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Wexford one step from camogie final

Winner-takes-all tie away to Antrim on Saturday week


Sarah O'Connor of Wexford breaking away from Louise Mannion and Rachel Brennan during Saturday’s National League encounter in Killurin.

Sarah O'Connor of Wexford breaking away from Louise Mannion and Rachel Brennan during Saturday’s National League encounter in Killurin.

The unfortunate Mag Byrne feels the pain as she is carried off the pitch by Wexford selectors Shane Carley and Kevin Doyle.

The unfortunate Mag Byrne feels the pain as she is carried off the pitch by Wexford selectors Shane Carley and Kevin Doyle.


Sarah O'Connor of Wexford breaking away from Louise Mannion and Rachel Brennan during Saturday’s National League encounter in Killurin.


Wexford 4-15 Offaly 2-7

WEXFORD WILL qualify for the Very National Camogie League Division 1B final with victory in their final group game away to Antrim, after brushing aside Offaly in Killurin on Saturday.

Colin Sunderland’s side was much-changed from the success against Down seven days earlier, but they were completely comfortable after Ciara O’Connor scored two goals inside the opening minute to see them on their way.

When playing a struggling side like this Offaly outfit, it is important to get the most basic aspect of any decent performance right. There should always be a hunger and intensity in the team, and Wexford were able to maintain a strong level in that department for most of this game.

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This could have proven to be a banana skin, as Antrim found out when drawing 2-8 each with the Faithful girls seven days earlier. It’s a result that means Wexford can afford to draw with the Saffrons when they head north on Saturday week and still book a final berth against Waterford.

The Déise were tested by Antrim at the weekend, coming away with a 0-15 to 1-7 win, but they are now assured of their place in the decider and will go into the game as red-hot favourites, whoever they meet in early April.

For Wexford and the management team, there remains a myriad of questions and an easy win over Offaly probably doesn’t provide any of the much-needed answers. Sunderland and Co. are looking for the right blend of talent to compete with the top sides while also getting the better of the rest.

Here Ciara O’Connor started at full-forward and it worked well because Wexford got her enough possession against a mediocre opposition to make it work. But playing, arguably, her county’s best asset in that position against better sides and not seeing her on the ball constantly would be foolhardy.

Yet instilling flexibility into this Wexford outfit is a positive step. They will need to have the ability to morph into different propositions as the season progresses, and having players who are happy to take on different roles will be key to that.

Áine Lacey was another who filled a different role here, and one could argue that a wing-forward position with an emphasis on her defensive qualities may just be an invaluable tool for Sunderland to possess as the quality of opposition ratchets up a few levels.

Of those on the bench, Ailis Neville came on and looked lively, and she is someone who has the potential to be starting come championship time.

Emma Tomkins got some game-time and her pace certainly gives the Kilrush clubwoman a chance to make a big jump up the ranks, while a debut for Ella O’Connor will likely be the first appearance of dozens.

Defensively Wexford needed to mix things up a bit and they didn’t do too badly in the circumstances. Offaly were the first to take their goal chances so far this term, breaking Laura Brennan’s clean sheet record at three games with a brace from Mairéad Teehan, Offaly’s best player.

Initially it was Offaly’s defence at sixes and sevens as Katie Gallagher’s run and off-load sent Ciara O’Connor away for the opening goal. The St. Martin’s clubwoman took control after the next puck-out and sent it back with interest, with netminder Leah Gallagher not set for the dipping second goal.

Leah Walsh was lively at corner-forward and she got off the mark with a point in the second minute, but Offaly responded with three frees in a row from Teehan to settle into the task. That purple patch didn’t last long as back came the hosts.

Walsh added her second point before Ciara O’Connor knocked over the first of six successful dead-balls. Despite playing a little deeper, Linda Bolger ensured all three inside forwards were on the scoresheet by the eleventh minute, and O’Connor added another to see Wexford 2-5 to 0-3 ahead.

The second quarter started with a Sarah Harding point for Offaly but after Bolger responded, Wexford went in for a third goal.

A sweeping crossfield ball by Ciara O’Connor picked out Leah Walsh, and she took on her marker and dispatched with aplomb.

After Wexford lost a ball in the right half-forward position, Offaly worked forward and found a goal in the 22nd minute. It was dispatched by Teehan and it ended the goal-less streak at 202 minutes for Brennan in 2023.

After O’Connor exchanged frees with Teehan, the St. Martin’s clubwoman ended the half with her fourth point, the first from play, to give Wexford a 3-8 to 1-5 lead at the break. Offaly may have been targeting a fast start to the second-half, but it didn’t materialise.

O’Connor got another from play to get things going, and Mag Byrne followed with a nice point. Rachel Brennan responded for Offaly, but another from Byrne and two frees by O’Connor ensured Wexford ended the third quarter with a commanding 3-13 to 1-6 lead.

Unfortunately, Byrne would succumb to a worrying leg injury, but Wexford did add a fourth goal when Sarah O’Connor fed Neville.

The latter hared away at the Offaly defence before off-loading to Walsh, and the Rapparees woman dispatched her second major with the minimum of fuss.

Doireann Cullen pointed from close range after Tomkins put her into the clear, but Offaly came back and Teehan bludgeoned home a second goal for the visitors.

Sarah Harding was lucky to get just a second yellow and not a straight red for verbal abuse of the referee in the 59th minute as the visitors’ frustrations grew.

With Offaly down to 14, Wexford continued to coast, and Ciara O’Connor put the seal on a personal tally of 2-8 with an injury-time free as Wexford set up that must-win tie with Antrim on March 25.

Wexford: Laura Brennan (Rathnure); Maeve Sinnott (Bunclody), Emma Walsh (Glynn-Barntown), Katie Roche (Oulart-The Ballagh); Orla Sinnott (Ferns St. Aidan’s), Ciara Storey (Oulart-The Ballagh), Róisín Cooney (Glynn-Barntown); Sarah O’Connor (St. Martin’s), Chloe Cashe (Glynn-Barntown); Katie Gallagher (Oulart-The Ballagh), Mag Byrne (Kilrush, 0-2), Áine Lacey (St. Ibar’s/Shelmalier); Linda Bolger (St. Martin’s, capt., 0-2), Ciara O’Connor (St. Martin’s, 2-8, 0-6 frees), Leah Walsh (Rapparees, 2-2). Subs. - Ailis Neville (St. Ibar’s/Shelmalier) for Cashe (36), Megan Cullen (Castletown-Liam Mellows) for Byrne, inj. (43), Clodagh Jackman (Glynn-Barntown) for Roche (43), Emma Tomkins (Kilrush) for Lacey (52), Doireann Cullen (Castletown-Liam Mellows, 0-1) for Walsh (52), Ella O’Connor (St. Martin’s) for Gallagher (52).

Offaly: Leah Gallagher; Sinéad Moore, Orlagh Phelan, Aisling Feeney; Sarah Walsh, Orla Gorman, Hannah Feenane; Gráinne Dolan (capt.), Louise Mannion; Rachel O’Brien, Rachel Brennan (0-1), Lisa Gorman; Mairéad Teehan (2-5, 0-5 frees), Sarah Harding (0-1), Siobhán Flannery. Subs. - Caoimhe Darcy for O’Brien (45), Rebecca Ryan for Walsh (52), Siobhán Killeen for O. Gorman (52), Aoibhín Walsh for Flannery (52), Laobhaise Glynn for Feeney (52).

Referee: Aaron Hogg (Clare).