Bolger seals last-gasp win
Wexford 3-10 Tipperary 2-12
Wexford camogie might not be out of its winter of discontent just yet, but the players have never let their county down and it was their grit and determination that saw the Slaneysiders snatch a dramatic victory over Tipperary in The Ragg on Sunday.
This Littlewoods Ireland National League Division 1 tie was there for the taking, and that's the way it has been against Tipp in recent years.
Yet, Wexford never really looked like snatching it until Linda Bolger pulled to the net more than two minutes into added-time to give her side their third lead of the contest, their first since the sixth minute.
Tipperary were a little naive. They had chances to clear their lines and couldn't get it done. Bolger and Amy Cardiff both tested Caoimhe Bourke in the home goal in the lead-up to the winner, but there was an inevitability about what was set to transpire when several chances to clear weren't taken.
Bolger was clinical with her low finish in slippery conditions. The final whistle brought considerable celebrations, especially on the sideline, considering it came against a side Wexford have beaten more often than not in recent years.
That's pressure for you. Make no mistake - deep down, nobody involved in Wexford camogie believes that appointing a manager so late in the day is acceptable.
The damage done is unquantifiable, and nobody will ever know for sure what difference six months of twiddling their thumbs has done. It's just not how successful counties operate.
Martin Carey made his first appearance as boss and he's a perfect one from one. Given that he's late to the show and thrust into almost unworkable circumstances, the 'get out of jail free' card will be handy for him as the season goes on.
He'll need to learn quickly; at least he now knows how many steps are allowed in camogie, after asking those around him midway through the opening half, before using his newly-confirmed knowledge to question the referee.
Understandably Carey needs to rely on others for guidance at this early stage, and it seems like Máire O'Connor is his go-to ear. They put out the players available to them as well as could be expected and got a really cracking effort from youngster Aoife Guiney.
The Rathnure player, a Minor last year, is someone who could turn into a real talent. She is able to mesh a direct, powerful running style with sneaky quick pace as she demonstrated in several occasions in this game.
Confidence will be a big thing for her, and when she believes she's good enough to be at this level, Guiney will be a real asset.
Her clubmate Jackie Quigley made a return to the inter-county set-up after taking 2017 out. It was also a big day for Glynn-Barntown as they had four players in the starting line-up, including Clodagh Jackman, Chloe Cashe and Emma Kiely all looking to step up from Intermediate level.
As usual, the victors relied heavily on Shelley Kehoe's running, Una Leacy's power and Bolger's scoring. Defensively Wexford have had problems keeping it tight in recent years, and the fact that all six starting forwards scored for Tipperary, plus their first substitution, means there's plenty of room for improvement back there.
Una Leacy and a flicked Joanne Dillon point twice put Wexford ahead in the opening six minutes, only for Nicole Walsh to reply with dead-balls at the other end. Then, playing with the breeze, the Premier girls started to build a lead.
Orla O'Dwyer, Kelly Lenihan and Andrea Loughnane all pointed to make it 0-5 to 0-2 after ten minutes. Guiney responded with a hard-earned point but Walsh and O'Dwyer kept the scoreboard ticking over at the other end.
Things looked bleak for Wexford when Sarah Fryday raced away and fired past Emma Kiely to the net. However, they responded well and Linda Bolger nipped off a quick 1-1, the goal the product of a sensational Leacy pass and jinking run and finish from the St. Martin's forward.
Kiely had to be at her best to deny Loughnane a major in the 24th minute, but the home side did extend their lead to four (1-8 to 1-4) when dual star O'Dwyer picked off her third point of the contest.
Mary Ryan was booked and conceded a free for pulling on a loose ball but making contact with Guiney in the follow-through, and Bolger converted the placed-ball. Niamh Tracey pointed on the stroke of half-time to make it 1-9 to 1-5.
Playing with the wind in the second-half, it took Wexford a little while to get going. Bolger added a 39th-minute free but that was her side's only score in the first 21 minutes of the period.
Tipp were finding clear opportunities hard to come by too, but they did add what looked to be a critical second goal when Fryday found the net from close range at the end of the third quarter.
Emma Walsh, playing closer to goal in the final quarter, was fouled for a penalty in the 50th minute. Una Leacy stepped up and drilled low but Caoimhe Burke made a solid stop.
However, there was no denying the Oulart-The Ballagh clubwoman a minute later when she kicked home a breaking ball from Sarah O'Connor's long delivery.
Tipperary seemed to steady the ship when Loughnane put her side 2-10 to 2-6 up with nine minutes left, but Kehoe pointed to start a run that saw Bolger add two frees and Leacy round it out to level the game for the first time since the seventh minute.
The hosts, who had two scores in the previous 28 minutes, looked to have clinched victory when O'Dwyer and Miriam Campion fired over two quick points to give their county a 2-12 to 2-10 lead.
However, there was still time for one last Wexford attack. They needed three bites at the cherry but eventually Bolger whipped the ball home to get her side off to a flying start.
The Slaneysiders host Cork in their second outing on Sunday, with the time and venue to be confirmed.
Wexford: Emma Kiely (Glynn-Barntown); Clodagh Jackman (Glynn-Barntown), Ciara Storey (Oulart-The Ballagh), Katie O'Connor (St. Martin's); Chloe Cashe (Glynn-Barntown), Sarah O'Connor (St. Martin's), Shauna Sinnott (Oulart-The Ballagh); Amy Cardiff (St. Martin's), Emma Walsh (Glynn-Barntown); Linda Bolger (St. Martin's, 2-5, 0-4 frees), Shelley Kehoe (Oulart-The Ballagh, 0-1), Jackie Quigley (Rathnure); Joanne Dillon (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, 0-1), Una Leacy (capt., Oulart-The Ballagh, 1-2), Aoife Guiney (Rathnure, 0-1). Sub. - Nicole Fortune (Bunclody) for Bolger, temp. (55).
Tipperary: Caoimhe Burke; Laura Loughnane, Ciannait Walsh, Clodagh Quirke; Mary Ryan, Karen Kennedy, Mary Burke; Ereena Fryday, Jean Kelly; Kelly Lenihan (0-1), Orla O'Dwyer (capt., 0-4), Nicole Walsh (0-3, 1 free, 1 '45); Sarah Fryday (2-0), Andrea Loughnane (0-2), Niamh Treacy (0-1). Subs. - Miriam Campion (0-1) for Treacy (43), Grace O'Brien for A. Loughnane (51).
Referee: Andrew Larkin (Cork).