Friday 20 September 2019

Wexford off to winning start

Offaly tamed by depleted side

Goalkeeper Laura Brennan holds on to possession despite this strong challenge from Niamh Larkin
Goalkeeper Laura Brennan holds on to possession despite this strong challenge from Niamh Larkin
Stacey Kehoe celebrates one of her goals with Katrina Parrock

Dean Goodison

A depleted Wexford got their Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior camogie championship campaign off to a flying start with victory over Offaly in St. Brendan's Park, Birr on Saturday.

Wexford 4-11 Offaly 0-13

The Slaneysiders were without a plethora of both regulars and first-team contenders but overcame a slow start to pick up an important two points in their bid for at least a spot in the quarter-finals.

Una Leacy, Ursula Jacob, Karen Atkinson, Una Sinnott and Lisa Bolger were all added to an injury list that already included long-term absentee Mags D'Arcy.

Wexford looked to be missing those players as they got off to a slow start. Offaly were sharp from the off, bettering their opponents' workrate and intensity in the opening quarter.

The Faithful ladies had the benefit of a game against Limerick - albeit a loss - last week to get them ready for the challenge of Wexford.

That fact was obvious on the pitch as they blitzed the visitors and eased into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead.

Colm McGee's team was in defensive mode from the off, regularly playing with just Katrina Parrock and Kate Kelly inside the hosts' half when they were defending.

It was slightly bizarre to see three defenders walk around covering Parrock and, apart from the first quarter, they really didn't do what should have been a straightforward job very well at all.

Not that the Wexford defence was much better early doors as Siobhán Flannery notched a quartet of dead balls and the speedy Tina Hannon opened the Offaly account from play.

In that solid spell for the hosts, who played with the breeze in the first-half, Wexford did manage a point when Eimear O'Connor off-loaded backwards to Linda Bolger and the St. Martin's forward obliged.

The moment that changed the complexion of the game arrived in the 16th minute. Wexford won a free 50 metres out on the right and Kate Kelly went hard at it looking for a point, but the wind held it up and it beat Michaela Morkan and Mairéad Jennings on the goal-line.

It wasn't just about the importance of the goal to the scoreboard. Offaly's volatile confidence went from brimming to bottoming out with that one misjudged error. The hosts must have had that 'here we go again' feeling.

Yet, so did Wexford. It was like a switch clicked in their collective memory banks and immediately they were flying. Kelly equalised with a free (1-2 to 0-5) and then gave her side their first lead with her second goal.

When Katrina Parrock played Kelly in with a perfectly-weighted handpass, the second major looked like a certainty. The St. Ibar's/Shelmalier attacker's low handpass was saved but she followed it in by pulling to the net from close range as the Offaly defence closed in.

O'Connor was fouled and Kelly pointed again before the Rathnure forward grabbed herself a score. Parrock's point from the centre-right of goal was followed by a Linda Bolger score and suddenly, in a ten-minute spell, Wexford had gone from four down to seven in front (2-6 to 0-5).

Gasping for breath, Offaly sucked in some oxygen and grabbed the last three points of the half through Flannery (two) and Róisín Egan, but with a second-half to come against the wind their hopes looked forlorn (2-6 to 0-8).

Wexford didn't do anything spectacular in the third quarter but did enough to keep Offaly at arm's length. Three Kelly points and a Parrock effort more than countered a Hannon score and two from Flannery.

Shelley Kehoe made it 2-11 to 0-11 but it was her twin, Stacey, who stole the show late on with a brace of goals inside 60 seconds.

The first was a sublime overhead bat that flew in off the crossbar from her sister's searching, bouncing pass. The second was a follow-up pull after Parrock was denied by good defending.

Offaly added two late points from Flannery and Michaela Morkan but it was too little, too late and their championship challenge is all but over after just two games.

For the victors a huge clash with Limerick is down for decision in Wexford Park on Saturday (5 p.m. throw-in) as part of a double-header with the hurling against Cork.

It's anticipated that neither of the big two in attack, Una Leacy (knee) and Ursula Jacob (finger), will be back to face the Treaty women, meaning much will rest on the shoulders of the experienced duo of Katrina Parrock and Kate Kelly once again.

Wexford: Laura Brennan; Ciara Storey, Síona Nolan, Deirdre Codd; Bridget Curran, Mary Leacy, Louise O'Leary; Shauna Sinnott, Bríd Gordon; Shelley Kehoe (capt., 0-1), Eimear O'Connor (0-1), Aine Lacey; Linda Bolger (0-2), Kate Kelly (2-5, 1-4 frees), Katrina Parrock (0-2). Subs. - Stacey Kehoe (2-0) for O'Connor (41), Ciara Donohoe for Curran (56).

Offaly: Mairéad Jennings; Fiona Stephens, Jean Brady, Linda Sullivan; Aisling Brennan, Michaela Morkan (0-1), Marian Crean; Lorraine Keena, Arlene Watkins; Siobhán Flannery (0-9, 7 frees, 1 '45), Aoife Kelly, Cailín Fitzgerald; Niamh Larkin, Róisín Egan (0-1), Tina Hannon (0-2). Subs. - Rachel Brennan for Larkin (24), Orlagh Kirwan for Fitzgerald (51), Sheila Sullivan (capt.) for Kelly (56).

Referee: Owen Elliott (Antrim).

Wexford People