Ciara O'Connor scores stunning 'two-point' sideline as Wexford come from 10 back to draw with Kilkenny
By Kevin Egan
What a comeback from Wexford.
The result will show that it finished all square in UPMC Nowlan Park in this evening’s Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior championship Group 2 clash between Leinster rivals Kilkenny and Wexford, but it will feel like a victory for Colin Sunderland’s Wexford side, as they rattled off the last 1-4 of the game, including 1-1 in stoppage time, to salvage a 3-11 to 1-17 draw with the reigning All-Ireland champions.
Shelly Keogh’s goal, set up by a strong and brave run from Ciara O’Connor, got the underdogs out to a dream start with just three minutes on the clock.
Kilkenny’s response was exemplary however, as they rattled off the next five points of the game – four from the stick of Katie Nolan – over the next eight minutes of play.
Steffi Fitzgerald and Kellyann Doyle linked up the play extremely well, enabled by some strong defensive work from the Kilkenny half-back line, and while a brace of Ciara O’Connor frees stemmed the tide somewhat, points from Denise Gaule (two), Katie Power and Nolan made it 0-10 to 1-2, and hinted at a one-sided encounter, even allowing for the breeze that favoured the Cats in the first half.
Wexford needed a moment of magic to stay in contention and they got it when O’Connor whipped a sideline over the bar for a two-point score with 24 minutes gone, though they still trailed by 0-12 to 1-5 at half-time. You can watch the sideline from 38.40 in the below Youtube Link.
With 40 seconds gone in the second half, Julianne Malone had whipped the ball to the Wexford net following a snappy turnover and run from Jenny Clifford, and there was even less evidence of the comeback that was to come when Kilkenny continued to build on that lead.
Linda Bolger’s goal, rifled into the top corner, kept them in contention, but when Asha McHardy pointed in the 53rd minute to make it 1-17 to 2-7, there were very few supporters would have anticipated the big finale that was coming.
Three O’Connor scores, two from frees and one from play, set the scene for a frantic period of stoppage time. Orla Sinnott’s long, hanging delivery was flicked by Áine Leacy to the net, but arguably the most impressive score was the equaliser, six minutes into stoppage time.
Sarah O’Connor drove out from centre back with authority, and having lost her hurl, kicked the ball down to her sister Ciara, who duly levelled the game with her ninth point of the afternoon, struck from 55 metres out while under pressure.
There was no such drama at the Ragg, where Munster champions Tipperary made a very solid start to their campaign at Dublin’s expense.
Cáit Devane found the back of the Dubs’ net in just the second minute of play, and things didn’t get much better for Gerry McQuaid’s side from then on, as Tipp racked up a 2-19 to 1-6 win.
Grace O’Brien, Eimear McGrath and Devane all struck a couple of points each in the opening half as Tipperary surged clear, 1-12 to 0-2, at the break.
Early points for Aisling Maher (two) and Aisling O’Neill after half-time gave the scoreboard a more respectable look from Dublin’s perspective, but Tipperary easily held them at bay for the next 20 minutes, and the contest had lost its intensity by the time Maher and Devane traded late goals.
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