Cats await in last four after first loss to Cork
WEXFORD WILL face neighbours Kilkenny in the National Camogie League Division 1 semi-final after they succumbed to Cork in their last group game in Hollymount on Sunday last.
With both sides already in the last four, only positioning and pride were left to play for. Cork were just that little bit sharper, especially in the opening half against a howling breeze, and deserved their narrow win in the end.
Manager Helena Jacob introduced three players who didn't start in the win against Tipperary, with Katrina Parrock, Noeleen Lambert and Stacey Redmond adding experience and steel to the Wexford line-up.
However it was visitors Cork, who chose to play against the breeze in the opening half, that started a little sharper and raced into a three-point lead after seven minutes.
Jennifer O'Leary knocked over the opening free and lost Síona Nolan to set up Katriona Mackey moments later for point number two. O'Leary's great start continued when she got her score from play in the seventh minute, clipping the right upright shortly after and the ball dropped wide.
Despite the fast start by the Leesiders, Wexford did have an early chance when Jessica Kavanagh cleared away from goal after a scramble on the line but the hosts did finally score through Ursula Jacob after Una Leacy was hauled down.
Leacy herself got her side's only point from play in the tenth minute and Jacob popped over her second free moments later to level the scores at the end of the opening quarter.
Three more Jacob dead balls, two of which were won by Leacy, gave Wexford a double scores lead by the 22nd minute but Cork responded when Mackey was adjudged to have been pushed in the back and O'Leary converted from close range (0-6 to 0-4).
After Josie Dwyer was taken down in midfield, Jacob knocked over her sixth point with the last strike of the opening half but three points was always going to be a tough lead for Wexford to defend against a gale.
Points from Orla Cotter and Mackey inside three minutes of the re-start eased the visitors within one (0-7 to 0-6) and put them on course for a big second-half. However, Wexford defended well for the next 15 minutes and increased their lead to two when Jacob hit the target after she was fouled.
More good work by O'Leary gave Mackey the easy task of taking her third point of the afternoon but worse was to follow for Wexford when the Douglas corner-forward got in on D'Arcy and the hosts' stopper had no option but to take her down.
Not that redemption was needed for preventing a certain goal, but D'Arcy provided it regardless with a superb save from Aoife Murray's powerful penalty and gave Wexford a chance to cling to their one-point lead.
A Sarah Hayes long-range free levelled the scores with ten minutes left and Wexford then had one big chance to win it when Eimear O'Connor and Jacob combined to release Fiona Kavanagh but her shot from tight on the left whizzed wide on the near side.
Cork added three points in the next five minutes and forced Mary Leacy into a fine stop on the goal-line to open up an 0-11 to 0-8 lead with just two minutes left.
Jacob did add her eighth point for the Slaneysiders in the time that was left but her side didn't come close to snatching a dramatic win late on and it was Cork who had a goal disallowed for a square ball infringement in added time.
Wexford now face an April 20 semi-final clash against old rivals Kilkenny at a venue to be decided, with Cork facing off against the winners of Limerick, Clare and Galway who must play-off for a last four berth.