Ladies hoping to bridge 21-year All-Ireland final gap

One step from Croker!

TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Ladies Football semi-final: Roscommon v Wexford at Crettyard, Co. Laois on Sunday at 2 pm

Roscommon Ladies footballers are 60 minutes away from an All-Ireland Intermediate final appearance as they travel to the Laois/Kilkenny border to face Wexford in the semi-final on Sunday next.

This has the makings of a fascinating clash, as Wexford will be highly motivated for the contest because not only were they defeated in last year’s final by Westmeath, they went down to Roscommon in the NFL Division Three final earlier this year too.

It has been generally a very good year for Roscommon. Promotion in the league and a bit of silverware was always welcome in preparation for the championship, and Ollie Lennon and his management team have done a very good job with the panel this year.

A superb display against Kildare has been the highlight so far with some marvellous football on display in what was a ‘must win’ game. The win against Louth in the quarter-finals was a completely different type of performance with a really disciplined and very impressive all round team display which resulted in a comfortable victory.

However, it must be said that there have been a few bumps in the road too. A very disappointing defeat to Leitrim in the Connacht final left many scratching their heads, while a late fade out in the match against Longford (the result didn’t matter) was also a warning to the team that they cannot afford to drop their guard.

Roscommon will be hoping to build on an excellent defensive showing against Louth. Helena Cummins has loads of experience between the sticks and is one of Roscommon’s most important players and leaders.

Sinead Kenny, Rachel Fitzmaurice and Rachel Brady were tenacious and in control against Louth and the full-back line is almost certain to have Caroline Conway in front of them as sweeper. The experienced Ballyboden club player was excellent against Louth and she will play a huge role once again this Sunday.

Roisin Wynne, Aisling McAulliffe and Niamh Feeney have all been playing well in the half-back line and Wynne and Feeney will get forward as often as they can.

Roscommon are very strong in the middle of the field where Lisa O’Rourke and captain Laura Fleming have both been outstanding this year. The midfield clash will have a huge bearing on Sunday’s result.

Up front, Roscommon’s ace in the pack is Aisling Hanly, but outside her Jenny Shine has been playing some of the best football of her career at centre half-forward. The leadership she has shown this year has been invaluable. Natalie McHugh is back to her best after being plagued by injuries in recent years while her younger sister Michaela, and Fiona Tully are improving with every outing.

With Caroline Conway almost certain to be deployed in defence, Natalie McHugh and Aisling Hanly will play closest to goal, and Roscommon will hope that they will have the space to get the scores.

Roscommon have been impressive off the bench too: Rosie Lennon, Niamh Shanagher, Kate Nolan, Ellen Irwin and Sarah McVeigh have all appeared regularly and it is so important to have a strong panel for these championship games.

Wexford will be very dangerous opponents. They were in a four-team group and won all of their games, beating Offaly, Wicklow, and Leitrim on their way to the quarter-finals. In the last eight, they faced Tyrone and won by 3-14 to 3-9. With five minutes left in that game it was 3-13 to 2-5 and a late surge from Tyrone that yielded 1-4 disguised what was an easy win for the Model County.

Their defeat in the All-Ireland final in 2021 will be a huge motivating factor for them. They were heavily beaten by Westmeath that day and they will be anxious to erase those memories this year.

They have some outstanding players such as Ciara Banville, Aisling Murphy, Amy Wilson, Roisin Murphy, Aisling Halligan, and Sherene Hamilton. They are managed by well-known former camogie player and coach Lizzy Kent. and they will go into the game confident that they can get to the final.

When the sides met in the league final earlier in the year in Birr neither side played well and Roscommon scraped home by a point. That match and result will have very little consequence on Sunday.

There is a huge prize on offer and it is 21 years since a Roscommon ladies team played in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day. If Roscommon can display the same intensity as we saw against Louth and get the scores that we saw against Kildare, this is a game that can definitely be won.

Prediction: Roscommon.