By Daragh Ë Conch·ir
They were made to live on their nerves a little at the end by a resolute Galway unit desperate for success but Wexford were worthy winners of the Gala All-Ireland senior camogie title for the first time since 2007.
On that occasion, Mary Leacy captained the side and this time it was her sister Una who was presented with the O’Duffy Cup.
The game ended in a welter of excitement when Aislinn Connolly’s free from under the Hogan Stand right on the hour flew all the way to the corner of the net to leave just two points between the sides.
Try as they might though, Galway could not break down a splendid Wexford rearguard one more time and so their search for a second All-Ireland continues.
The big news was the appearance of Jessica Gill at full-forward for the Tribeswomen. The Athenry star had made a number of substitute appearances in the round-robin stages of the championship as she continued her recovery from a cruciate knee ligament operation but this was her first start.
Veronica Curtin, who had been in flying form on the edge of the square all season, was switched to the corner. But even when Galway got more of a foothold around the middle in the second half, they found it difficult to break down the Wexford defence and only managed three points from play in the entire game.
Corner-back Claire O’Connor maintained her phenomenal record of not conceding a single score in eight championship encounters, Curtin’s sole point coming after she had switched to the opposite corner.
Catherine O’Loughlin was monumental at full-back and Mary Leacy gave another commanding performance in front of her.
It was this dominance that laid the platform for Wexford’s victory and in particular the first half superiority that gave them a seven point lead at the break, 1-8 to 0-4.
They were three points clear by the 19th minute, Una Leacy, Kate Kelly and Katrina Parrock slotting points from play.
To be fair to Galway, despite being clearly second best, that was still the margin with half time looming but in the 30th minute, Wexford struck for a crucial goal from Katrina Parrock.
It was Kelly who started the move and she found Una Leacy brilliantly. The skipper beat Ann-Marie Hayes before drawing Regina Glynn and hand-passing to Parrock, who drove low beyond the exposed Susan Earner. Una Jacob added a point and Wexford were full value for their advantage.
Galway were a different prospect after the resumption though and Wexford’s forwards had nowhere near the amount of space afforded to them earlier on. Wing-back Niamh Kilkenny gave an exhibition for the Maroons but they needed to take every chance that came their way.
They couldn’t do it however, and Gill had a 34th minute penalty that she had won herself saved by Mags D’Arcy. The St Martin’s custodian also advanced quickly off her line to deny Therese Maher and they were to prove critical interventions, especially when Josie Dwyer somehow hand-passed wide at the other end with the goal gaping.
Still, it looked like the game was meandering to an inevitable conclusion when Connolly was fouled around 35m out. When the Castlegar player’s shot ended in the back of the Wexford net, the Galway supporters erupted in joy and hope. But it wasn’t to be and two minutes later, it was Wexford who were celebrating.
Wexford: M D’Arcy; C O’Connor, C O’Loughlin, K Atkinson; N Lambert, M Leacy, A O’Connor; C Murphy, D Codd; K Kelly 0-2, U Leacy 0-1, M O’Leary 0-1; K Parrock 1-2, U Jacob 0-6(4fs), J Dwyer. Subs: C Storey for Atkinson inj (14); L Holohan for Codd (53)
Galway: S Earner; S Tannian, S Dervan, R Glynn; N Kilkenny, AM Hayes, T Manton; B Hanney, O Kilkenny 0-1; C Murray, T Maher, A Connolly 1-6(1-4fs, 2 45s); T Rutledge, J Gill 0-1(f), V Curtin 0-1. Subs: E Kilkelly for Rutledge temp (9-18); L Ryan for Murray (28); Kilkelly 0-1 for Rutledge (ht); H Cooney for Manton (39); J McGrath for Gill (56); A Lynskey for O Kilkenny (60+1)