Old guard return
Best display of year stuns neighbours
Cometh the championship summer, cometh the reliable old guard - Kate Kelly and Mary Leacy were back to inspire Wexford to their best performance of the season to date against Kilkenny in O'Kennedy Park, New Ross, on Sunday.
Wexford 2-19 Kilkenny 2-9
The Slaneysiders will now face Offaly on June 5 in the Leinster Senior camogie championship final after their ten-point win over their neighbours. The ageless Kelly scored 1-8 and performed like she hadn't skipped the league, while Leacy played in midfield and it was an interesting change.
The form of Jackie Quigley possibly dictated the move, as well as the need for a strong influence in the middle of the park. Leacy must have enjoyed the freedom of the role, compared to her usual spot at number six, and she was a serious force in attacking moves.
Sarah O'Connor's progression through the grade has been seamless and this was another step up that wasn't too great for the St. Martin's clubwoman. Ann Dalton would be a handful for anyone but the youngster seemed to relish the challenge.
Nobody is going to go over the top about this Wexford side, as this is only one sample of a performance that has to become the norm, but it's certainly an impressive start to the summer. Kilkenny started eleven players that began the league final against Galway so theirs was no scratch line-up either.
If there's a negative, and there usually is in any performance, to give away two horribly soft goals has to leave some concern. That said, Wexford defended from the front and did it fantastically well for the majority of the match.
The sides were level at 0-2 each after the first 13 minutes. Kelly had a '45 but missed two frees as she eased herself back into inter-county camogie, while Stacey Kehoe added the other point. After Linda Bolger registered, O'Connor superbly hooked Dalton when going for goal.
Then Wexford went on a run. Shelley Kehoe's importance to the side is no longer a secret and she scored the first of four points in the 16th minute. Kelly (two), Katrina Parrock and Bolger all pointed as the hosts moved 0-8 to 0-2 ahead.
Dalton and Sarah Ann Quinlan hit back for Kilkenny but there was still a sting in the Wexford attack before the break. Two Kelly points sandwiched a Shelley Kehoe minor as the lead increased to seven.
When Stacey Kehoe found Kelly in added time and she fell to her knees, the chance looked to be gone. However, composed as ever, Kelly handpassed from her knees to the bottom corner of Anne Marie Lennon's net.
Worse was to follow for the visitors as less than a minute later Katrina Parrock's shot took a wicked bounce off the turf and startled Lennon. She saved it but only into the path of Una Sinnott, and the Craanford youngster marked her return from a hand injury with a pulled goal (2-11 to 0-4).
Kilkenny needed a response after the re-start but Wexford scored four of the first six points. The 15-point lead (2-15 to 0-6) started to shrink when, moments after Dalton pointed, Julie Ann Malone got behind the full-back line and netted untouched.
When Kelly Ann Doyle's pass wasn't cut out, Dalton sauntered in for goal number two. She added her seventh point a minute later and Wexford had suddenly gone from 15 clear to just seven ahead.
However, Wexford didn't panic and Kilkenny couldn't find another gear. Parrock added a classy score, while Shelley Kehoe popped over her fourth and Bolger her third as the home team notched the next three points in a row.
Dalton had a couple of placed-ball efforts in added time that needed dealing with but Wexford escaped without conceding again. The Leinster final against Offaly will be played at a neutral venue and comes just two weeks before the All-Ireland series starts.
Wexford: Mags D'Arcy; Karen Atkinson, Síona Nolan, Louise Sinnott; Sarah O'Connor, Jackie Quigley, Shauna Sinnott (capt.); Mary Leacy, Emma Walsh; Stacey Kehoe (0-1), Shelley Kehoe (0-4), Una Sinnott (1-1); Kate Kelly (1-8, 0-6 frees, 0-1 '45), Katrina Parrock (0-2), Linda Bolger (0-3). Subs. - Chloe Foxe for Kelly (51), Amy Cardiff for Walsh (52).
Kilkenny: Anne Marie Lennon; Jacqui Frisby, Davina Tobin, Colette Dormer; Edwina Keane, Claire Phelan, Sarah Kent; Anna Farrell, Meighan Farrell; Michelle Quilty (capt.), Sarah Ann Quinlan (0-1), Ann Dalton (1-7, 0-6 frees, 0-1 '45); Denise Gaule, Miriam Walsh (0-1), Julie Ann Malone (1-0). Subs. - Kelly Ann Doyle for Kent (40), Shelly Farrell for Gaule (42), Aine Gannon for Phelan (48), Grace Walsh for A. Farrell (50).
Referee: Pat Kehoe (Carlow).