Thursday 22 March 2018

Wexford secure spot in final with extra flourish

SUPERIOR CONDITIONING and a growing belief helped Wexford dismiss All-Ireland favourites Louth after extra-time in the Leinster Junior ladies' football championship semi-final in Bellefield on Sunday last.

Level at 0-10 apiece after 75 exhausting minutes of football, Wexford finally broke out of their shell, bristled with a confidence that was missing for much of normal time and ran off four unanswered points to reach the provincial decider.

Liz Evered broke the deadlock from a tight angle, after several Wexford miscues threatened to derail a real chance of victory. The Clonee forward's effort from tight to the left touchline propelled the Slaneysiders forward and further scores by Clara Donnelly (two) and Ali Evered sent Louth home with plenty to think about.

It looked like the visitors might dominate after a bright first-half. Minors by Susan Byrne, Sandra Lynch and Siobhán McDonald eased a wind-aided Wee county into a three-point lead after eleven minutes.

Yet Wexford had their chances, missing their first five shots at goal before Katie Redmond kept her cool to point at the beginning of the second quarter.

Sloppy passing was the Wexford enemy for the remainder of the opening half, however, with just three further Louth points coming, although late scores from Redmond and Liz Evered gave the hosts a platform to build from for the second-half (0-6 to 0-3).

Louth almost broke the game open moments after the re-start when Sandra Lynch dropped her free low. Mary Rose Kelly kept the ball out of the net and she was then helped by her defence as they somehow scrambled it clear when Amy McNally looked certain to goal.

Wexford slowly began to edge their way back into the game and points from Redmond and captain Clara Donnelly (two) moved the home side within two (0-8 to 0-6) at the beginning of the final quarter.

Sensing that the match was there to win, Aisling Murphy nailed a dead ball before Róisín Murphy levelled the game with eight minutes remaining.

Gusserane forward Aisling Murphy had the opportunity to put Wexford ahead for the first time with six minutes to go but her free from 25 metres out bounced out off the crossbar.

The Slaneysiders did get their noses in front when Evered floated over in the last minute of normal time, but Louth came storming forward and Amy McNally fired over after three minutes of sustained pressure.

The visitors almost grabbed a winner from the kick-out when Jenny McGuinness hit the crossbar with the last kick, but Wexford claimed the rebound and with it the full-time whistle signalled two ten-minute periods of extra-time (0-9 each).

Wexford did well to keep Louth scoreless in the first period as Tara Moloney's point left them 0-10 to 0-9 ahead, and while Louth did level on the resumption the home side finished strong to book a place opposite Offaly in the Leinster final at Dr. Cullen Park on July 13.

New Ross Standard