Hendrick seals title as Tipp pay heavy penalty
WEXFORD CLAIMED victory in an enthralling ladies' football All-Ireland Under-14 'C' championship final as a last-gasp Kate Hendrick penalty settled mounting nerves and finally finished off valiant Tipperary in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, on Saturday last.
The Slaneysiders, who had several good goal chances to put the game to bed in the final quarter, spilt out of a sustained period of defence three minutes into added time, broke down the field and Hendrick was fouled by Tipperary 'keeper Claire Moore.
It allowed the HWH-Bunclody clubwoman to step up, convert the spot kick and earn Wexford the second-ever 'C' title.
With 29 goals in six games leading up to the final, Wexford clearly knew where the posts were and they set off in a similar manner - racing into a 1-2 to nil lead after eight minutes. Indeed, it could have been better had Aideen Byrne managed to beat Moore in the second minute but the miss didn't cut into confidence.
Hendrick collected from Ann-Marie Bennett and popped over the opening score before doubling her tally moments later. The dangerous wing-forward added her first goal in the eighth minute when she picked up Siobhán Doolan's pass and arrowed a low shot into the corner of the Tipperary net.
Wexford survived a scare moments later when the superb Sadbh McCarthy cleared under pressure from Jean Kelly, but the Premier corner-forward did get on the scoresheet moments later when she pointed from close range.
Three further points, with Hendrick, Rachel Bennett and Aideen Byrne all on target, propelled a wind-aided Wexford further clear (1-5 to 0-1) but the second goal wouldn't come, with Moore making a fine point-blank save to deny Bennett that crucial major.
That save gave Tipperary confidence and they worked their way back into the match. Lara O'Dwyer lofted a ball over an advanced Wexford full-back line and into the path of Kate Davey, who kept her cool and flashed past McCarthy and almost out of nowhere Wexford were dragged back into a contest.
Either side could have raised another green flag before the break as a frantic ending saw McCarthy brilliantly save twice from O'Dwyer and at the other end Byrne thudded an effort of the crossbar (1-5 to 1-1).
Just four minutes into the second-half the Wexford lead was cut to one when Kristy Crotty-Ryan set Niamh Keane up for an easy second goal, but two quick points from Byrne and Emma Cousins settled the growing nerves.
From 1-7 to 2-1 in front, six minutes into the second-half, the Slaneysiders failed to score until Hendrick stroked home the injury time settler. It wasn't from lack of trying however as, after Jean Kelly pulled one point back, substitute Cailin Fitzpatrick screwed her strike at goal narrowly wide.
Ryan pulled Tipperary within one (1-7 to 2-3) as the third quarter ended but they could never get level as chance after chance came and went for both sides.
McCarthy made a superb save to deny Jean Kelly with 13 minutes remaining before Aideen Byrne saw her shot saved and Rachel Bennett sliced the follow-up just wide.
With three minutes remaining it was Kelly again causing Wexford consternation in defence. The Cappawhite clubwoman drove at opponents down the left, centred to Chloe Boland and the centre-forward was again denied by the faultless McCarthy.
Wexford dodged another bullet when Kristy Crotty-Ryan decided to pass rather than shoot from a 25-metre free and Wexford marched down the other end, won their penalty and claimed a thoroughly-deserved All-Ireland title.
Sarah Harding-Kenny collected the player of the game trophy for her solid showing at centre-back, although it must have been a difficult decision between the Shelmalier clubwoman, goalscorer Hendrick and shot-stopper McCarthy. It was left to captain Annastasia Breen to collect the trophy on behalf of her side from ladies' football Treasurer Peter Rice.