U-16s seek glory
Wexford girls tackle Leitrim in final
On October 5, 2014 the journey for the Wexford Under-16 ladies' football team and management began as trials took place in Páirc Charman, with a panel of 55 players being brought to Carlow for a Leinster blitz in the last week of that month.
'It was great to use the blitz for serious trial matches, plus if we needed to call up players during the season we knew what we were getting,' explained manager Paudge Brennan, who is hoping that his charges will do the business on Wednesday in Clane, Co. Kildare when they take on Leitrim in the All-Ireland 'C' championship final at 7.30 p.m.
And having won the corresponding crown at Under-14 level two years ago, they certainly will know what to expect on the big occasion.
The bones of this team comes from that successful Under-14 side of 2013, when Wexford beat Tipperary in a fantastic final in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny. 'We have 19 of that panel with us this year, and the girls have a great determination to repeat the success,' the manager said.
Wexford will definitely be without Niamh Berry for the final as she has been on the long-term injured list, while Emma Codd from St. Martin's broke a finger in the second-half of the semi-final win over Clare and is at best 50-50 to play.
It's going to be difficult for the management to pick the team for the final as several players have come up trumps throughout the season. 'Two girls got their first start in the semi-final. One of them scored 2-2 and the other turned over a huge amount of ball all night,' Brennan said.
Leitrim will be a serious test for Wexford on Wednesday, with Connacht being the only province to have a team in all three Under-16 finals, while Wexford are the sole representatives from Leinster still standing at the final juncture.
'They put six goals past a very good Armagh team in the semi-final, so we know we will need to be tight at the back from the start,' cautioned Brennan. The manager is no stranger to big games as he has transformed Loreto Secondary School in Wexford into one of the strongest colleges in the country in recent seasons, and his side went all the way to an All-Ireland Senior final in 2013.
It's the first season that the ladies' football powers that be have tried playing under-age finals mid-week. And the manager did stress that if the huge crowd for the semi-final is anything to go by, there will be a big purple and gold attendance in Conneef Park .
Wexford's path to the final saw them first engaged in six games in Leinster to determine gradings.
They lost to Laois by 6-6 to 2-5, beat Offaly by 2-11 to 0-8, lost to Dublin by 4-7 to 2-11, lost to Meath by 3-9 to 2-4, lost to Westmeath by 3-10 to 5-3, and lost to Kildare by 2-10 to 1-5.
Those results ensured their status in the 'C' grade where they repeated their earlier win over Offaly in the Leinster semi-final, this time by 5-14 to 0-2.
Louth were beaten in the Leinster final by 1-12 to 0-7, and the result in the All-Ireland semi-final against Clare was 4-11 to 2-3.
The full Wexford panel is: Sophie Lenihan (Clonee), Annastasia Breen (Gusserane), Sadbh McCarthy (Shelmalier), Niamh Dunne (St. Martin's), Cathy O'Brien (Adamstown), Sarah Harding-Kenny (Shelmalier), Gillian Barry (Fethard), Emma Cousins (Kilmore), Niamh Buckley (St. John's Volunteers), Kate Hendrick (HWH-Bunclody), Emily Coakley (St. Fintan's), Teghan Furlong (Clonee), Rachel Bennett (St. Anne's), Cathy O'Connor (Kilmore), Siobhán Doolan (Shelmalier), Gráinne McCabe (Starlights), Ciara O'Connor (Gusserane), Clara Rochford (St. Anne's), Megan Scallan (Shelmalier), Derbhla Doyle (Crossabeg-Ballymurn), Julia Dempsey (St. John's Volunteers), Ann-Marie Bennett (St. Anne's), Becky Hamilton (St. Martin's), Emma Codd (St. Martin's), Aideen Byrne (Starlights), Aoife Cloke-Rochford (Ballyhogue), Eve Hession (St. John's Volunteers), Aisling Byrne (Blackwater), Niamh Berry (Kilmore).