Thursday 22 March 2018

Young guns go down on debut

AN INEXPERIENCED Wexford ladies' side opened up their National Football League Division 3 campaign with a respectable effort against Tipperary in Grantstown on Sunday last.

The visitors from the Premier county, who came up just short in last year's Intermediate decider against Cavan, were able to start eight of the side which ran out at Croke Park on All-Ireland day last September, and that little extra quality was the difference between the sides.

It wasn't so much a skill factor that prevented Wexford from garnering victory in the first of six home league fixtures but more the injection of pace, from Mairéad Morrissey and Gillian O'Brien in particular, that gave the home defence more than they could handle at times.

There was no better example than when, with Wexford trailing by just four with five minutes to go, Tipperary forward Morrissey raced straight through the home defence and was taken down by a desperate Katie Sludds as she attempted to round the number one.

Whether or not referee Stephen McNulty needed to show a straight red card to the Wexford stopper is up for debate but it was the resulting penalty, that was coolly converted by Bernie Ryan, that finished off the Slaneysiders' hopes.

Earlier, the home side took the lead in the second minute when Fiona Bennett fed Niamh Moore for the opening score, but the John Leahy-managed side quickly hit back when Lorraine O'Shea found herself in acres of space and rattled a thumping shot into the top left corner of the net.

Tipperary led 1-3 to 0-1 by the time Wexford found their feet and notched their second point through Katie Redmond. They pulled within a point 60 seconds later when Julie Coakley forced an error in the visitors' defence and Fiona Bennett raced away to goal.

Wexford failed to build on those scores as Tipperary began to find gaps. O'Brien in particular was creating problems and her three first-half points eventually gave her side a five-point lead at the changeover (1-7 to 1-2).

The break helped Wexford compose themselves and three half-time swaps periodically helped to seal a bending defence. Coakley popped over from close range after she profited from another of her own interceptions, and the hosts almost grabbed a second goal when Bennett broke through but her shot was too close to the goalkeeper and Aisling O'Connor easily saved.

Wexford continued to press and added a superb point from Maria Byrne and a brace of Redmond frees to pull within three with ten minutes left. However, a burst of 1-4 for the Premier ladies ended the Wexford challenge, meaning Chantelle Martin's injury time trio of frees added nothing more that a little gloss to the scoreboard.

Next up for Wexford is another tricky home tie against Waterford on Sunday next.

New Ross Standard