Friday 17 November 2017

Wexford set to reach their own high standards

Championship Special

Dean Goodison

When Wexford head out onto the Netwatch Cullen Park playing surface on Sunday to face Meath in the TG4 Leinster ladies' Intermediate football championship final (2 p.m.), they do so in a different place.

The Slaneysiders no longer go into a final hoping to put in a performance, no longer content to just play the plucky loser's role.

A gallant runners-up effort is not acceptable. That's the standard they set themselves, each and every one of them, not someone else's over-inflated expectations.

This is the time for Wexford. They've served their apprenticeship, they've respected others, put up the good fight and been left with losing tears in their eyes. All the hurt of previous losses has made this team stronger. It's been evident all season, and they just need to prove it once again.

Anthony Masterson and his side have targeted this day since their first meeting at the end of last year.

The calendar was circled, July 9, that's our day. Whatever comes before, whatever way the cards fall after, that's our day.

Everyone has a plan but few truly have their destiny so close they can taste it.

Simply put, this Wexford team will win this final if they play to their potential. They have been winning almost all year with their attractive brand of football.

Quietly, they have done it despite losing key players. Chantelle Martin has rarely been fit, and gone are Fiona Bennett, Niamh Moore, Katie Redmond and Ellen O'Brien.

The massive loss of Maria Byrne is hard to quantify. Mary Rose Kelly is away and will miss the final. But still, they haven't taken a back step. It's never been an excuse.

Huge credit has to go to the management team for surfing over those losses and building, not just a competitive team, but a winning one.

Of the forwards that started the 2014 All-Ireland Junior final, only Fiona Rochford was on the field against Offaly in the Leinster semi.

Part of that build is developing and trusting youth. The Niamhs - Butler and Mernagh - have turned into reliable performers. Teenagers Rachel Bennett and Sarah Harding-Kenny have seamlessly made the step-up to the adult ranks.

The Leinster championship has been good to both. The win against Wicklow in the opening fixture (7-16 to 3-3 ) was probably even easier than the scoreline suggests.

With both sides already into the semi-finals, Wexford then eased past Meath (1-15 to 1-11) to top the group.

It allowed the team to gel and re-focus after the disappointment of the league final replay loss against Tipperary.

Offaly have a bit of talent but they were no match for Wexford in the provincial semi-final, the Slaneysiders making the long trip to Ferbane and winning through by 1-18 to 0-7.

And now it's Meath again. They say it's hard to beat a team three times on the bounce, in the one season, but that's not just Wexford's goal, it's their expectation.

The Royals have some nice players, were Senior last year, but it's their opponents' time to shine.

Expect it to be an entertaining game of football. Both sides will have their spells but Wexford are the more fluid and can do serious damage over an extended period of time.

Expect the Leinster title to come back to the south-east with the girls, with four or five points in it at the end.

Wexford People

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