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Saturday 17 November 2018

Tyrone simply too strong

Ladies Football, TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship: Tyrone 1-15 Wexford 2-8

Róisín Murphy of Wexford racing away from Tyrone’s Maria Canavan
Róisín Murphy of Wexford racing away from Tyrone’s Maria Canavan

Dean Goodison

The class of Tyrone proved a little too much for Wexford as they slipped out of the TG4 All-Ireland ladies' football Intermediate championship at the quarter-final stage in the Gaelic Grounds, Drogheda, on Saturday.

Anthony Masterson's side came into the game on the back of their third defeat of the season against Clare. It left them with the most tricky of last eight opponents, and the Ulster side were simply too good.

Wexford still had chances but they would have needed more than their fair share of breaks to win this game. Tyrone are clearly a good bit ahead of the Slaneysiders in their development and they will take some stopping.

There's plenty to admire about the victors, as every aspect of their game was impressive. They used the ball well, they moved it quickly forward and did it with accurate, long passes, and when they got into shooting positions they rarely missed.

This Wexford side have sometimes struggled against defensive set-ups, with the 'patience' mantra and all that, but this was altogether different.

Tyrone have no interest in shutting up shop, as they believe they are the best team in the championship and they go out playing open, expansive football to prove it.

It made for a quick, end-to-end contest. It was a game for the purists and, for one afternoon at least, kick-passing was back in vogue. That fact was bittersweet for Wexford as their opponents were much more polished at that type of footballing duel.

There's always things you can do better, mistakes to learn from, and Wexford made plenty. At this level you are going to turn over ball at times but you cannot throw away good possession with sloppy play and dreadful passes as often as the Slaneysiders did and expect to get away with it.

It was another mediocre day for the inside forwards. Chloe Foxe was the pick of the Wexford attackers, as she was confident enough to step up and take her shots when the opportunity arose.

With Fiona Rochford deployed as a sweeper, the Clongeen clubwoman was the only starter actually playing in the forwards to score from play, and that's just not going to get it done.

With Sarah Harding-Kenny away but Shauna Murphy fit to play, Wexford were still one starting defender short in the full-back line.

Masterson decided to drop Niamh Mernagh back and the Horeswood clubwomen was the best of the bunch, shutting down Niamh O'Neill in the first-half and restricting Gemma Begley to one point after the break.

Otherwise, Wexford struggled to contain the Red Hands. Begley was exceptional but Emma Jane Gervin did as much damage breaking from deep as the talented full-forward. Throw in Chloe McCaffrey and Tyrone simply had more weapons firing.

It was another forward, Niamh Hughes, who kicked the opening point in the first minute. Ellen O'Brien hit the left upright and Caitríona Murray missed a fairly straightforward free from 20 metres out on the right of the posts as Wexford tried to hit back.

Begley and Gervin both registered to send Tyrone 0-3 to nil in front, but Clara Donnelly's probing down the right allowed Bernie Breen to pull one back before Niamh Moore, a constant threat in attacking areas, hit the target in the eighth minute.

McCaffrey gave warning of her potential to get in behind, but Fiona Rochford somehow got back to scupper her advances in the eleventh minute.

It wasn't heeded. Gervin made it 0-4 to 0-2 but Wexford got a stroke of luck when a Tyrone defender lost control of the ball, Breen stuck out a foot, and it dribbled past Shannon Lynch off the inside of the post.

Begley tied the game for the first time in the 17th minute (0-5 to 1-2), but a pair of Chloe Foxe points gave Wexford their biggest lead.

They couldn't maintain it as Tyrone scored three points in a row. Gervin got the first and hot-shot full-forward Begley added two more.

That would probably have been acceptable at the break, but when McCaffrey drifted behind Shauna Murphy, collected Maria Canavan's long ball over the top and calmly beat Mary Rose Kelly between the posts, Wexford were in big trouble (1-8 to 1-4).

In truth, they never really recovered. Lycrecia Quinn kicked the opening point of the second-half and, freed from Mernagh's clutches, Niamh O'Neill got her score.

Foxe gave Wexford a momentary respite but McCaffrey and Begley made it 1-12 to 1-5 in the 37th minute.

Murray finally converted a free two minutes later but two more Tyrone scores were enough to keep Wexford at arm's length. As the final quarter began the Ulster girls seemed to be feeling the pace a little and their opponents started to create half-chances.

What they didn't have was someone composed enough to finish one. Breen, Aisling Murphy, Murray and Rochford all had opportunities to beat Lynch for a second time but with every botched attempt Wexford's hopes looked forlorn.

Murray wasn't impressed at all to be withdrawn in the 50th minute as Masterson looked for a spark. It didn't come with that change, as Maria Byrne went into the attack but her afternoon didn't improve close to the opposition goal. Rochford did point to close the gap to eight with nine minutes left.

The spark they needed came far too late. With 57 minutes on the clock, Amy Wilson was thrown on as a last resort, and in her first piece of action she took on her marker, was fouled, and Rochford converted the free.

For her second involvement, her burgeoning mix of pace and power panicked Tyrone again. She was around Emma Mulgrew when she was dragged down for a penalty, and the defender was yellow carded.

Shannon Lynch saved Wilson's spot-kick onto the crossbar but the Castletown clubwoman collected and fired home the rebound.

The goal simply came too late to set up a frantic finale as the full-time whistle went on the resumption of play. In truth, had Wexford somehow marched back and stole victory it would have been unjust on the winners.

So it's off to round out the club season for these Wexford players before planning starts for 2019. Much will depend on whether Anthony Masterson is going to stay on for another year.

With the side now in Division 2, giving a better platform to be prepared for summer, there's still plenty to be optimistic about going forward.

Wexford: Mary Rose Kelly (capt.); Shauna Murphy, Maria Byrne, Niamh Mernagh; Clara Donnelly, Róisín Murphy, Niamh Moore (0-1); Kellie Kearney, Bernie Breen (1-1); Niamh Butler, Fiona Rochford (0-2, 1 free), Ellen O'Brien; Caitríona Murray (0-1 free), Aisling Murphy, Chloe Foxe (0-3). Subs. - Georgina Hearn for S. Murphy (41), Aoife Sheil for Butler (48), Rachel Bennett for Murray (50), Marguerite Doyle for Foxe (50), Amy Wilson (1-0) for Kearney (57), also Sinéad Whelan, Ann Byrne, Cailín Fitzpatrick, Lauren Cousins, Clara Rochford, Niamh Dunne, Sarah Harding-Kenny.

Tyrone: Shannon Lynch; Niamh McGirr, Joanne Barrett, Christiane Hunter; Slaine McCarroll, Emma Mulgrew, Emma Brennan; Neamh Woods (capt., 0-1), Emma Jane Gervin (0-4); Niamh Hughes (0-1), Maria Canavan, Aisling O'Kane; Niamh O'Neill (0-1), Gemma Begley (0-5), Chloe McCaffrey (1-2). Subs. - Caoileann Conway for Barrett, inj. (21), Lycrecia Quinn (0-1) for O'Kane (31), Gráinne Rafferty for O'Neill (43), Méabh Mallon for Canavan (54), Emma Hegarty for Hughes (57).

Referee: Jonathan Murphy (Carlow).

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