OFFALY could not have faced a sterner test of their senior credentials than coming up against the reigning All Ireland champions Wexford last Sunday at St Judes in Dublin.
Joachim Kelly’s charges have surged from the Junior ranks and , after claiming the Intermediate title last year, rightly take their place among the games elite. However, the Model County are a very focused and steely outfit who stamped their authority on the game in the second half.
The Faithful more than matched their Leinster rivals in the opening excahnges as their captain Ealine Dermdoy converted two frees inside five minutes. Despite playing into the wind Wexford hit back through Katrina Parrock and Bríd Gordon.
It was a case of giving as good as you got for the senior newcomers at this stage and Ails Hughes, Ursula Jacob and Dermody exchanged scores before Linda O’Sullivan edge the Midlanders two up.
Unfortunately that would be their last score of the half as Wexford hit five unanswered scores against the elements. Ursula Jacon was on target three times with Lenny Holohan and Kate Kelly also getting in on the act. The score stood 0-8 to 0-5 at the interval.
After the restart it was first blood to Offaly thanks to Dermody but they were soon trailing further Una Leacy, on for the injured Holohan, hit 1-1 in quick succession. Dermody and Jacob swapped free as Offaly trailed by six.
Siobhan Falnnery hit the next score for Offaly before Emma Dunne got what would prove to be their last point of the match with over ten minutes left to play. Wexford’s strenght in depth began to show as their fresh legs proved too much for the opposition.
Katrina Parrock fired over with Una Leacy tapping another point before fellow substitute Fiona Kavanagh got her side’s econd goal with less than five minutes left in the game. There was still time for Leacy, Parrock and Lousie Codd to add points.
In their first year in the top flight, Offaly’s run to the Leinster Final will stand them in good stead for the tough championship games ahead.
The side more than held their own in Division 1 of the league and their semi-final win over Dublin in the Leinster Championship showed they are more than capable of matching up with sides at this level.
WEXFORD: Mags D’Arcy; Claire O’Connor, Catherine O’Loughlin, Karen Atkinson; Aíne Codd, Mary Leacy, Deirdre Codd; Kate Kelly 0-1, Michelle O’Leary; Bríd Gorman 0-1, Ursula Jacob 0-5 (4f), Josie Dwyer 0-1; Katrina Parrock 0-3, Lenny Holohan 0-1, Evelyn Quigley. Subs: Una Leacy 1-3 for Holohan (h/t), Fiona Kavanagh 1-0 for Quigley (40mins), Noeleen Lambert for A Codd (40mins), Louise Codd 0-1 for Jacob (50mins), Bernie Holohan for O’Connor (50mins)
OFFALY: Michelle Gleeson; Fiona Stephens, Lorraine Kenna, Karen Brady; Sheila Sullivan, Michaela Morkan, Debbie Flynn; Tina Hannon, Marion Crean; Linda Sullivan 0-1, Arlene Watkins, Siobhán Flannery 0-1; Jean Brady, Elaine Dermody 0-5 (4f); Ailsa Hughes 0-1. Subs: Emma Dunne 0-1 for Debbie Flynn (h/t), Aoife Kelly for Brady (39mins), Roisín Coughlan for Stephens (48mins), Triona McDonald for Sullivan (57mins).
REFEREE: Karl O’Brien (Dublin)