The Wexford Ladies football team qualified for the TG4 All Ireland Intermediate final in Croke Pk on 23 September following their three point victory over the talented Munster champions Tipperary at Portlaoise on Saturday last.
The victory was just reward for a squad of players that have come very close to success over the last two years. Their mentors have built up the team from Division 3 football three years ago when a last minute goal from Anne Marie Banville saw them defeat Limerick 3-12 to 2-13 in the Suzuki National League final. They lost in last years All Ireland Quarter final to Sligo who went on to win the All Ireland final. The Wexford girls narrowly lost to the same opposition in the semi final in 2005.
However their mentors Brendan Dardis, Peter Rice, Peadar O’Connor and Pat Quill will know that there must be a further big performance in four weeks time to defeat the winners of Clare V Leitrim in the second semi final which will be played in Breffni Pk next Saturday.
Tipperary who had high profile names in their squad with the O’Dwyer sisters being nieces of former Irish International and current Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn and Treasa McManus a sister of Offaly midfielder Ciaran, got off to a great start dominating the midfield proceedings, and with Siobhan Costelloe posing problems at wing forward the Wexford defence and the full back line in particular was under intense pressure. Corner forward Edel Hanley opened the scoring with a point after 90 seconds and followed it up with a pointed free after 3 mins. Wexford opened their scoring a minute later when Tara Moloney pointed a free following a foul on Michelle Hearne. Tipperary struck back with a goal in their next foray down field when the pacy Costelloe raced through to create the extra attacker before quickly off loading to Mairead Morrissey who gave Mary Rose Kelly no chance in the Wexford goal. Caroline Murphy pulled a point back for Wexford after good approach work from Liz Evered and Hearne. Hanley from a free and Morrissey from play had points to extend Tipperary’s lead to 1-4 to 0-2 after 10 mins.
Wexford were now faring much better at midfield and Mag Kelly was winning a plentiful supply of ball in the Wexford half back line and consequently Tipperary found themselves under more pressure. Caroline Murphy pointed after 15 mins following a run from Leona Tector and Mary Leacy replaced Martina Murray at full back. Caroline Murphy had a fine point from play after 18 mins before Morrissey pointed for Tipperary after 20 mins and Martina Murray came back to replace Maeve Quill at corner back. Edel Hanley pointed from play after 21 mins to give the Premier county girls a lead of 1-6 to 0-4 with nine minutes to go to the interval.
Wexford then brought themselves right back into the game after 22 mins in a seven player move, when the roving Tara Moloney dispossessed the Tipperary midfielder before playing the ball to Ciara Scallan who found Josie Dwyer to Caroline Murphy who did a one two with Moloney, before placing Michelle Hearne in possession in the right corner, she shook off her marker and placed the inrushing Murphy for a shot on goal to give the Tipperary keeper no chance. The Model county girls were now in full flow having curbed the influence of Costelloe and Tipperary were forced to bring Morrissey to centre forward where she was originally listed, but she made little headway against Leona Tector apart from a few runs that came failed to yield any scores, thus depriving them of their main attacking threat. Josie Dwyer scored a fine point from play, before Deirdre Fox tied up the scores with a pointed free on 25 mins following a foul on Dwyer. Midfielder Fox gave Wexford the lead for the first time when she pointed a free after 27 mins, when the ever dangerous Caroline Murphy was pulled down. The lead was short lived however as Edel Hanley pointed off the upright following a foul on Angie McDermott on 28 mins. Deirdre Fox had the final score of the half when she pointed a free following a foul on Tara Moloney to leave Wexford leading by 1-8 to 1-7 at the interval.
Wexford who had to be well pleased with their comeback after being five points down to be leading by a point were rocked back on their heels when within 28 seconds of the resumption midfielder Angie McDermott raced through from the throw in before off loading to wing forward Shelagh Carew who slammed it to the roof of the net. Wexford attacked from the kick out and Liz Evered jinked her way through to slot a neat left footed point to leave the minimum between the sides.
This game was proving to be a thriller, meeting all the expectations that had gone beforehand. Wexford took the lead after 33 mins when in a delightful move with some fast hand and foot passing involving Tara Moloney, Michelle Hearne, and Liz Evered for the latter to place Caroline Murphy free in front of goal and she made no mistake to put Wexford ahead by 2-9 to 2-7. Jennifer Grant pointed after 34 mins before the industrious Evered had the ball in the Tipperary net only to be brought back and a penalty awarded for the foul on her. Caroline Murphy’s well struck shot was saved by Patricia Hickey. The Premier girls then rallied with a fine point from wing back Claire Carroll to tie up the scores after 37 mins before Josie Dwyer restored the lead for Wexford with a point from play after 39 mins. Wexford increased their lead with two points from Deirdre Fox frees following fouls on herself and Caroline Murphy to make the score 2-12 to 2-9 after 44 mins.
Wexford introduced Kate Kelly for Tara Moloney and she was at the end of a move that involved a quick sideline ball from her sister Mag to Murphy, Evered and Hearne for a well struck left footed point. Just when it looked like that the game may be slipping away from Tipperary they struck back with a Hanley point from a free after Carew was fouled and immediately with a great individual effort from Claire Carroll when she carried the ball all the ways from her defence to point to leave just two points between the sides – 2-13 to 2-11. With play swinging from end to end, Wexford hit back with another slick move culminating in Michelle Hearne being rugby tackled by the Tipperary goalkeeper for a penalty, which resulted in her being sent to the sin bin for ten minutes to be replaced by Helen Kennedy and substituting Jennifer Grant. However Caroline Murphy pulled her shot low to the keepers right and just outside the left hand post and Tipperary breathed a sigh of relief.
Edel Hanley reduced the deficit to the minimum with a pointed free after 53 mins and the Tipp girls strove for the equaliser. However some strong defensive play from Aoife Waters, Michelle Doyle, Tector and the deep defensive play of Kate Kelly and the ability of Sharon Kehoe to win possession resulted in few clear cut chances. Wexford were then guilty of shooting some poor wides to make the game safe before Josie Dwyer pointed from play on 28 mins following a Kate Kelly pass. Deirdre Fox pointed another free after 29 mins following a foul on Bridget Curran and Wexford were now playing keep ball to run down the clock. Tipperary made one final effort to rescue the game but the Wexford defence held firm and the final whistle went with the resultant free kick much to the relief and joy of the Wexford team and supporters.
Wexford’s Caroline Murphy was awarded the TG 4 Player of the match with Padraig O Ciaradh the Leas Ceannasai of TG4 presenting her with her award.
This was a good all round performance after a slow start, which has been a feature of most of Wexford’s games throughout the championship. They have a strong work ethic in the team and the strength of the subs bench is a vital asset with some quality players to be introduced if required.
Wexford are likely to be installed favourites against either Clare or Leitrim who play in Breffni Pk next Saturday following their impressive victory. Tipperary were many peoples favourites after their impressive league campaign and being unbeaten in the championship. However the Wexford girls and team management will be well aware of how hard they had to work before defeating Clare in the National League Quarter finals and Leitrim have already beaten them by two points earlier in the championship.
With the victory of the Intermediate hurlers in last Saturdays All Ireland final, the camogie Senior team in the All Ireland Final and their senior B team in the semi final it would be the icing on the cake if the girls can bring home the silverware in four weeks time to complete a great year for Wexford.
Wexford: Mary Rose Kelly, Maeve Quill, Martina Murray Capt, Aoife Waters, Mag Kelly, Leona Tector, Michelle Doyle, Ciara Scallan, Deirdre Fox 0-6, Liz Evered 0-1, Josie Dwyer 0-3, Sharon Kehoe, Tara Moloney 0-1, Caroline Murphy 2-3, Michelle Hearne.
Subs: Mary Leacy for Murray, Martina Murray for Quill, Kate Kelly 0-1 for Moloney, Bridget Curran for Scallan, Karen Morris, Catherine Doyle, Fiona Rochford, Julie Kelly, Naoimi Fogarty, Laura Corrigan, Deirdre McMahon, Maebhe Hughes, Nikki Scallan, Georgina Moore, Denise Kearns, Ali Evered, Kim Moloney.
Tipperary: Patricia Hickey, Nancy Ferris, Maeve Corcoran, Claire Lambert, Ann O’Dwyer, Aoife O’Dwyer, Claire Carroll 0-2, Angela McDermott, Teresa McManus, Siobhan Costelloe, Sheilagh Carew 1-0, Jennifer Grant 0-1, Mairead Morrissey 1-2, Gillian O’Brien, Edel Hanley 0-7.
Subs: Helen Kennedy for Grant, Joanne O’Doherty for Ferris,