by Kevin Egan
Wexford manager Anthony Masterson hailed the fearlessness of corner forward Catriona Murray, after his star corner forward effectively won the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 3 title for her county with an individual haul of 3-5 yesterday, powering the Model County to a four-point win over Meath at St. Brendan's Park in Birr.
Murray's killer instinct was crucial after 54 minutes when she seized a Meath kickout and promptly took off, thinking very differently to her manager as she bore down on goal.
"I was hoping she'd pop it over the bar, but she was thinking differently, that's just the type of player she is, she goes for the jugular every time" said Masterson, who watched as Murray blasted the ball into the roof of the net. The score crushed a Meath uprising that had seen the gap go from seven points to just two, as Wexford atoned for last year's Division 3 final replay defeat at the hands of Tipperary.
"She saw a chance to win the game and that's exactly what she did," Masterson smiled.
Most managers try to dampen down expectations as they start to think of the games that are looming up ahead, but the former Wexford senior footballer is well aware that there's no point doing that with this group.
"You have to be realistic, we're looking at a Leinster title and we're looking at an All-Ireland title. I can't tell the girls any different because they've got their sights set on Croke Park".
Meath will be one of the counties that will hope to deny Wexford that provincial and All-Ireland glory, and they'll look back at the first half and wonder how much stronger they could have been if full forward Vicki Wall and full back Orlagh Lally had been fit to start.
Even without those two key players, Meath moved into an 0-6 to 0-4 lead before a quickfire 1-1 from Murray gave Wexford a two-point lead at half time.
The third quarter belonged to Wexford as Niamh Butler, Clara Donnelly and Bernie Breen all popped over points, with Aisling Murphy pulling the strings from full forward while Murray added a second goal.
An inch-perfect penalty from Stacey Grimes reduced the gap as the game entered the closing stages with Meath piling on the pressure, but veteran keeper Mary Rose Kelly delivered a crucial save to deny Niamh O'Sullivan, preserving Wexford's lead going into the closing minutes and setting the stage for Murray to deliver the coup de grace.
Prodigious young talent and proven stars combining, exactly as Masterson planned!
"We wanted to a bring a bit of youth into the panel but we're very lucky, we've got players like Bernie Breen there, Mary Rose Kelly came back, she's been huge as well, they've been great helping the young players push on and as a group, they're really united, it's great to work with them". claimed the joyous Wexford manager.