Added intensity clear in big win for holders
THERE WAS a lot to like about Wexford on Saturday last as they got their All-Ireland Senior camogie championship defence off to a flying start in The Ragg.
For 30 minutes they hassled, harried, hounded and suffocated Tipperary in a half that was comfortably their best of the year.
Unquestionably, there were at least two key reasons for that improvement. The added intensity and hunger, simply not present in the league, was visible from the off. But even more important was a fullstrength team which contained, arguably, the best 15 players available.
There were simply too few occasions during the largely unsuccessful National League campaign where positives outweighed negatives. It left further question marks for the backroom team led by 'Manager of the Year' J.J. Doyle and that uncertainty resulted in a familiar line-up in Tipperary - barring Lisa Bolger making her Senior championship debut at midfield.
Of course, one good half doesn't a season make but nobody that comes up against the double AllIreland champions in the coming weeks is going to garner many scores against this team - one to 15 - if they defend with the same hunger.
While an early Una Leacy goal came, the scores didn't flow in the opening quarter. Katrina Parrock's persistence was rewarded for that fourth-minute major as the St. Ibar's/Shelmalier clubwoman forced a handpass into the path of Leacy who kicked the sliothar past Rita Bourke to the net.
As lively as anyone in the first-half was corner-forward Lenny Holohan and she added the game's second score from a tight angle on the right. Indeed, just before Joanne Ryan's opener for the hosts in the 19th minute came frees from Ursula Jacob and Kate Kelly, both of which the nippy Rathnure forward Holohan won.
Despite the light breeze into their faces that hindered a lot of early shots on goal, as quality sides do, Wexford began to adjust and added seven points in what was left of the opening period.
Hard-working Jacob created the first of the run for Parrock with a crucial hook and, after Una Leacy raised her first white flag of the afternoon following an exquisite square ball by Kate Kelly, corner-forward Parrock scored again from close range (1-6 to 0-1).
Noeleen Lambert's good work gave Oulart-The Ballagh's Jacob the chance to pick off her second point, which she took, and after a quick Tipperary double from Caoimhe Maher and Mary Ryan, three further overs from last year's championship top scorer completed an excellent half.
Down by ten (1-10 to 0-3) having been completely outplayed, Tipperary introduced new faces in the guise of Cáit Devane and Sarah Fryday and it immediately paid dividends with the former pointing from 45 yards out.
Mere moments after the resumption it was evident that the intensity which Wexford had suffocated the hosts with in the opening period was now resident in the confines of the dressing-room. Una Leacy did point from the left side of the posts but the visitors were soon hit with a goal from nowhere.
Jill Horan's long punt forward, tumbling from the drizzly sky, slipped out of the hand of Mags D'Arcy into the path of Ereena Fryday and, while Catherine O'Loughlin managed to block the first shot, the sliothar popped perfectly back to the forward who pulled to the net (1-11 to 1-4).
Ursula Jacob's 38th-minute free was matched seconds later by Kelly and that short scoring burst was the cue for the personnel changes to start as J.J. Doyle began to rest his star names for bigger challenges to come.
A pointed free from Borrisoleigh starlet Nicole Walsh was quickly countered by Jacob to close out the third quarter with Wexford coasting (1-14 to 15).
Leacy and Jacob pointed before Doyle rounded off his full quota of changes and his side began to look decidedly more anaemic. A 52nd-minute Walshe point proved to be Tipperary's last and it was fittingly left to Michelle O'Leary to cap a fine performance at midfield with the game's final score.
Attention quickly turns to the visit of Cork to Wexford on Saturday. A full-strength Rebelette outfit prised the National League crown away from the Slaneysiders in May and all minds will be set on putting down an early marker in the race for the O'Duffy Cup.