Tough baptism for Wexford
Ladies Football, Lidl National League Div 2 Round 1: Waterford 0-12 Wexford 0-3
There will be ample lessons from which they must learn if Wexford are to make any inroads in Division 2 of the Lidl Ladies' National Football League. Waterford supplied a few in Gold Coast, Dungarvan, on Saturday.
The Division 3 final victory was undoubtedly the highlight of last season for Anthony Masterson's side. Yet, as always, the reward for promotion is tougher games and this spring season looks set to be jam-packed with challenges for his charges.
Every team sets goals at the start of the campaign and, without being privy to what's going on in the manager's mind, survival has to be the most important aim for Wexford in the first half of this year. Whether or not they have the tools for that challenge remains to be seen.
By nature, management are looking to bring players on, and refill holes they might have previously thought were plugged. This league campaign will feature plenty of that for Masterson and his selectors.
With captain Mary Rose Kelly not available, Deirdre Fox took the spot between the posts and brought her impressive Shelmalier form to the county set-up. She didn't have any major save to make but was composed throughout and looked completely at home.
Marica Cullen's return at full-back will be vital to release Maria Byrne further up the pitch and, along with the ever-dependable Niamh Mernagh and solid newbie Aoife Tormey, there was a lot to like about the balance of the Wexford full-back line.
With ample experience in the middle eight, it was hardly surprising that the visitors mostly matched their opponents in that area of the field.
The final ball inside is going to have to improve but those eight are unlikely to get over-run, despite the improved quality of opposition.
Another new addition, Tara Doyle, played deeper than her starting position, with Maria Byrne and Amy Wilson inside for the most part. With two youngsters and someone who played in defence all last season, there are going to be teething problems in front of goal.
There's a speed, of thought and of play, that needs to be found around goal. Eighty or 90 per cent won't get it done, as Waterford showed with several blocked shots. Confidence will come with sharper execution and more minutes acclimatising at this level.
The hosts, who play Senior championship football, opened the scoring through Emer Farrell in the third minute.
A loose Tormey ball allowed Kate McGrath to prosper with her first point before former Wexford Youths attacker Maria Delahunty made it 0-3 to nil.
Sarah Harding-Kenny's runs from deep were a feature of this game, and one such burst resulted in the Shelmalier clubwoman being fouled. Fiona Rochford sent the resulting free over, and she would go on to kick three of five placed-balls in scoring range.
Diminutive Aileen Wall tapped over on the breeze to make it 0-4 to 0-1 at the end of the opening quarter.
Wexford dodged a bullet when Shauna Dunphy missed a crucial finish on Kelly Ann Hogan's ball across the face of goal, but a Delahunty point did increase the lead further.
The score of the half came from McGrath in the 26th minute, a beautifully-struck point that rode the wind and gave the hosts a 0-6 to 0-1 lead at the interval.
It was an advantage they held after Maria Byrne's punched point attempt dropped into the net right before the whistle.
Playing with the elements promised a little more joy for Wexford, and Amy Wilson's booming left-footed attempt that narrowly drifted wide gave some cause for optimism.
A Delahunty tumble gave her an easy dead-ball to make it 0-7 to 0-1, but Wilson failed to counter it moments later with a woeful free from the hands that dropped short from 13 metres out just to the right of the posts.
Emer Fennell knocked over a brace of points in two minutes to leave Waterford 0-9 to 0-1 in front. Rochford responded in the 52nd minute with Wexford's second point after Niamh Moore was fouled.
Delahunty and Wall made it 0-11 to 0-2 but Rochford again registered after Harding-Kenny was fouled in the 59th minute. Michelle Ryan had the final say in added time as Waterford eased to a nine-point win.
Wexford don't have too long to right the wrongs of this game, as they are back in action on Sunday when they host Clare in St. Patrick's Park at 2 p.m. They follow that match-up with another home game, this time against Tyrone, two weeks later.
Wexford: Deirdre Fox; Niamh Mernagh, Marica Cullen, Aoife Tormey; Clara Donnelly, Shauna Murphy, Sarah Harding-Kenny; Kellie Kearney (capt.), Bernie Breen; Niamh Butler, Fiona Rochford (0-3 frees), Niamh Moore; Amy Wilson, Maria Byrne, Tara Doyle. Subs. - Sadbh McCarthy for Tormey (49), Emma Cousins for Butler (52), Cailin Fitzpatrick for Wilson (52), Jane Rossiter for Doyle (52).
Waterford: Kelly Moroney; Rebecca Casey, Caoimhe McGrath, Caragh McCarthy; Aisling Mullaney, Megan Dunford, Kate McGrath (0-2); Michelle Ryan (0-1), Kelly Ann Hogan; Chloe Fennell, Emma Murray, Aileen Wall (0-2); Emer Farrell (0-3, 2 frees), Maria Delahunty (capt., 0-4, 1 free), Shauna Dunphy. Subs. - Lauren McGregor for C. Fennell (37), Liz Devine for Dunphy (43), Emma Gildea for McCarthy (59).
Referee: Kevin Phelan (Laois).