Saturday 18 November 2017

D'Arcy save gives new regime a winning start

MAGS D'ARCY dived full length to her left to pull off a last-gasp penalty save and give Wexford a shock win in their opening National Camogie League Division 1 tie against Galway in Ballinasloe on Sunday last.

With time ebbing away the St. Martin's stopper was harshly penalised for a one-on-one foul on Molly Dunne. Nonetheless, it didn't dent her confidence enough to prevent a crucial save as she sprung low to deny Niamh McGrath what would have been a scarcely-deserved draw.

With just four of the 15 that started September's All-Ireland final available for selection, little was expected of an experimental Wexford side, however they surpassed even the wildest of optimist's dreams with a superb second-half full of grit and dogged determination.

As heartening as it was to see the more experienced elements of the squad stepping up and making a play for starting positions, the most positive aspect of the day had to be the displays of the newcomers, with youngster Áine Lacey, in particular, impressing in her debut.

That strength in midfield, mixed with a solid back seven and a deep-lying Linda Bolger, allowed Wexford to smother Galway in the opening half. The hosts were able to name a more experienced side than the visitors with seven of those who started their last championship outing, the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Cork, on the teamsheet again but you wouldn't have known.

Indeed, with 20 minutes on the clock Galway had just the one point on the scoreboard, a Niamh McGrath effort, despite playing with a strong breeze at their backs. Wexford themselves had managed just one point, with Josie Dwyer on target after good work and a nice pass by Linda Bolger.

The home side did press in that spell, eventually hitting six first-half wides, but they just could not shake off their resilient opponents.

The level of scoring increased in the last ten minutes of the half and Galway eventually took a 0-5 to 0-4 lead at the break. McGrath added a double for her county but Wexford stayed in touching distance, with the impressive Fiona Rochford hitting a brace and Fiona Kavanagh also picking off a point.

A Bríd Gordon point was all Wexford had to show for their third quarter efforts, and it meant that, with a trio of further scores, Galway looked the more likely winners (0-8 to 0-5) with 15 minutes remaining.

Yet the flow of the game was slowly changing and when Gordon hauled in a long Mags D'Arcy free and scooped the ball to the net, Wexford were suddenly level and had the wind in their sails.

With Rochford beginning to dominate in the Galway half, two quick points from the St. Anne's woman put the All-Ireland champions ahead for the first time.

However, it wasn't until Rochford pulled powerfully into the roof of the net from 20 metres that Wexford looked likely winners (2-7 to 0-8).

Two more scores from Rochford meant Wexford went from three behind to seven ahead in a five-minute spell (2-9 to 0-8), but there was still a sting in the Galway tail and when Molly Dunne latched on to Orla Kilkenny's ball the westerners suddenly had a foothold again.

That new-found steel dissipated when D'Arcy kept out McGrath's penalty, and Wexford clung on and now go forward to the clash against Dublin next week full of confidence.

Wexford People

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