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Monday 22 July 2019

Low expectations

Camogie All-Ireland Championship previews: Wexford teams seek improvement

Wexford’s Chloe Foxe at the championship launch last week
Wexford’s Chloe Foxe at the championship launch last week

Dean Goodison

It's been a long time since the start of a Liberty Insurance camogie championship campaign has been met with such trepidation in Wexford.

The Seniors have yet to win in this 2019 season, while the Intermediates are batting at a more respectable 40 per cent success rate.

The second string get their campaign under way this weekend when they make the short trip up the N80 to face neighbours Carlow.

It will be the second meeting of the sides this season, after the Scallion Eaters edged the Leinster quarter-final tie between the two last month.

While that was the sparring out of the way, this is the serious business. Realistically the draw has been kind to Wexford and, while it's remote, there is an outside chance of getting a run of good results together, finishing in the top two and making the semi-finals.

That's going to be a tough ask for Tom Stafford's side, and to have any real hope they will need to get a win on the board in this first outing.

They will have to do it with very little support at Netwatch Cullen Park too, as the Camogie Association continue with their ludicrous 'set in stone' 5 p.m. throw-in times.

Creating an unnecessary clash with the hugely important men's round-robin game with Kilkenny is also doing a disservice to the players themselves, many of whom would like to throw-in at 2 p.m., get a little extra support and be back in Wexford to take in a huge hurling championship clash.

It's really not that hard; for example, when Wexford Youths' WNL Cup semi-final clashed with the Champions League final two weeks ago, the league moved it to an earlier kick-off time.

One might think the Camogie Association would need all the gate receipts they can get to pay for this end-of-season executive holiday, or All Star trip to the States as it's officially titled.

After starting the season on the road, Wexford come home for back-to-back games against Tipperary and Derry.

The first of those, on Saturday week, will be a double-header in Bellefield with the Seniors (the Intermediate can start at 3 p.m. in this instance), while the second follows two weeks later against one of the championship favourites.

Wexford head back on their travels to Laois on July 20 before finishing their campaign with the long trip north to Down on August 3.

While a semi-final place is a big ask, the Intermediates have a decent amount of experience at this level and will not lack effort or heart in the coming weeks.

They will be led from defence by St. Ibar's/Shelmalier's Ciara Donohoe, who has ample Senior experience.

Gorey's Ellen Roche will be relied on for placed-ball scores, and the fit again Eimear Nolan (Ferns St. Aidan's) will add energy in the middle third of the field.

The Seniors won't be in action this first weekend as they have a bye and that's not an ideal way for Barry Kennedy's side to start this campaign.

Kilkenny will have the opportunity to get up to match speed against Galway in week one before they travel down to Wexford on June 22.

Ann Downey's side are going to be too much for the Slaneysiders to handle, but the hosts will need to show something to give them confidence heading into a couple of games they have to target as having some chance of winning.

While the Wexford stock has fallen further this season, having lost their five games they have actually played by an average of a fraction under 20 points a game, other mediocre sides still see beating Wexford as a scalp.

Limerick would expect to beat the Model women when they head west on June 29, but it's a game Wexford have to target.

Likewise, they travel to Offaly seven days later and, despite losing to the Faithful by 18 and 16 points already this season, it's another opportunity to find a performance.

If all known form rings through, Wexford will host Galway in their final group game on July 20 and it could well be a dead rubber.

However, according to competition rules, there will be a relegation final this season and the team that finishes last in the group will face that.

Meath, who lost to Westmeath in provincial action, would be expected to struggle in Group 2 and Wexford may fancy their chances if it comes to that, but a word of caution - after Offaly beat Kennedy's side in the Leinster championship in May, they faced Intermediate team Laois and won by just six points. They were also thumped by Kilkenny in the final.

Una Sinnott will captain Wexford, while Ciara Storey, Shauna Sinnott and Linda Bolger will add some experience to a side otherwise lacking in that department.

Of the St. Martin's contingent, Amy Cardiff, Katie O'Connor and Chloe Foxe will be involved, while management will hope to have Sarah O'Connor back in the reckoning after injury kept her out of the club's league final loss to Oulart-The Ballagh.

Gorey Guardian

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