kelly combined again. The experienced St. Ibar's/Shelmalier clubwoman picked the right moment to feed Leacy, one-on-one with the 'keeper.
Maybe the handpass was the correct option but Leacy turned, swung and her shot was saved again by Keating.
Following a Shelley Kehoe point, three points in a row from the Munster side, with Caoimhe Costello getting her name on the scoresheet, left the score at 2-13 to 0-10 after 44 minutes. Back came Wexford as Kehoe added her fifth and Leacy flighted her third point.
Mulcahy's tenth minor was quickly followed by the hosts' third goal.
The move started with Chloe Foxe feeding Kelly who in turn got the ball towards Parrock. The Wexford midfielder forced the sliothar in to Leacy who calmly fired her second goal.
That's three goals in two games for the Oulart-The Ballagh forward, who has continuously got into great positions.
The sharpness is coming back for the former All Star and that has to be a scary thought for the defences Wexford are yet to face.
The Slaneysiders would only add two further points in the remaining 13 minutes, both from Kelly frees that were awarded when she was fouled cynically going towards goal. As the Wexford tempo dropped, Limerick looked more dangerous.
Mulcahy got through too easily for a consolation major while Mags D'Arcy and Jackie Quigley both made good saves to prevent any further damage late on.
Mulcahy ended with 1-14, a tally that was impressive, but it's something managers John Kelly and Matty Flynn-O'Connor will need to look at.
Wexford meet Offaly in their second championship outing on Saturday as they continue a run of five games over five weekends. That game will take place in Birr (2.30 p.m.) and will be followed seven days later with a trip to neighbours Waterford.
Wexford: Mags D'Arcy; Karen Atkinson, Síona Nolan, Louise Sinnott; Sarah O'Connor, Jackie Quigley, Ciara Storey; Emma Walsh, Katrina Parrock (0-1); Stacey Kehoe, Shelley Kehoe (0-5), Una Sinnott; Kate Kelly (1-8, 0-3 frees, 0-2 '45s), Una Leacy (2-3), Linda Bolger. Subs. - Chloe Foxe for U. Sinnott (31), Shauna Sinnott (capt.) for O'Connor (49), Marie Morrissey for Bolger (56), also Laura Brennan, Louise O'Leary, Ciara Donohoe, Amy Cardiff, Leah Walsh, Margaret Byrne, Michelle Martin, Joanne Dillon, Doireann Kavanagh, Aoife Sheil, Deirdre Codd, Shauna Kelly.
Limerick: Claire Keating; Marguerite McCarthy, Muireann Creamer, Judith Mulcahy; Fiona Hickey, Niamh Richardson, Siobhán Enright; Karen O'Leary, Mary O'Callaghan; Deborah Murphy, Niamh Mulcahy (1-14, 0-9 frees), Caoimhe Costello (0-2); Chloe O'Brien, Niamh Ryan, Rebecca Noonan. Subs. - Noreen Barry for Noonan (31), Rebecca Delee for O'Callaghan (31), Cliona Lane for O'Leary (37), Marian Quaid for Richardson (55), also Sarah Crotty, Leanne Browne, Róisín O'Meara, Aoife Coughlan, Lorraine McCarthy (capt.).
Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare).