By Deniese O'Flaherty
Mo Nerney scored 1-5 but it was a superb defensive display that helped Laois claim the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship for the first time since 2000 after a narrow win over Wexford.
Laois looked comfortable and on their way to claiming the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup, when they opened up a ten-point lead in the second half. However, Wexford never gave up. A goal from Caitriona Murray in the 58th minute left just three between them but Laois held on at Croke Park.
Laois dominated the early exchanges but kicked too many wides in the first half. Erone Fitzpatrick saw an effort flash across the face of the goal in the second minute while Laura Marie Maher directed her effort wide in the 15th minute.
Eva Galvin had kicked over the game’s first score inside the opening minute. Maher added a second point for Laois in the fifth minute while Clara Donnelly got Wexford’s first point one minute later.
Nerney scored two frees and then found the back of the net with an excellent finish in the 18th minute, after she received a pass from Galvin. A fine point from Murray cut the gap to four but that was to be Wexford’s last score of the first half as Laois finished strong.
Emma Lawlor and Fitzpatrick fired over two points each and a pointed free from Nerney gave Donie Brennan’s side a nine-point advantage at the break, where they led by 1-9 to 0-3.
The second half wasn’t even a minute old when Fitzpatrick stretched her side’s lead to ten with her third point. Wexford substitute Aoife Cullen scored a fine point for her side in the 33rd minute. Kellie Kearney and Bernie Breen added points for Wexford before Cullen fired a low drive wide in the 36th minute.
Wexford went in search of a goal and Aisling Murphy brought a good save out of Laois goalkeeper Eimear Barry in the 39th minute before a Murray free came back off the post.
Lizzy Kent’s team kept battling away and trailed by six with 12 minutes remaining. But in Nerney, Laois possessed a quality player and she kicked over an excellent point in the 51st minute.
Laois full-back Aisling Donoher was sin-binned two minutes later. With numerical advantage Wexford piled on the pressure and the Slaneysiders did get a late goal and point through Murray but they suffered a second straight defeat in the final.
Laois scorers: M Nerney 1-5 (4f), E Fitzpatrick 0-3, E Lawlor 0-2 (1f), A Healy, E Galvin, L M Maher 0-1 each.
Wexford scorers: C Murray 1-3 (1f), K Kearney 0-3, B Breen 0-2, C Donnelly, A Murphy, A Cullen 0-1 each.
LAOIS: E Barry; C Dunne, A Donoher, A Kelly; R Williams, E Healy, A Potts; A Healy, J Moore; E Galvin, LM Maher, E Fitzpatrick; M Nerney, E Lawlor, SA Fitzgerald.
Subs: J Dunne for Potts (39), S Havill for Fitzgerald (45), A Moore for E Galvin (57)
WEXFORD: MR Kelly; S Harding Kenny, A Halligan, S Murphy; O Kehoe, R Murphy, C Donnelly; K Kearney, C Banville; S Hamilton, C Murray, E O’Brien; B Breen, A Murphy, A Wilson.
Subs: A Cullen for Hamilton (30), C Fox for Wilson (41), A Walsh for Harding Kenny (43), E Tomkins for O’Brien (45)
Referee: S Coyle (Donegal).Tweet