Ladies' adventure comes to end
The adventure is over for the Wexford ladies' footballers after they fell to defeat against a superior Kildare outfit in the TG4 Intermediate All-Ireland championship quarter-final at Crettyard on Saturday.
Kildare 2-18 Wexford 2-7
It's never easy to lose in the last eight of the championship, but the Slaneysiders are at least safe in the knowledge that they left everything out on the pitch. It's also difficult to admit that the other team boast a higher level of player, but that needs to be embraced going forward for Shane McCormack's side to take the next step.
It was clinical stuff from the Lilywhites, particularly in the first-half. The full-forward line as a whole were majestic and shared 2-10 from play between them. There's no secret to their success as they get out in front, work a yard of space and pop off the shot with unrelenting consistency.
Wexford can only aim to develop their skill levels to match the likes of Róisín Byrne and Mikaela McKenna who were a step ahead. Not only that, the Kildare composure on the ball was at a different level also, again something that is hard to teach but can only be worked on.
The victors may well be the favourites for the title now but they do have a weakness in their full-back line. Wexford exposed it several times with direct running and Offaly were also able to profit with five goals against them in the Leinster final.
As underdogs a fast start was vital and Wexford didn't get it. Kildare were 0-5 to 0-1 up after less than six minutes with Maria Byrne notching Wexford's solitary point from Ellen O'Brien's feed. The first sign of that defensive weakness presented itself when Byrne popped Kellie Kearney through on the right but Rebecca McGuirk got down low to saved the goal-bound shot.
Byrne added her second point in the eighth minute before Wexford did hit the net. Clara Donnelly, making her first start of the championship season, was involved in the build-up that ended with Byrne feeding Caitríona Murray and the Baile Dubh Tíre attacker found the rigging.
From level pegging at 1-2 to 0-5, Kildare motored on again with the next four points. All three inside forwards scored in a spell that was broken when Donnelly flashed over the crossbar from Róisín Murphy's pass. Murray then had a chance for a second goal but lost possession just as she was about to shoot.
The Kildare lead swelled to 0-12 to 1-3 by the 24th minute but Niamh Moore's handpass to Donnelly did get the Shelmalier clubwoman her second point just before the half-time break. It left Wexford down by five and not completely out of the contest.
However, Wexford didn't hit the target again until the 51st minute, by which time their opponents had already completed their scoring tally of 2-18. The Slaneysiders put a lot into the first-half and the energy levels and intensity understandably dipped on a warm afternoon in Laois.
Previously happy to take no risks and accept points, Róisín Byrne smashed Kildare's first goal past Bríd Byrne after a clever Ellen Dowling pass. Worse was to follow in the 48th minute when the Lilywhite full-forward reacted quickest to Trina Duggan's effort squirting out off the foot of the post and blasted soccer-style to the Wexford net.
At 2-18 to 1-4 down, Wexford kept battling away and got some semblance of a reward in the last ten minutes. Katie Redmond picked off a point ten minutes after coming off the bench and then went one better with a lobbed goal after McGuirk's poor kick-out.
Maria Byrne saw a 20-metre free blocked on the goal-line by Aisling Savage with five minutes left, but Wexford did add late points from Róisín Murphy and Redmond to put a fairer reflection on the scoreboard.
All in all it's been a good year back at Intermediate grade for Wexford, doing as well as they really could have been expected to do. Next year the aim will surely be to push on and get closer to the challengers at this level, and with a young nucleus there's no reason why that can't happen.
Kildare: Rebecca McGuirk; Tara Hallinan, Lydia Furey, Rachel Reidy; Aisling Curley, Aisling Savage, Rachel Cribbin; Joanna Timmins, Aisling Holton (capt., 0-1); Niamh Mulhall (0-1), Ellen Dowling (0-4, 1 free), Trina Duggan; Mikaela McKenna (0-5, 1 free), Róisín Byrne (2-4), Maria Moolick (0-2). Subs. - Paula Keatley for Reidy, inj. (30 + 2), Eadaoin Connolly (0-1) for Mulhall (31), Ailish Heavey for Cribbin (39), Sarah Munnelly for McKenna (49), Grace Clifford for Byrne (53).
Wexford: Bríd Byrne; Marguerite Doyle, Marica Cullen, Maeve Quill; Sandra Thorpe, Niamh Mernagh, Sharon Kehoe; Róisín Murphy (capt., 0-1), Clara Donnelly (0-2); Kelly Kearney, Niamh Moore, Ellen O'Brien; Catríona Murray (1-0), Maria Byrne (0-2), Mary O'Neill. Subs. - Niamh Butler for Kehoe, inj. (31), Emma Hore for Moore (37), Katie Redmond (1-2) for Kearney (41), Niamh Cloke-Rochford for Thorpe (41).
Referee: Garryowen McMahon (Mayo).