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Wednesday 15 August 2018

Wexford girls caught cold

Westmeath 7-9 Wexford 3-2

The Wexford Under-14 squad before Saturday’s Leinster final defeat in Conneef Park, Clane
The Wexford Under-14 squad before Saturday’s Leinster final defeat in Conneef Park, Clane

Dean Goodison

Wexford were caught cold by a nine-minute blitz and it ultimately cost them any chance of claiming the Leinster ladies' football Under-14 'B' title against Westmeath in Clane on Saturday.

After the initial surge, the newly-crowned champions led by 5-0 to 0-1. They only outscored the Slaneysiders by five points in the remainder of the game, but the psychological damage was already inflicted on a sweltering afternoon in Kildare.

Peter O'Brien's side came into the final unbeaten, with three wins and a draw under their belts. One of those victories came against these opponents, but the Westmeath side which took to the field in this match was unrecognisable from the team which lost by 4-10 to 0-13 earlier in the campaign.

With inexperience comes new situations to digest and learn from, and Wexford can grow from this disappointment.

They have probably been the most consistent of the three under-age ladies' sides in the county but there was always likely to be a spell, whether it was going to be in this game - or had they won, in the All-Ireland series - when things got a little out of hand.

As a manager you want that to play out in the group stages, make adjustments and move forward, but there's simply no room in provincial finals to not be at full-tilt. Westmeath learned their own lessons in the sides' previous encounter and were superb from the off here.

With Erin Carley away, Wexford needed a new solution in goal and went with back-up 'keeper Kiva Kinsella from the start. They also drafted Katie Law into the team after her sensational showing against Longford in the semi-final, and Nicole Gillen also got the start.

However, it was Westmeath who took just 30 seconds to take the lead when Shannon Reilly plucked in a long ball and dispatched high to the net. Róisín Hughes hit back with a lovely point but it was a false dawn for her side.

A fumble in the goalmouth was volleyed to the net by Colleen Raleigh before Tegan Foley punched home from Cara Murphy's delivery from close range.

Foley added a second major moments later, and when Murphy's shot from distance flew into the roof of the net, Westmeath had scored four goals in just over two minutes.

Wexford slowly settled, partially helped by a barrage of whistles from referee Paul Burke that stunted the flow of the game. They got a goal back in the 18th minute when Megan Dee clutched Caoilfhionn Ní Núalláin's pass and drilled it high past Aoife O'Donnell.

Dee was Wexford's most dangerous attacking threat inside and she flashed another shot across goal and just wide in first-half added-time. By that stage her side had conceded another 1-2, with Reilly nabbing her second major (6-2 to 1-1).

Substitute 'keeper Sinéad Roche made several fine saves in the second-half, including from Sinéad Seery shortly after the break. Ní Núalláin pointed in the 40th minute but Westmeath raised five white flags around that score to keep themselves well ahead.

Hard work and a good attitude saw Wexford continue to press. They scored a lovely goal in the 51st minute when Leiah O'Rourke picked out Katie Law on the right, and she dropped a pass to the back post where Elle Nugent gathered and fired home.

Seery had a wonder goal disallowed for Westmeath in the 56th minute.

Her side also cracked the post and were denied by Roche but they did score a seventh goal through Maeve Molloy with a minute of normal time remaining.

Three minutes into added-time, Wexford netted one more time. Law was the provider again, this time for substitute Aoibhe MacSweeney, and the Clonee club player sent an unstoppable effort to the net to end a disappointing, season-ending afternoon on a positive note.

Wexford: Kiva Kinsella; Evelyn Burke, Amy Tobin-Cosgrove, Mia Davy Edmunds; Robyn O'Connor, Leah Furlong, Karen Tomkins; Cora McGrath (capt.), Caoilfhionn Ní Núalláin (0-1); Róisín Hughes (0-1), Nicole Gillen, Elle Nugent (1-0); Katie Law, Megan Dee (1-0), Gráinne Ní Ailín. Subs. - Sinéad Roche for Kinsella (13), Caitlin Garnett for Edmunds (36), Aobhe Manley for Burke, inj. (43), Leiah O'Rourke for Dee (48), Martha Kavanagh for Furlong (54), Aoibhe MacSweeney (1-0) for McGrath (60), also Priya Daly-O'Toole, Imogen Deas, Saidhbhe Byrne, Erin Carley.

Westmeath: Aoife O'Donnell; Keelie Mulderry, Cathy Doyle, Caoimhe Coogan; Leah Nugent, Chloe Moran (capt.), Jilly Ballisty; Rebecca Higgins (0-4, 1 free), Patricia Odunjo; Sinéad Serry, Keeva Reid (0-1), Tegan Foley (2-0); Colleen Raleigh (1-1, 0-1 free), Shannon Reilly (2-0), Cara Murphy (1-3). Subs. - Niamh Raeside for Raleigh (46), Ellen Kilmurray for Mulderry (53), Amy Murphy for Nugent (59), Maeve Molloy (1-0) for Murphy (59), Grace Loughrey for Reilly (59).

Referee: Paul Burke (Louth).

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