Sheil strikes winner
Wexford 4-9 Kildare 3-9
It was a long winter of nursing deep wounds for Wexford, but the early stages of picking away at the scab tissue continued in Hawkfield on Sunday as the visitors powered past Kildare in Division 3 of the Lidl Ladies' National Football League.
What residual scars remain will only really be evident as the season moves deep into the summer months, but Anthony Masterson's side look fully prepared to embrace and fight their demons to get to their ultimate goals.
This was always going to be their first real test of the new season and they met it head on. As expected in any group game, the performance wasn't perfect but there was plenty to like about how Wexford set about the task.
They could have folded as they struggled to keep the ball out of the net in the first-half. Playing with the breeze, Wexford would have targeted a lead at the interval but when it didn't happen they just re-applied themselves and went at it even harder in the second period.
That's exactly why anyone who has followed this team in recent years shouldn't have any undue worries about the impact of what has gone before.
This Wexford side keeps putting themselves in games. They win lots, have lost a few heartbreakers, but their effort and application means they will create further opportunities for themselves.
This season there is every chance they will start to take those chances in the big games and build their own legacy, not as gallant bridesmaids but as winners.
Kildare, so sprightly and impressive when claiming the Intermediate title in 2016, don't look quite as desperate for success as Wexford. They have some old components, some new ones too, and these sides will surely cross paths on a few more occasions this season.
Wexford won this one and it would be unfair to suggest they deserved anything less than all three points from this encounter, a salvo that moves them top of the table with a perfect three-win start to the campaign.
It needed Aoife Sheil to pop up in added-time and smash home a superb winning major to clinch the victory. Incredibly, second-half additional time was the only stage at which Wexford led, but that doesn't really tell the whole story.
With less than a minute on the clock, Niamh Sinnott and Grace Clifford combined and the latter smacked a 20-metre shot into the top corner of Mary Rose Kelly's net. Wexford, playing with the wind and snow at their backs, started to gain the upper hand.
Caitríona Murray tapped over at the second attempt, after being fed by Fiona Bennett, and soon added a dead-ball following a foul on the St. Anne's clubwoman.
Along with Niamh Moore and Maria Byrne, it's great to see Bennett back in the fold and playing well this early in the season.
Róisín Byrne had a pair of her eight points on the board as her side led by 1-2 to 0-2 after eleven minutes. However, Wexford continued to move the ball more consistently, with Bernie Breen and Chantelle Martin cutting the gap before the end of the quarter.
Just when Wexford looked set to push on, they conceded another soft goal. The quality in the move was the ball that took out three Slaneysiders in the Kildare half and set Aisling Curley away.
She sauntered into space, fed Clifford, and the Eadestown clubwoman lofted in goal number two.
Murray responded with a brace of points but there was a goal on with the first that she flashed over the crossbar after being released by Clara Donnelly. Soon, back at the other end it was Ellen Dowling's turn to find the net and leave Wexford in a hole, trailing by 3-2 to 0-6 after 22 minutes.
After Murray and Niamh Sinnott traded white flags, the visitors still trailed by five approaching the break. However, Bernie Breen took four Kildare defenders out of play with a long handpass that picked out Aoife Sheil. She released Martin into the clear and the Adamstown clubwoman struck a vital late goal.
Trailing by 3-3 to 1-7 after playing with the breeze wasn't ideal, but Wexford still had hope. Kildare didn't have to work too hard for their three first-half majors and that will be a source of disappointment for the visitors, but how they defended in the second period will put a smile on the face of Masterson and his management team.
Byrne tapped Kildare three clear moments after the re-start, but substitute Aisling Murphy sent a perfect shot past Rebecca McGuirk after Fiona Bennett did superbly to keep the momentum of the attack going after Sheil flared a point attempt short and left.
Parity didn't last long as Byrne pointed twice at the other end. Wexford were dealt a blow in the 36th minute when Aisling Murphy went down in agony after landing awkwardly. She was stretchered off with an ankle injury and replaced by Cathy O'Brien.
After a six-minute delay, Kellie Kearney hit the target with a nice point but Byrne kicked two more at the other end to make it 3-8 to 2-8. Wexford got level again when Sheil - who was a real nuisance for the hosts' defence after the break - was fouled and Martin converted the spot-kick.
Byrne put Kildare one ahead with her sixth of the half in the 48th minute, but they wouldn't score again and rarely threatened. Wexford were helped by the sin-binning of Caoimhe Keoghegan with six mintues left, but the hosts were already hanging on and continually fouling at that stage.
Donnelly levelled the scores in the 60th minute before an overlapping Sheil sent a rasper to the Kildare net moments later. Wexford had to survive another six minutes but the hosts never looked like forcing the equalising goal as the visiting defence refused to give an inch.
Wexford have this coming week off and return to action on March 25 with a game at home to Roscommon. Both Senior and Intermediate camogie teams are scheduled to be in action on the same day, and with overlap between the squads there needs to be a quick resolution.
There will be no problems in Cork, where both camogie sides have moved their fixtures to the Saturday, so the County Boards in Wexford need to use a little common sense, talk to each other and get it sorted while there is still time.
Wexford: Mary Rose Kelly; Niamh Mernagh, Maria Byrne, Marguerite Doyle; Clara Donnelly (0-1), Róisín Murphy, Niamh Moore; Bernie Breen (0-1), Kellie Kearney (capt., 0-1); Niamh Butler, Catríona Murray (0-5, 2 frees), Ellen O'Brien; Fiona Bennett, Aoife Sheil (1-0), Chantelle Martin (2-1, 1-0 pen.). Subs. - Aisling Murphy (1-0) for O'Brien (24), Cathy O'Brien for A. Murphy, inj. (42), Sarah Harding-Kenny for Moore (49), Ann Byrne for Butler (58), also Sinéad Whelan, Aoife Drennan, Ciara Ryan, Amy Wilson, Cailín Fitzpatrick, Fiona Rochford, Rachel Bennett, Chloe Foxe, Lauren Cousins, Shauna Murphy, Georgina Hearn.
Kildare: Rebecca McGuirk; Shauna Kendrick, Amy Horan, Rachel Cribbin; Louise Scully, Caoimhe Keoghegan, Rachel Corrigan; Trina Duggan, Aisling Curley; Grace Clifford (2-0), Róisín Byrne (capt., 0-8, 4 frees), Eadaoin Connolly; Niamh Sinnott (0-1), Ellen Dowling (1-0), Molly Price. Subs. - Mikaela McKenna for Connolly (50), Siobhán O'Sullivan for Dowling (50), Michelle Curley for Cribbin (60+1), Orlaith Moran for Sinnott (60+7).
Referee: Angela Gallagher (Dublin).
SAT. FEB. 17
Division 1: Adamstown v. St. Anne's (11 a.m.); Shelmalier v. Clonee (11.30 a.m.).
SUN. FEB. 18
Division 4 South: St. Fintans v. Bannow-B'mitty (4 p.m., venue TBC).
Division 5 South: Taghmon-Camross v. Glynn-Barntown (11 a.m.).