independent

Sunday 20 May 2018

Patience pays off for ladies

Wexford 2-14 Kildare 0-11

Dean Goodison at Stradbally

Caitríona Murray had an excellent game in the forward line. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Caitríona Murray had an excellent game in the forward line. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Patience. Something special is brewing here, it must be when the whispers are glowingly positive.

What's changed, you might ask? Why is 2018 different from last season, why are Wexford a better side now than they were in 2017?

Patience, one simple word, but one very important word. It starts there.

Teams like to funnel players into defence, this is no secret in modern day football.

At times, in big games, Wexford struggled against it last season.

They shot themselves in the foot, they took poor options, they wasted possession in good positions. They weren't patient.

Anthony Masterson, his management team and players set about changing that.

Everyone needs to buy into change and the hunger of these players ensured that they were never going to turn down an opportunity to improve.

Everyone has bought into it. If the gap isn't there, recycle, move it left, right, back and probe again. Do it again, and again.

These days there seems to be a camera at most games.

There might have been one at this Lidl ladies' football National League Division 3 semi-final in Stradbally on Sunday, but it wasn't obviously visible and that's hugely disappointing as Wexford scored one of the best goals you'll never see.

They kept the ball for minutes, plural. Minutes. Nobody had a stopwatch on the attack, which drifted in and out, side to side, and all around the tightly-packed Kildare '45.

It was all done at pace, it wasn't laboured in any way, as Wexford were always looking for the hole.

Then they found it on the right, and the ball made its way to Clara Donnelly.

She hit Bernie Breen powering through in stride and the Kerry native tapped home to all-but kill off the Lilywhites on the scoreboard by making it 2-12 to 0-9.

Psychologically, Kildare were finished when that ball hit the net. It was a decisive blow, a shuddering uppercut to the guts.

They played Senior football last season but look far inferior to Wexford right now.

That wasn't the only time when cries of 'patience' rang out from the sideline and Wexford obliged by going through the phases before kicking a score.

It's starting to become routine, it's embedding into the sub-conscious.

It's not always perfect but the improvement is obvious. The acid test will be high pressure situations and the first of those will be the league final. Wexford need a big win and this is the next chance to get it.

As well as the manner of the play, the class of 2018 is starting to gel. This was their first clean sheet of the season and that was thoroughly deserved for an excellent defensive showing.

Everybody performed defensively, both as a unit and nobody lost an individual battle.

Shauna Murphy is probably the surprise package of the season and this might have been her best performance to date as the confidence of the Shelmalier footballer sky-rockets.

Again, in the front eight, try pick out a disappointing showing, and it's not possible.

Caitríona Murray was the most impressive, as she scored, created, and gave the Kildare defence nightmares with those slaloms and that low centre of gravity. If everyone is fit in two weeks' time, it would be hard for the boss to make changes to this team.

Murray put the Slaneysiders ahead in the opening minute from Chloe Foxe's pass, but Ellen Dowling countered with a free. Wexford then scored five in a row with Kellie Kearney, Foxe (twice), Bernie Breen and Murray all on target.

Kearney flashed wide left when flying in on goal in the 13th minute and Murray saw her shot deflected behind moments later.

A brace of Dowling scores slowed Wexford but only until the 20th minute when they did net.

Again it was Foxe with the assist for Murray but the Clonee clubwoman still had plenty to do. She cut inside and out, beat the last defender and smacked her shot past Rebecca McGuirk with the minimum of fuss.

Wexford were coasting at this stage and playing all the football. However, when Mary Rose Kelly spread herself to stop Louise Scully's shot and the ball hit her leg, she was bizarrely penalised for a footblock, sin-binned and Kildare had a penalty.

Sinéad Whelan came on to face the penalty and did enough to force Trina Duggan to flash over the bar.

Mikaela McKenna tapped over a free to narrow the gap to four (1-6 to 0-5), and suddenly her side had hope.

Yet Wexford controlled the game completely a player light. They had all the ball, kicked three wides but eventually prospered with scores from Murray and Fiona Rochford giving the Division 3 table-toppers a 1-8 to 0-5 lead at the interval.

The breeze was predominantly across the field but it was aiding Kildare slightly after the break. While Wexford waited for a stoppage in play to get Mary Rose Kelly back on, Molly Price pulled a score back for her side.

A Clara Donnelly point was followed by a second from Rochford in the 36th minute.

Wexford moved eight ahead when Murray registered after another excellent team build-up. Kildare responded with the next couple of minors but Breen's goal was the dagger.

The sides matched each other score for score in the final quarter as Wexford controlled the game and the clock.

Murray got all three for her side in the spell to end with an impressive personal tally of 1-7, half of Wexford's total.

Anthony Masterson's side will face Meath in the final on Bank Holiday Monday, May 7, with the venue and time yet to be decided. The Royal women lost to their final opponents in the group stages but sent out a warning on Sunday with a 6-17 to 0-3 semi-final win against Down.

Wexford: Mary Rose Kelly (capt.); Shauna Murphy, Maria Byrne, Sarah Harding-Kenny; Niamh Moore, Niamh Mernagh, Niamh Butler; Róisín Murphy, Bernie Breen (1-1); Clara Donnelly (0-1), Fiona Rochford (0-2), Kellie Kearney (0-1); Chloe Foxe (0-2, 1 free), Aisling Murphy, Caitríona Murray (1-7, 0-3 frees). Subs. - Sinéad Whelan for A. Murphy (24), Murphy for Whelan (32), Aoife Sheil for Foxe (55), Georgina Hearn for Moore (57), Rachel Bennett for Donnelly (60), also Marguerite Doyle, Ann Byrne, Aoife Drennan, Cailín Fitzpatrick, Fiona Bennett, Chantelle Martin, Ciara Ryan, Ellen O'Brien, Amy Wilson, Lauren Cousins, Cathy O'Brien.

Kildare: Rebecca McGuirk; Shauna Kendrick, Amy Horan, Rachel Cribben; Louise Scully, Rachel Corrigan, Claire Sullivan; Trina Duggan (0-1 pen.), Aisling Curley; Grace Clifford (0-1), Siobhán O'Sullivan, Niamh Sinnott; Molly Price (0-2), Ellen Dowling (0-4, 2 frees), Mikaela McKenna (0-2 frees). Subs. - Aoife Wosser for McGuirk (31), Eadaoin Connolly for Sinnott (45), Róisín Forde (0-1) for O'Sullivan (45), Rose Mernagh for Horan (50), Dearbhla McGinn for Corrigan (50).

Referee: John Gallagher (Dublin).

Wexford People