Wexford ladies reach Leinster final

Another chance to face bogey team Kildare

Caitríona Murray is set to meet Lara Gilbert of Kildare once more.

Wexford captain Róisín Murphy and Kildare’s Grace Clifford will do battle once again in Portlaoise on Sunday.

thumbnail: Caitríona Murray is set to meet Lara Gilbert of Kildare once more.
thumbnail: Wexford captain Róisín Murphy and Kildare’s Grace Clifford will do battle once again in Portlaoise on Sunday.
Wexford People

Wexford 2-7 Westmeath 1-7

WEXFORD WILL face Kildare in the TG4 Leinster Intermediate ladies’ football championship final after seeing off Westmeath in Kinnegad on Sunday.

Lizzy Kent’s side came into the game on the back of another disappointing loss against the Lilywhites but were keen to put it behind them and get a strong victory on the board against a side with recent Senior experience.

It was always likely to be a tough battle and that’s exactly how it turned out, with Wexford forced to overcome a three-point interval deficit. The fact that they were able to do that while keeping their hosts to just one point after the break should be of great encouragement.

However, it appears likely that games against Kildare are going to be the determining factor on whether this will be a successful season or not. Manager Kent said before the campaign that the goal was to win a final this season, and this will be their first chance to do just that.

The positives here for the Wexford manager included the form of a few girls that wouldn’t have been considered starters a few months back. Amy Walsh has really settled into the role in the middle of the park while Chloe Foxe was excellent in attack in open play.

Defensively Wexford were strong, conceding just 1-3 from play. There were a few moments when they lived dangerously but overall the back seven performed well against a side who had racked up a decent tally last time out against Louth.

Wexford were two points behind inside the opening few minutes after points from Aoife Connolly, but Aisling Murphy opened her side’s account with a goal in the seventh minute when she got the poke home from close range after a Foxe free landed in the goalmouth.

Aoife Connolly kicked Westmeath back on terms a short time later before the hosts had a goal chalked out for ‘steps’, a call that Wexford were pretty lucky to get.

Caoilfhionn Ní Nualláin kicked her opening score after Foxe was fouled in the 13th minute, but the hosts got a bit of a run going after that.

Connolly kicked her fourth point before Westmeath got in for a goal. Anna Jones got through the Wexford defence, only to be denied by Leanne Moore, but Ciara Blundell followed up to fire in and give her side a 1-4 to 1-1 lead.

Chloe Foxe got on the scoreboard in the 27th minute and Aisling Murphy quickly followed it up with a point to cut the deficit to one.

However, Westmeath finished the half on the front foot, with a pair of points from the rocket foot of Connolly making it 1-6 to 1-3 at the interval.

Not that the first-half was exactly open, but the second proved to be a real slog in slippery conditions. The hosts had a couple of scoring chances, with Connolly hitting the upright before Caoimhe Clarke-McMahon overplayed a pass to Rachel Dillon as Wexford clung on.

The visitors got a boost when Johanna Quinn was sin-binned for a tripping offence but struggled to make the numbers game count. Chloe Foxe kicked a nice score in the 42nd minute but Vicky Carr responded six minutes later.

The game headed into the final nine minutes with just two points scored in the half, but Ní Nualláin kicked her second point to make it 1-7 to 1-5.

The key moment came a minute later, when Foxe dropped a shot into the edge of the square. Aisling Murphy palmed it to the net and, after discussion with her umpires, referee Sinéad McHugh gave the goal.

Now trailing, Westmeath looked a tired side. Wexford did a good job of playing keep-ball, with Ní Nuallain eventually making it a two-point game in her side’s favour four minutes into added-time.

It was left up to Sarah Harding-Kenny, who put in a massive shift, to break upfield and punch over the clinching point three minutes later.

As well as securing Wexford a place in the Intermediate final, this victory also narrowed down the possible opponents in the All-Ireland round-robin stages. While the glory of winning the final is the highest priority in both sides’ minds, there’s a considerable bonus awaiting the champions.

The winner will go into Group A alongside the Connacht runner-up, Leitrim, and the loser of one of the Leinster semi-finals. Whoever loses on Sunday will face the Connacht winner, Roscommon, and Ulster’s third-ranked side, which is Monaghan.

Sunday’s final against Kildare takes place in Portlaoise, the middle part of a triple-header of Leinster deciders that starts with Carlow and Kilkenny in the Junior and ends with Dublin and Meath in the Senior.

Wexford: Leanne Moore (St. Anne’s); Aisling Halligan (Clonard/Volunteers), Shauna Murphy (Shelmalier), Katie English (Adamstown); Karen Tomkins (Clonee), Róisín Murphy (Shelmalier), Sarah Harding-Kenny (Shelmalier, 0-1); Amy Walsh (Blackwater), Ciara Banville (Taghmon-Camross); Bébhínn McDonald (Kilanerin), Caitríona Murray (Clonee), Clara Donnelly (Shelmalier); Chloe Foxe (Clongeen, 0-2), Aisling Murphy (Gusserane, 2-1), Caoilfhionn Ní Nualláin (Ballygarrett-Réalt na Mara, 0-3, 1 free). Subs. - Aoife Cullen (Gusserane) for McDonald (40), Áine Lacey (Shelmalier) for Murray (60+2).

Westmeath: Lauren McCormack; Mary Dunne, Lucy Power, Ayesha Roche; Kelly Boyce-Jordan, Tracey Dillon, Chloe Kelly; Vicky Carr (0-1), Johanna Quinn; Ashley Ruane, Ciara Blundell (1-0), Rachel Dillon; Caoimhe Clarke-McMahon, Anna Jones, Aoife Connolly (0-6, 4 frees). Subs. - Laura Kiernan for Jones, inj. (30+2), Karen Hegarty for Clarke-McMahon (49), Méabh Monaghan for Quinn (60).

Referee: Sinéad McHugh (Dublin).