Wexford bow out by a point
Sligo advance to last four
Brave Wexford slipped out of the TG4 ladies' football All-Ireland Intermediate championship at the quarter-final stage after a cracking battle with Sligo in Kinnegad on Sunday.
Sligo 2-12 Wexford 3-8
The Slaneysiders, who led by eight points at one stage, entered the last seven minutes still two clear. However, they would fail to register again as points from Katie Walsh (two) and Elaine O'Reilly edged the Connacht champions to a semi-final meeting with Kildare.
It was yet another heart-breaking loss for Shane McCormack's side, after slipping to defeat against Kildare in the Leinster final. But with disappointment comes experience and these tough defeats should stand to Wexford as they continue to improve in the coming seasons.
It was a nervous opening in front of the posts for both sides with Sligo kicking a wide before opening the scoring through Emma Kevany. Wexford fired two wides but got themselves into the tie with a well-worked goal.
Fiona Rochford, keeping up a rich vein of scoring form, fired home the opening goal in the fourth minute.
They almost added another, only for Clara Donnelly to see her effort blocked, but the Shelmalier star did add her side's opening point to make it 1-1 to 0-1.
Wexford were winning early primary possession from their opponents' kick-outs, however, four wides and a short attempt from Rochford kept the scores off the board. Sligo cut the gap when Ciara Gorman popped over a free in the twelfth minute.
The Leinster side were causing the Sligo defence all sorts of problems with Rochford and Fiona Bennett combining to force Noelle Gormley into a fine save. After missing an easy enough chance, Gorman redeemed herself with a pointed free to make it 1-1 to 0-3 at the end of the opening quarter.
A good run from Ellen O'Brien, in a move involving Fiona Rochford, ended in Róisín Murphy tapping over. However, Sligo responded with two points in less than a minute, from Gorman and Sinéad McTiernan, to tie the game.
A great interception by Maria Byrne in defence stalled Sligo building momentum. Moments later Wexford hit the net for the second time, with Catríona Murray and Fiona Bennett combining to release Clara Donnelly for the goal.
Wexford took a four-point lead at the interval (2-3 to 0-5), courtesy of Rochford's point just before the whistle, although they did miss a couple of late goal chances through Murray and Niamh Moore that would have left them in further ahead.
Great work by Catríona Murray presented Fiona Bennett with a chance she could hardly miss at the start of the second-half. That goal was soon followed by a nice score by the impressive Ellen O'Brien as Wexford led by 3-4 to 0-5.
Their healthy advantage didn't last long as Stephanie O'Reilly found the net at the other end in the 34th minute.
Donnelly picked off her second minor moments later, a score that was countered by an O'Reilly effort.
Kellie Kearney and Rochford linked up well and the latter pointed to move Wexford 3-6 to 1-6 ahead. In a spell of just six minutes, Sligo wiped out all of their opponents' advantage.
Denise McGrath, O'Reilly and Lauren Boles all pointed around Ciara Gorman's major as Sligo levelled at 3-6 to 2-9 with 17 minutes remaining.
Wexford stemmed the flow with a point from a Murray free and moved two clear again when Fiona Rowe fed Rochford and the St. Anne's woman pointed. It left them 3-8 to 2-9 ahead with eight minutes to go.
Sligo turned the screw with Wexford tiring, as Katie Walsh came off the bench with a pair of points, sandwiching an O'Reilly score. While the Slaneysiders had time to get a leveller, they couldn't create a clearcut change and their opponents held on for the win.
It's been a year of improvement for Wexford, who will quickly begin the search for a new manager after Shane McCormack stepped down following the game. The squad is still young, and the potential is sky-high, so it's sure to be an attractive post.
Wexford: Natasha Walsh; Ciara Corrigan, Marica Cullen, Brídín Doyle; Niamh Mernagh, Róisín Murphy (capt., 0-1), Maria Byrne; Clara Donnelly (1-2), Niamh Moore; Ellen O'Brien (0-1), Fiona Rochford (1-3), Kellie Kearney; Fiona Bennett (1-0), Catríona Murray (0-1 free), Siobhán Cloake. Subs. - Fiona Rowe for Cloake, Marguerite Doyle for B. Doyle, Maeve Quill for Bennett, also Bríd Byrne, Eleanor Neville, Trina Sinnott, Caoimhe Denton, Emer Cahill, Niamh Cloke-Rochford, Ann Byrne, Caoimhe Roche, Georgina Hearn, Beth Cardiff.
Sligo: Noelle Gormley (capt.); Anne Marie Coleman, Ruth Goodwin, Etna Flanagan; Lauren Boles (0-1), Eilise Codd, Jacqui Mulligan; Bernice Byrne, Sinéad McTiernan (0-1); Laura Ann Laffey, Stephanie O'Reilly, Denise McGrath (0-1); Emma Kevany (0-1), Elaine O'Reilly (1-3), Ciara Gorman (1-3, 0-3 frees). Subs. - Mary Ann O'Kennedy for E. O'Reilly, Katie Walsh (0-2) for Kevany, Lisa Casey for Gorman.
Referee: Jason Mullins (Limerick).