Wexford 3-11 Down 2-8
Anthony Masterson's flying Wexford will finish top of Division 3 of the Lidl Ladies' National Football League after a quality away victory in Downpatrick on Saturday.
It was the Slaneysiders' sixth win on the trot, earning them a spot in the last four with a game against Offaly still to be played.
Considering the long trek north, the early start, and another shuffle of the pack, it was an excellent win against second-placed Down.
Keeping up her good early-season form, Aisling Murphy was probably the pick of the Wexford performers. The Gusserane woman was the focal point of the attack, consistently out in front, always showing for possession.
However, the visitors got strong performances across the board. In defence, the absence of Maria Byrne was covered by Horeswood's Niamh Mernagh slipping across into the full-back spot and she had a solid outing.
With a crosswind partially helping, Wexford got off to the better start. Kellie Kearney was first on the scoresheet with a fifth-minute point, a score that was soon followed by the first of Fiona Rochford's brace.
Cailín Fitzpatrick made the most of her opportunity in the starting line-up in the twelfth minute. She was the beneficiary of some slick play between Aisling Murphy and Clara Donnelly, with the Castletown youngster smashing her finish into the top corner to make it 1-2 to nil.
Either side of two scores from the excellent Kate McKay, Chloe Foxe popped over the first of six points from a close-range free. She added another in the 17th minute but Megan Doherty quickly replied to cut the gap to four.
Clara Donnelly and Niamh Moore set Foxe away in the 22nd minute and she netted with a cool finish to give Wexford a 2-4 to 0-3 lead. McKay pulled one back but Kearney and two more Foxe points seemed to have the visitors comfortable.
However, a sloppy pass in defence was seized upon and dispatched to Mary Rose Kelly's net by Jess Foy. It meant that just six points separated the sides at the interval, despite Wexford's dominance (2-7 to 1-4).
Down threw on their big guns at the start of the second period and one in particular impressed. Sorcha McCartan proved a handful for the Wexford defence and she soon got on the scoresheet, replying to a Foxe free.
Rochford made it 2-9 to 1-5 before Aisling Murphy seemed to have put the game to bed after beating a trio of defenders and firing to the Down net.
However, McCartan replied in kind and a pair of her points, coupled with one from Aoife Keown, narrowed the deficit to four (3-9 to 2-8).
Under pressure with ten minutes left, Wexford unleashed Caitríona Murray from the bench. However, it was a Foxe free that stemmed the flow of Down scores and an Aisling Murphy point that put the seal on victory in added-time.
Top spot means a semi-final opposite fourth-placed Kildare, the team which has ran Wexford the closest so far this season. The duo met in Hawkfield in February with Masterson's side emerging as 4-8 to 3-8 winners. That game will be played on April 21 or 22.
Wexford: Mary Rose Kelly; Shauna Murphy, Niamh Mernagh, Marguerite Doyle; Georgina Hearn, Róisín Murphy, Cathy O'Brien; Kellie Kearney (0-2), Bernie Breen; Clara Donnelly (capt.), Fiona Rochford (0-2), Niamh Moore; Chloe Foxe (1-6, 0-5 frees), Aisling Murphy (1-1), Cailín Fitzpatrick (1-0). Subs. - Caitríona Murray for Moore, also Fiona Bennett, Niamh Butler, Ellen O'Brien, Ciara Ryan, Anne Byrne, Lauren Cousins.
Down: Aishling Burns; Hannah Murray, Aimee Green, Laura Morgan; Cara Cunningham, Megan O'Boyle, Chara Laverty (capt.); Meghan Doherty (0-1), Clara Mulvenna; Aoibheann McCarville, Jess Foy (1-0), Aoife Keown (0-1); Cassie Moade, Kate McKay (0-3), Brea McKee. Subs. - Róisín Tormey for O'Boyle, Orla Byrne for Green, Sorcha McCartan (1-3) for Maone, Adair Traynor for Mulvenna, Leah Mulligan for Cunningham, Laoise Duffy for McCarville, Niamh Price for Morgan, Gráinne McClean for B. McKee.
Referee: Gus Chapman (Sligo).