By Daragh Ë Conch·ir
Offaly held off a spirited Wexford in a tumultuous second half to claim the honours in a Gala All-Ireland camogie final for the second season in a row.
Last year’s junior champions have flourished under the stewardship of Faithful legend Joachim Kelly and showed tremendous character to finish strongly in this intermediate decider, after seeing their good work in the first half wiped out by Wexford’s scoring burst of 2-4 in the 19 minutes after the resumption.
The pacy Fiona Rochford, who was switched to full-forward in the first half, bagged both of Wexford’s goals in the 45th and 49th minutes. The second brought the sides level at 2-8 apiece but crucially, Offaly hit back with four of the next five points.
Ailsa Hayden notch up their first score in 15 minutes to put them in front and Siobhan Flannery followed up with a wonder score, her fourth of the day.
Inspirational Wexford captain Claire O’Connor reduced the margin to the minimum from a free.
But the Offaly skipper Michaela Morkan colossal at centre-back the midlanders kicked on. Emma Dunne and Arlene Watkins slotted the points which made Linda Bolger’s riposte an insufficient one.
It had looked like a much more comfortable day at the office for Offaly when the magnificent Elaine Dermody threatened to win the game on her own.
The Drumcullen sharpshooter struck for goals in the eighth and 29th minutes, and with Flannery driving over three points and Jean Brady providing two, they were full value for their 2-7 to 0-4 interval lead despite the brilliance of Wexford centre-back Louise Codd.
Wexford made two substitutions at half time and with the switch of O’Connor and Rochford paying major dividends they made a thrilling contest of this final.
Perhaps significantly though, they never managed to get their noses in front and it was Offaly who showed the greater staying power to claim the Jack McGrath Cup.
Offaly: A Kennedy; F Stephens, L Keena, K Brady; S Sullivan, M Morkan, L Sullivan; A Watkins 0-1, M Crean; J Brady 0-2, A Kelly, S Flannery 0-4; K Nugent, E Dermody 2-3(0-1f), T Hannon. Subs: M Davis for Kelly (43); A Hughes 0-1 for Nugent (45); E Dunne 0-1 for Flannery (56)
Wexford: H Jacob; J Hayden, L O’Leary, C Atkinson; F Doran, L Codd, S Kehoe; E Moran, L O’Connor; F Rochford 2-1, S Nolan, S Redmond 0-1; S Kehoe, C O’Connor 0-5(3fs), Lisa Bolger 0-2. Subs: E O’Connor for Nolan (ht); B Curran for Doran (ht); Linda Bolger 0-1 for Kehoe (54)