TG4 ALL-IRELAND LADIES FOOTBALL INTERMEDIATE CHAMPIONSHIP PRELIMINARY ROUND
The half-time introduction of Maria Byrne proved invaluable for the Wexford Ladies at Fingallians GAA, Swords on Saturday afternoon, as the Slaneysiders overturned a four-point deficit to secure a commanding victory against London in the preliminary round of the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship.
A 34th minute goal from Fulham Irish corner-forward Bridget Gallagher had helped the Exiles to open up a 1-3 to 0-2 lead, but with the influential Byrne leading by example, the goal-scoring prowess of Shane McCormack’s side ensured the progression of last year’s junior champions.
The presence of Roisin McDonald as a third midfielder meant that London were on top of possession during the early exchanges, but despite developing some promising build-up play, the only score for Colm Smith’s charges in the opening ten minutes was a long-distance point from midfielder Helen Hughes.
In addition to a series of wides, a number of efforts dropped into the hands of opposition netminder Brid Byrne, and after eventually weathering this early storm, Wexford responded with quick-fire points by Caitriona Murray and Roisin Murphy.
Wexford were also struggling to find the target facing into a tricky breeze, however, and just past the first-quarter mark, lively inside forward Gallagher restored parity to the proceedings.
Indeed, scores were proving to be few and far between as the half wore on, but courtesy of a fine score from the increasingly-prominent Gallagher, London led by the slenderest of margins (0-3 to 0-2) at the mid-way point in the contest.
The overseas outfit were on the receiving end of a heavy defeat to Wexford in the Leinster Championship earlier on in 2015, but when a lung-bursting run by Rhona Newell led to a Gallagher goal four minutes after the restart, their chances of success received a major boost.
Byrnes presence offered a different dimension to the Wexford attack, though, and she was on hand to palm a long-delivery to the net 37 minutes in. This was precisely the tonic that the Slaney girls required, and owing to majors in quick succession by 40th minute substitute Niamh Butler and the industrious Redmond, the floodgates were beginning to open heading into the final-quarter of the tie.
In fact, after Byrne had found the range from a 35-metre free eight minutes from time, a fourth goal from the pacey Murray effectively killed off the game as a contest. Moving into the closing stages of the encounter, three scores without reply followed from Byrne, Hore and Murray, which meant that Wexford finished with 13 points to spare.
Scorers: Wexford – Maria Byrne 1-03 (0-01f), Caitriona Murray 1-02, Katie Redmond, Niamh Butler 1-00 each, Roisin Murphy, Emma Hore 0-01 each. London – Bridget Gallagher 1-02, Helen Hughes 0-01.
WEXFORD: Brid Byrne; Maeve Quill, Marica Cullen, Georgina Hearne; Niamh Mernagh, Sandra Thorpe, Ciara Neville; Roisin Murphy, Sharon Kehoe; Kelly Kearney, Niamh Moore, Ellen O’Brien; Chantelle Martin, Katie Redmond, Caitriona Murray.
Subs: Maria Byrne for O’Brien (half-time), Niamh Butler for Martin (40), Emma Hore for Moore (52), Mary O’Neill for Kearney (58), Mairead Moran for Murray (62).
LONDON: Lucy Hawkes; Ellanna Hackett, Mary Flaherty, Bernie Durkan; Sinead McCooey, Rhona Newell, Caroline Benson; Helen Hughes, Orla McWeeney; Fiona Morrissey, Caroline Hanley, Anne Marie Fitzgerald; Rebecca Mills, Roisin McDonald, Bridget Gallagher.
Subs: Patricia McCarthy for Fitzgerald (46), Caroline McKay for Morrissey (49), Onora Mulcahy for Benson (56).
Referee: Gavin Corrigan (Down).
By Daire Walsh