Louth’s unbeaten start in Division 3 came to an end as Wexford eked out a hard-earned win in difficult conditions at Darver on Sunday.
he Reds were the only side with full points and this victory for the Slaneysiders sees them join Louth and Kildare on top of the third tier table.
All associated with Kit Henry’s side would have been pleased with their efforts but not the result on a frustrating afternoon where Offaly official Ciarán Groome received plenty of criticism for his decisions with three Louth players exasperated to be sent to the sin-bin and also the award of a dubious penalty to the visitors.
Wexford signalled their intent early on courtesy of points from Ciara Donnelly and Caoilfhionn Ni Nuallaain but well-taken efforts by Laura Collins had the sides level in the 10th minute.
Dearbhla O’Connor became the first player in red to see yellow for a foul on Aoife Cullen and after Kate Flood and Ni Nuallain swapped points, referee Groome didn’t endear himself to the home fans as he sent another Louth player, Duffy, to the sin-bin for an innocuous coming together with Ciara Banville midway through the half.
In a contest where every ball was fiercely contested, Louth were happy to go in at the break on level terms as both sides added just a point for the remainder of the half, 0-5 each
The second half saw Sarah Harding-Kenny and Laura Collins exchange points before the same two players dropped shots into the respective ’keepers’ hands.
With scores so hard to come by, Wexford received a huge boost in the 42nd minute when sub Aisling Murphy’s shot appeared to be going wide but aided by the wind, it drifted into the corner of the net, deceiving the otherwise excellent Rebecca Lambe-Fagan.
Louth weren’t behind for long as just two minutes later, Wexford custodian Leanne Moore performed heroics to deny Flood but the alert Lauren Boyle, who had just been introduced, picked up the rebound and found Flood who floated a brilliant effort over the back-pedalling ’keeper that left the teams level pegging at 1-5 each.
Offaly official Groome was again in the limelight when he awarded the visitors a penalty with Catriona Murray firing over. This set the scene for a frantic finale as Louth went in search of an equaliser. They did create a number of chances but couldn’t find a way through a packed maroon and gold defence.
Any chance of salvaging a draw took a severe hit when Flood became the third Louth player to receive a yellow card in the 25th minute.
The contest was finally put beyond doubt deep in added time when a Louth attack broke down, allowing Wexford to launch a devastating counter-attack which ended with their second goal, a fabulous finish by Murray.
With three wins from four, Louth sit on top of the group alongside Kildare and Wexford with a trip to fellow promotion chasers Clare next on March 19 and their final fixture a week later at home to Down.
With the top teams meeting in the final, one more victory may be enough to book Louth’s place in the decider.
Louth: Rebecca Lambe-Fagan; Eimear Murray, Caoimhe Boyle, Rachel Beirth; Mia Duffy, Shannen McLaughlin, Caitlin O’Reilly; Dearbhla O’Connor, Áine Breen; Aoife Russell, Aoife Halligan, Ceire Nolan; Niamh Rice, Kate Flood 1-1, Laura Collins 0-4. Subs: Lauren Boyle, Lucy White, Hannah O’Neill.
Wexford: Leanne Moore; Aisling Halligan, Shauna Murphy, Katie English; Orlagh Kehoe, Róisín Murphy, Karen Tomkins; Aoife Cullen, Ciara Donnelly; Bebhinn McDonald, Catriona Murray, 1-1, Ciara Banville; Sarah Harding-Kenny 0-1, Áine Lacey, Caoilfhionn Ní Nuallain 0-3. Subs: Anne Byrne 0-1, Aisling Murphy 1-0.
Referee: Ciarán Groome (Offaly).