Playing with all of the guts, guile and raw pride that supporters of the blue and gold love to see associated with their inter-county teams the Tipperary ladies footballers fought back from six points down to win the replayed Lidl National Ladies Football Division Three League final at St Brendan’s Park in Birr on Sunday afternoon.
Lidl National Ladies Football
Division Three League Final Replay
Tipperary 0-15 Wexford 1-10
In first half injury time Tipperary trailed 0-5 to 1-8, but proceeded to score eight points without reply either side of the interval to streak into a two-point advantage (0-13 to 1-8). And, Tipperary’s resilience was tested to a significant degree in the final quarter when a series of sin-binnings reduced Shane Ronayne’s team to just twelve players. To their credit, however, Tipperary dug deep and even though Wexford drew level with three minutes to play the Premier ladies earned two late frees to seal this famous win.
Aishling Moloney collected the player of the match award and while no one could deny the impact made by the Cahir star on this final please spare a thought too for the performances of Emma Buckley, Jennifer Grant, Gillian O’Brien and key playmaker Aisling McCarthy. Indeed, the collective performance of the entire team was something to cherish.
Playing against the wind and with Wexford employing a sweeper to significant effect Tipperary found the going hard during the opening quarter. Indeed, Wexford led 0-4 to 0-1 after thirteen minutes with strikes from Ellen O’Brien, Kellie Kearney, Fiona Rochford and Aisling Murphy forcing their side three clear. Only Aishling Moloney (placed ball) managed a response for a Tipperary team who could have easily conceded a goal in the 13th minute, but Lauren Fitzpatrick deflected Aisling Murphy’s effort over. And, Tipperary appeared to be on the brink of conceding the opening goal of the game in the 15th minute, but Siobhán Condon dispossessed the raiding Fiona Rochford with a sensational tackle.
Jennifer Grant set Orla O’Dwyer up for a point seconds later which appeared to settle a Tipperary team who soon added efforts from Grant and O’Dwyer to tie the game (0-4 apiece) by the 19th minute. The final point in this sequence was especially encouraging since Elaine Fitzpatrick had created a goal-scoring opportunity for O’Dwyer, but Wexford ‘keeper Mary Rose Kelly did especially well to deflect Orla’s effort over.
A Fiona Rochford free edged Wexford back into the lead in the 23rd minute before Anthony Masterson’s team struck for a fortuitous three-pointer in the 25th when an odd spin on a Rochford shot deceived Tipp ‘keeper Lauren Fitzpatrick and snuck in under the crossbar (0-4 to 1-5).
Aishling Moloney landed a sensational individual effort in response, but Wexford hit three consecutive points to surge six clear thanks to scores from Bernie Breen, Aisling Murphy and Fiona Rochford. Link player Clara Donnelly was doing significant damage and had a hand to play in all three scores.
Tipp struck for the final point of the opening half when Maria Curley created an opportunity for Aishling Moloney (0-6 to 1-8) and although that effort was rousing in nature the outfit managed by Shane Ronayne had their work carved out for them. Tipperary were struggling to think their way around the Wexford sweeper, were regularly gobbled up by the opposition defence and had already dropped six efforts into the grateful arms of ‘keeper Mary Rose Kelly.
Tipperary emerged a team transformed for the second half and fired seven points without reply during the opening sixteen minutes. Two Aisling McCarthy frees and a sin-binning for Wexford’s Bernie Breen helped Tipperary on their way.
Aishling Moloney then cut loose and booted three points from play in a devastating four-minute period to tie the game (0-11 to 1-8). Moloney intercepted a Wexford kick-out for one and was assisted for the other two by Gillian O’Brien and Aisling McCarthy respectively. Finally, Tipperary took the lead for the first time when Gillian O’Brien fired over a cracking point in the 43rd minute. Then, in the 46th minute, Caoimhe Condon’s burst carved the Wexford defence open and created the room for Aishling Moloney to help Tipperary into a two-point advantage (0-13 to 1-8).
Tipperary now looked a solid bet to see this one out; that is until Gillian O’Brien was sin-binned in the 46th minute. Four minutes later Wexford notched their first score of the second half when Ellen O’Brien reduced the Premier lead to one before Tipperary’s Maria Curley and Aishling Moloney were also sin-binned. A series of infractions had now reduced Shane Ronayne’s team to twelve and Tipperary were forced to dig deep.
Wexford struck for an equalising free (Catriona Murphy) in the 57th minute, but Tipperary refused to give in and actually came close to scoring a goal in the 58th minute - Aisling McCarthy’s free dropped short and although Roisín Howard made a telling connection Wexford ‘keeper Mary Rose Kelly saved brilliantly.
Sarah Harding-Kenny was sin-binned for Wexford in the 60th minute before this gritty Tipperary team charged forward, Elaine Kelly was fouled and Aisling McCarthy booted her side back into the lead. And, Tipperary sealed the win in the 64th minute when Aisling McCarthy converted another placed ball.
Tipperary will face Limerick in the opening round of the Munster championship on the June Bank Holiday weekend (fixture details to be confirmed) - Clare will also compete in the provincial intermediate championship this year while the Munster final is scheduled to take place on July 8th.
Qualifying for the Munster final represents Tipperary’s gateway to the All-Ireland series - the Munster champions progress to the All-Ireland quarter-finals on August 12th while the provincial finalists feature in a qualifier on August 5th.
Tipperary ladies football manager Shane Ronayne is joined on the management team by strength and conditioning coach-selector Alan O’Connor (Cahir), selector Tony Smith (Moyle Rovers), selector Elaine Harte (Cork) and goalkeeping coach Tomás Mac a tSaoir (Kerry).
Tipperary: Lauren Fitzpatrick (Ballymacarbry), Emma Buckley (Cahir), Siobhán Condon (Aherlow), Caoimhe Condon (Brian Ború’s), Bríd Condon (Aherlow), Samantha Lambert (Ardfinnan, captain), Maria Curley (Templemore), Jennifer Grant (Brian Ború’s, 0-1), Aishling Moloney (Cahir, 0-6, 0-1 frees), Elaine Fitzpatrick (Templemore), Aisling McCarthy (Cahir, 0-5, 0-4 frees), Niamh Lonergan (Moyle Rovers), Gillian O'Brien (Moyle Rovers, 0-1), Orla O'Dwyer (Boherlahan, 0-2), Mairéad Morrissey (Brian Ború’s). Subs: (48th) Roisín Howard (Cahir) for Niamh Lonergan, (57th) Elaine Kelly (Cappawhite) for Mairéad Morrissey. Panel: Patricia Hickey (Brian Ború’s), Catherina Walsh (Moycarkey-Borris), Eimear Myles (Brian Ború’s), Roisín McGrath (Moyle Rovers), Rachel O'Donnell (Cahir), Laura Dillon (Ardfinnan), Máire Condon (Aherlow), Alison Lonergan (Galtee Rovers), Nicola Loughnane (Thurles Sarsfields), Aoibhe O'Shea (Mullinahone), Aoife Corcoran (Cahir), Sarah Everard (Moyle Rovers) & Shauna Quirke (Cappawhite).
Wexford: Mary Rose Kelly, Marguerite Doyle, Marica Cullen, Sarah Harding-Kenny, Niamh Mernagh, Roisín Murphy, Georgina Hearne, Bernie Breen (0-1), Kellie Kearney (0-1), Clara Donnelly, Catriona Murray (0-1, 0-1 frees), Niamh Butler, Aisling Murphy (0-2), Fiona Rochford (1-3, 0-1 frees), Ellen O’Brien (0-2). Subs: (49th) Siobhán Cloake for Georgina Hearne, (65th) Fiona Rowe for Niamh Butler.
Referee: Stephen McNulty (Wicklow).