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Thursday 22 August 2019

Wexford forge narrow victory

Offaly pipped in league tie

Eimear O'Connor breaks away from Offaly defender Fiona Stephens
Eimear O'Connor breaks away from Offaly defender Fiona Stephens

Dean Goodison

Historically speaking this result isn't a surprise, but a quick glance at the Wexford team and then back to the score might just raise a few eyebrows.

Wexford 2-4 Offaly 0-8

With Josie Dwyer retired, Noeleen Lambert expecting her first child, the Oulart-The Ballagh contingent still celebrating and recovering, and Kate Kelly, Katrina Parrock, Mags D'Arcy and Deirdre Codd yet to return, Sunday at Hollymount signalled a new dawn for Wexford camogie.

An experienced Offaly side were in town and if they looked at the teamsheet and expected an easy ride to their second Irish Daily Star National Camogie League Division 1 win of the season, they were in for a rude awakening.

Wexford were dogged, feisty and full of belief which is startling for a team with so little experience. Granted the game wasn't always pretty, but few points are secured in the round-robin stages for entertaining everyone.

The sub-plot was an afternoon of uncertainty about the score for referee Karl O'Brien. The Dublin official's score-keeping went awry in the first-half and he never could get himself back on track, eventually incorrectly scoring the match 2-5 to 0-8.

Luckily it didn't matter in the end as Wexford won by two although maybe Siobhán Flannery would have dropped her injury time free into the goalmouth rather than over the bar if she realised her side was trailing by three rather than the four that she believed.

That said, the Wexford defence, apart from an early penalty that Rachel Brennan won, Flannery took and Laura Brennan saved, never looked like giving up a goal in an extremely impressive display.

Marie Claire Morrissey really stood out in the corner and if she can continue this level of performance it will be a big bonus for Wexford manager Colm McGee and his selectors.

The best spell the visitors had was the first quarter as Wexford settled into their new surroundings. The Slaneysiders did open the scoring from a Linda Bolger free in the second minute but Offaly were soon on the front foot.

Brennan broke through in the fifth minute and was floored by Síona Nolan and, while the referee decided it was charging, the Wexford defender might have got away with a little shuffle sideways into her path.

Brennan's penalty save five minutes later was the high point in a very good performance from the young Rathnure goalkeeper. Her only real error was allowing a high ball that was going wide to deflect off her hand and gift Offaly a '45 that Flannery scored to make it 0-2 to 0-1 to the Faithful girls.

Tina Hannon added her side's third point after a brilliant catch and pass from Michaela Morkan under pressure from Aine Lacey, but Offaly didn't score again in the opening half after that 21st-minute strike.

At the other end Wexford hit the front when Linda Bolger's free into the large rectangle was tipped into the net overhead by the rangy Lacey. Two more Linda Bolger scores, the second after a superb pass by twin sister Lisa, gave the home side a 1-3 to 0-3 lead at the break.

A great run and handpass by Marie Morrissey allowed Bolger to register her fourth point nine minutes into the second-half. Offaly came back at the other end and scored the next three points without reply to pull within one (1-4 to 0-6) by the 47th minute.

Wexford's best move created the second and clinching goal six minutes from time. Deirdre McMahon, who was lively after her introduction at half-time, ran at the Offaly defence before laying off to Marie Morrissey who in turn quickly played in an all alone Jackie Quigley who drilled past Eleanor Clendennen.

Siobhán Flannery added her sixth point in the 57th minute and then chose to tap over another dead ball in added time, believing that her side were down by four. They never came close to getting the elusive goal and Wexford held on for an impressive win.

Next up for the Slaneysiders is a trip to Limerick next weekend before they host Tipperary a week later and travel to Galway on April 5 to round out the group stages.

Wexford: Laura Brennan; Brídín Doyle, Síona Nolan, Marie Claire Morrissey; Ciara Donohoe, Louise O'Leary, Bridget Curran; Bríd Gordon, Lisa Bolger (capt.); Linda Bolger (0-4, 2 frees), Aine Lacey (1-0), Louise Hammel; Marie Morrissey, Jackie Quigley (1-0), Eimear O'Connor. Subs. - Deirdre McMahon for Hammel (31).

Offaly: Eleanor Clendennen; Fiona Stephens, Jean Brady, Sheila Sullivan (capt.); Orlaigh Kirwan, Michaela Morkan, Aisling Brennan; Róisín Egan, Marian Crean; Arlene Watkins, Natalie McCabe, Siobhán Flannery (0-7, 4 frees, 1 '45); Niamh Larkin, Rachel Brennan, Tina Hannon (0-1). Subs. - Linda Sullivan for McCabe (31), Mairéad Jenkins for Brennan (45), Mary Wyer for Larkin (45), Kelly Salmon for Hannon (57), Deirdre Cashin for Kirwan (58).

Referee: Karl O'Brien (Dublin).

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