Beaten Louth have second bite at the Wexford cherry
LOUTH Ladies were second best in the Leinster Junior decider in Portlaoise on Sunday, but have an early opportunity for revenge as they face Wexford again in next month's All-Ireland Junior semi-final.
This was a valiant display from the Wee County girls and the seven-point margin of victory flattered Wexford, but in Fiona Bennett they had the Player of the Match who bagged all three of her team's goals.
The game in O'Moore Park started well for Louth who drew first blood when midfielder Rebecca Carr surged forward and pointed from distance.
However, the Wee County were soon chasing the game as Bennett bagged the first of her three-pointers after Louth keeper Una Pearson had punched a high ball clear when under pressure.
In the eighth minute Grace Lynch blocked another goal-bound effort from Bennett, but Maria Byrne then pointed for the Yellow Bellies and Niamh Moore eventually added another point from play after Michelle McMahon was forced to concede a 45.
Louth's Grace Rogers had a shot saved before Kate Flood gave them some hope by converting a free following a foul on Rogers - 1-2 to 0-2.
Play continued for the next 10 minutes without a score, but on 24 minutes Wexford increased their lead with a point from Bennett and quickly followed up with two more scores from Clara Donnelly and Katie Redmond.
Then a dangerous move from Louth involving Grace Lynch, Emma Singleton and Laura Collins led to Collins being fouled and Carr stepped up to point the resultant free from 35 metres - 1-5 to 0-3 at the break.
Wexford were first to score in the second half through Byrne, and although that point was cancelled out when Flood converted a 40-metre free after Carr was fouled, Redmond replied and the gap was six points.
Louth brought on subs Maria Reid and Deirbhile Osborne, but Wexford grabbed the next score through Niamh Moore.
On 45 minutes the Reds finally showed what they could do as an exciting move starting with keeper Pearson and also featuring Grace Lynch, Singleton, Osborne, Aoife Byrne, Carr and Rogers ended with a pass to Reid. But for a fantastic save from McAuliffe in the Wexford goal, Louth would have been right back in contention.
The Louth management rang the changes again, introducing Sinead O'Hagan and Laura Matthews, but two minutes later Bennett punished them with another goal - 2-8 to 0-5.
Louth replied with a point from Matthews after good work by Grace Lynch and O'Hagan, and then they made their final change, bringing on Laura Grills.
The game opened up for the last 10 minutes and Louth were given a glimmer of hope when Matthews goaled from a Singleton assist after Flood's initial shot was blocked.
Once again Wexford had an immediate riposte - 1-1 from Bennett - but Louth kept trying and Matthews rattled the net again after a move involving Paula Murray and O'Hagan.
Ciara Goland of Wexford and Flood had the last two points of the game and Louth can take heart from their display in the final quarter as they look forward to the All-Ireland semi.
LOUTH: Una Pearson (Dowdallshill); Orlagh Byrne (Stabannon), Michelle McMahon (Glyde), Aoife Halligan (Roche); Emma Singleton (Dowdallshill), Anne-Marie Lynch (Stabannon), Paula Murray (St. Kevins); Aoife Byrne (St. Mochtas), Rebecca Carr (Geraldines) 0-2 (0-1f); Kate Flood (St. Patricks) 0-3 (0-2f), Grace Lynch (Stabannon), Susan Byrne (St. Kevins); Siobhan McDonald (Cooley), Grace Rogers (Stabannon), Laura Collins (Newtown Blues). Subs: Maria Reid (Mattock) for Collins, Deirbhile Osborne (Nh Fionnbarra) for O Byrne, Sinead O'Hagan (Clan na Gael) for S Byrne, Laura Matthews (Nh Mairtin) 2-1 for Rogers, Laura Grills (Cooley) for A Byrne.