Wexford seal place in final
Wexford 5-8 Roscommon 0-9
Understrength Wexford moved one step closer to a Lidl Ladies' National Football League Division 3 title with an easier-than-anticipated victory over a Roscommon side severely handicapped by goalkeeping blunders.
The difference a top quality shot-stopper makes could hardly have been more evident in Clane on Sunday as the Roscommon pair gifted Wexford goal after goal en-route to a 14-point success.
In truth, without the mistakes Anthony Masterson's side were still clearly stronger. However, there is plenty to work on ahead of a title decider with Tipperary after his side spurned multiple scoring chances with iffy decision-making and poor shooting, particularly with the breeze in the opening half.
A glance at the teamsheet will show a Wexford side still missing the injured trio of Chantelle Martin, Maria Byrne and Ciara Corrigan, while captain Fiona Rochford was away. That's a lot of firepower to replace and the Slaneysiders were weaker as a result.
Of those who have came into the side in recent weeks, none went better than the excellent Sarah Harding-Kenny at corner-back. If it was a gamble by Masterson to pick the Shelmalier youngster, and it has clearly paid off as she has slotted in seamlessly.
Further out the field, the experience of Bernie Breen is really shining through. The former Kerry star was magnificent in this contest, and at times Roscommon defenders even seemed reluctant to engage in a tackle with the midfielder, preferring to back off, cut out the direct route and hope she'd pass it off.
Having that quality beside her seems to be raising the quality of Kellie Kearney's game. The Clonard/Volunteers clubwoman is much more than a foil for Breen, she's suddenly a ball-carrier that can be relied on to make the correct decisions time and again.
The strength in the middle third is absolutely critical for Wexford ahead of their clash with Tipperary. The half-back line is a huge part of that, not only in their defending but also in their counter-attacking. Clara Donnelly is the one continually given the licence to power forward and she opening the scoring with a wind-aided, bouncing point after 19 seconds.
Catríona Murray made it 0-2 to nil soon after but Wexford missed several chances to kick on. The score remained unchanged into the 13th minute but the Slaneysiders gratefully accepted the first error when Fiona Rowe broke onto Carol Manning's misplaced short kick-out, soloed in and calmly netted.
Breen quickly pointed from Kearney's pass as Wexford ended the opening quarter 1-3 to nil ahead. When Donnelly's poor effort in the 16th minute was butchered by Manning, Aisling Murphy was alert enough to nip in and fire, soccer-style, to the net via the inside of the far post.
The gifts didn't settle Wexford and they kicked away some really promising positions. Roscommon grew in confidence and added scores from Rebecca Finan and Natalie McHugh (two) to pull back to 2-3 to 0-3 behind.
Murphy cut back inside from Donnelly's pass in added-time for her first point, but the Rossies responded just before the whistle through McHugh to pull themselves within two goals at the break, with the elements to come after the change-around.
Manning lost her spot between the posts at the start of the second-half but her replacement, Karin Roddy, would fare no better. Roscommon needed a fast start and dominated the opening ten minutes but only had a Rebecca Finan point to show for their efforts as Wexford defended superbly as a team.
The sting was taken out of their charge in the 40th minute when Fiona Rowe's speculative effort went through Roddy's hands and into the net. Wexford found their mojo and added nice scores from Donnelly, Murphy and Murray to move 3-7 to 0-5 ahead by the 51st minute.
Donnelly added a fourth Wexford goal with a looping effort that airmailed Roddy and sunk into her net. After Aisling MacAuliffe and Rachel Fitzmaurice scored a quick double, Niamh Butler got her name on the goalscorers' list with an attempt from the right wing that slid out of Roddy's hands and settled in the bottom corner of the goal.
Ellen O'Brien completed the Wexford scoring just before being withdrawn as the victors made wholesale changes. Jenny Higgins registered a pair of late points, the second coming after an excellent save from Mary Rose Kelly between the sticks, but it made little difference to the outcome.
Wexford will face Tipperary in the Lidl Ladies' National Football League Division 3 final on April 30 at 4 p.m., at a venue to be determined. The Premier girls thumped Offaly in the other semi-final, scoring five first-half goals on their way to a 7-17 to 2-6 win.
Wexford: Mary Rose Kelly; Marguerite Doyle, Marica Cullen (capt.), Sarah Harding-Kenny; Clara Donnelly (1-2), Róisín Murphy, Georgina Hearn; Bernie Breen (0-1), Kellie Kearney; Niamh Butler (1-0), Catríona Murray (0-2, 1 free), Ellen O'Brien (0-1); Fiona Rowe (2-0), Aisling Murphy (1-2), Siobhán Cloake. Subs. - Niamh Mernagh for Hearn (57), Rachel Bennett for Rowe (57), Emer Cahill for O'Brien (59), Eleanor Neville for Butler (59), Brídín Doyle for Cullen (60+1), also Sarah Merrigan, Ann Byrne, Elaine McCabe, Lorraine Breen, Ciara Corrigan, Maeve Quill, Maria Byrne, Trina Sinnott, Chantelle Martin, Fiona Rochford.
Roscommon: Carol Manning; Honor Ennis, Amanda McLoone, Aisling MacAuliffe (0-1); Sinéad Kenny, Bronagh McHugh, Gillian Dufficy; Joanne Cregg, Laura Fleming; Alice Kelly, Martina Freyne, Jenny Higgins (0-2); Rebecca Finan (0-2, 1 free), Natalie McHugh (capt., 0-3, 1 free), Caoilionn Bernie. Subs. - Karin Roddy for Manning (31), Sheila Brady for Bernie (41), Rachel Fitzmaurice (0-1) for Freyne (46).
Referee: Gavin Corrigan (Down).