Wexford’s league hopes end with loss in Tipperary

The Wexford squad before their recent narrow loss to Kilkenny in Tagoat.

Dean GoodisonWexford People

Tipperary 1-15 Wexford 2-8

A FOUR-POINT loss in The Ragg on Saturday ensured Wexford surrendered any hopes of a top-two finish in Division 2B of the Very National Camogie League.

The Slaneysiders were left disappointed by a narrow loss at home to Kilkenny seven days earlier but were unable to replicate that kind of gritty performance as Tipperary got their first win of the campaign.

Manager Alan Brennan chose to completely overhaul the side, presumably to ensure he gets a good look at all the options at his disposal going into the championship. It’s hard to argue with that approach, given Cork look comfortably the strongest team in this division and beating the Leesiders with anything on the line looked a long shot.

However, he is entitled to be a little disappointed in the circumstances, given that his side didn’t play with the same hunger and desire that Tipperary showed here and that his players displayed themselves against Kilkenny one week earlier.

They battled away but third gear was about as good as it got for Wexford, and that just won’t get it done in this company.

Are our seconds a better team than their Tipperary counterparts? Very possibly, but they will win very few encounters against this calibre of opposition without their ‘A’ game.

Of the eight women who started here but not against Kilkenny, it was clearly Cathy O’Connor who made the biggest impression with two goals. The Kilross Gaels clubwoman was the width of a goalkeeper’s leg away from a treble, and the Tipperary defence found her a handful throughout.

While the intensity wasn’t where it should be and certain defensive match-ups were problematic, there was an obvious improvement in some aspects of the performance at that end of the field.

Whipping on balls left, right and centre was replaced with a more sophisticated approach, and that will stand to Wexford going forward.

Attacking-wise there was the obvious bonus of finding another goalscorer, but there’s still no sign of someone stepping up to the mantle of knocking over three or four points from play, and it may be the case that Brennan has to find a balance without that type of player for the championship.

It was evident that Tipperary were well up for this fixture in the first few minutes as they buzzed around and put Wexford under pressure.

Aoife McLoughney had them 0-2 to nil up but they should have been further clear, as they missed a few good point chances and Ellen Cunneen flashed a goal opportunity wide.

The visitors hadn’t a sniff before O’Connor flicked a long ball past Aoife O’Brien to give Wexford a 1-0 to 0-2 lead in the tenth minute.

However, they added just a solitary Oonagh Doyle free in the reminder of the half as Tipperary remained in the ascendancy.

The lead lasted just seconds as the home side attacked and Aoife Dwyer found the target. Two McLoughney frees made it 0-5 to 1-0 before that Doyle response.

However, Tipp rounded out the period with a brace each from Sarah Madden and McLoughney to lead by 0-9 to 1-1 at the interval.

After blitzing around and controlling the first-half, the Premier girls never quite got back to that level of intensity after the break. It made it a much more even contest, with the gradual influx of substitutes also helping Wexford gain a fair share of the territorial battle.

Yet it was the hosts who got off to the flyer, with substitute Ciara McKeogh netting within two minutes of her introduction after a Kate Butler clearance was blocked down.

Wexford responded well, with O’Connor sweeping home after a sustained spell of pressure on the Tipperary goal. The quick response gave Wexford a boost and three points in a row followed, through two Doyle frees and a long-range Grace Roche score.

However, the crowd got riled up over a non-free which lifted Tipperary from their slumber just as the visitors appeared to be taking control (1-9 to 2-4).

That two-point margin was as close as Wexford managed to get, with the hosts winning the final quarter by 0-6 to 0-4.

McKeogh and Jean Kelly pushed the Tipperary advantage back to four before O’Connor beat her marker but not O’Brien in the home goal with nine minutes left.

Twice Wexford got within a single puck of the ball after points from ‘Sal’ and Oonagh Doyle, but never any closer. By the end Tipperary were keeping the scoreboard ticking over and their noses in front to pick up their first win.

The league campaign will come to an end on Saturday week when Wexford host Cork. They will face the winners of Kilkenny ‘B’ and Dublin ‘B’ in the Leinster Intermediate championship semi-final on May 13.

Wexford: Kate Butler (Kilrush); Éabha Farrell (Rapparees), Loren Doyle (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Aoife McCrea (Rapparees); Ellie O’Connor (Kilmore), Derbhla Doyle (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Grace Roche (Glynn-Barntown, 0-1); Aoife Doyle (Geraldine O’Hanrahans), Anne Byrne (Kilrush); Oonagh Doyle (Rathnure, 0-5 frees), Lettie Whelan (St. Martin’s, capt.), Emma Walsh (Glynn-Barntown); Cathy O’Connor (Kilross Gaels, 2-0), Sarah Doyle (Craanford-Monaseed, 0-1), Shauna Kelly (St. Ibar’s/Shelmalier). Subs. - Karen Tomkins (Kilrush) for Walsh (37), Grace Donovan (Clongeen) for Kelly (37), Ciara Butler (Glynn-Barntown, 0-1) for Byrne (45), Lorna Fortune (Kilrush) for E. O’Connor (48), Kellyanne Dempsey (Oylegate-Glenbrien) for McCrea (52), Nora Higgins (Rathnure) for A. Doyle (55), Caoimhe Byrne (Rathnure) for C. O’Connor (57), Orla Redmond (Oylegate-Glenbrien) for Whelan (59).

Tipperary: Aoife O’Brien; Ellie Butler, Rachel Maher, Nessa Murray; Ciara Ryan, Lisa Cahill, Ciannait Walsh; Clodagh Horgan, Caroline Shanahan; Ellen Cunneen, Rachel O’Dwyer, Sarah Madden (0-3); Aoife Dwyer (0-1), Jean Kelly (0-2), Aoife McLoughney (0-8, 5 frees). Subs. - Ciara McKeogh (1-1) for O’Dwyer (31), Katie Fitzgerald for Murray (37), Amy Callanan for Walsh, temp. (39-41), Callanan for Shanahan (49), Eimear Myles for Dwyer (55), Eimear Murphy for Horgan (60), Aisling Sheedy for Maher (60+2).

Referee: Fintan McNamara (Clare).