independent

Sunday 19 November 2017

An hour from glory

Under-16 girls all set for the acid test

Dean Goodison

With all the great players that have come and gone, with all the history of camogie in Wexford down through the decades, this latest batch of Under-16s have the chance to achieve something really special.

Just once before have Wexford Under-16s tasted All-Ireland glory at the top table.

Indeed, this is just the fourth time that the county has contested a final in the 43-year history of the competition.

All of those deciders were against Galway, just like this one on Sunday which will be played in Coralstown, Co. Westmeath, at 3.30 p.m.

Back in 1995 the likes of Kate Kelly and Claire O'Connor were part of the Wexford success, and now it's down to the new stars like Anais Curran, Ciara O'Connor, Aoife Mahon and Katie Smyth to start a journey to the top like those who came before.

From their current position of All-Ireland Senior also-rans, Wexford camogie needed this injection of quality but strong management has been vital. Castletown's Neil Cullen has led a determined group that also includes selectors Clare O'Leary (Rathnure) and Marion Cousins (Kilmore), as well as coach Cathal D'Arcy.

It's taken time to get the blend right. Wexford showed patches of form in the group stages of the delayed Leinster championship. They started with a victory over Offaly but losses to Dublin and Kilkenny followed in the spring.

The break for exams halted the as-yet unfinished provincial campaign, however, Wexford returned to training and set their sights on the All-Ireland championship. There was frustration after a trip to Cork saw the Slaneysiders come away with a narrow 3-10 to 2-11 loss in a game they felt was there for the taking.

A blitz of early goals next time out against Tipperary ended that game in the first quarter (it eventually finished 5-9 to 0-10) and looked to be sending Wexford packing with two games remaining.

Maybe lessons were learned about the importance of goals at this level and it showed next time out.

Waterford were still right in the mix until Wexford battered them by 5-13 to 2-9 at the end of July and the confidence of a big win, after four losses in a row, completely changed their mentality.

Cullen's side excelled in a 6-9 to 2-5 win over Clare, with Anais Curran netting five times, to see her side to an improbable semi-final berth.

Having nabbed second in the group behind Cork, Wexford faced a Dublin team which boasted an unbeaten record all season.

That counted for nothing as the Slaneysiders built a lead and defended superbly to win by 2-11 to 2-8 and book their spot in the All-Ireland decider.

While Curran has been the stand-out performer with 10-33 in those five games and Ciara O'Connor has dictated play, other areas of the team have stepped up to make this possible.

The defence has tightened down remarkably and they have conceded eleven or fewer scores in the last three games.

In the middle third Wexford are getting hard work and a creative base from Kate Kirwan and Ciara Walsh, while other forwards have started to chip in with goals, both starters and those summoned from the bench.

Galway, for their part, have played less competitive games than Wexford, just the four, but have won three and lost just the one, to Dublin.

Their 5-13 to 3-5 win over Cork in the semi-final probably makes them slight favourites but the Slaneysiders have the weapons to do damage and are tipped to edge a cracker.

Wexford squad: Aoife Mahon, Tara Doyle, Amy Cahill, Laura Doran, Róisín Parker, Ciara O'Connor, Lorna Fortune, Ciara Walsh, Kate Kirwan, Megan Cullen, Katie Smyth, Amy O'Leary, Eimear Byrne, Anais Curran, Aisling Alouf, Emma Dempsey, Sophie Roche, Shauna O'Leary, Doireann Cullen, Aoife Dempsey, Siobhán Sinnott, Amy Mitten, Lauren Murphy, Eimear O'Connor, Leanne Rowe, Mollie Somers, Amy Cousins, Kate Foley, Elena Kenny.

CLUB FIXTURES

SAT. AUG. 26

AT MONAGEER: Under-14 shield final, Naomh Eanna v. Marshalstown, 11 a.m.

AT OYLEGATE: Under-14 shield final, Ballygarrett v. St. Anne's, 11 a.m.

AT BOOLABAWN: Under-14 Roinn 1B championship final replay, Oylegate-Glenbrien v. Duffry Rovers, 5.30 p.m.

SUN. AUG. 27

AT KILLURIN: Under-14 Roinn 2B championship final, Davidstown-Courtnacuddy v. Fethard, 5.30 p.m.

Wexford People

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