By Daragh Ó Conchúir
DUBLIN goalkeeper Faye McCarthy was the star of the show as the Metropolitans secured a place in the semi-final of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship for the first time in 27 years.
Aisling Maher, Eimear McCarthy and Hannah Hegarty were magnificent too, while Ail Twomey’s 53rd minute goal stopped a Wexford comeback in its tracks and eased any fraying nerves.
In truth it was a wonderful all-round effort by a team managed by five-time All-Ireland hurling winner David Herity but the former Kilkenny goalie must have relished the performance of his netminder.
McCarthy went into the game as joint leading scorer with 1-15 from frees and was scheduled to compete in the All-Ireland Poc Fada as Leinster champion, having finished third in the competition last year, but she made her presence felt at Semple Stadium instead.
The 20-year-old, who played against Waterford in the group stages with a stress fracture in her foot, only added two points to her tally on this occasion, including an unbelievable effort into the wind from the 65m line in the second half, but a number of scores in the opening period were a direct result of the pressure placed on the Wexford back division as her wind-assisted frees landed deep in enemy territory.
Along with all that McCarthy made three fantastic saves. The first of those was vital as it came in the fifth minute of injury time at the end of the first half, from Sarah O’Connor’s penalty after Úna Leacy had been tripped by Gráinne Quinn.
The second was the best, as she showed amazing reflexes to deflect Joanne Dillon’s thunderous strike after a strong run through the middle early in the second period.
Wexford began well and led by 0-3 to 0-0 lead by the fifth minute. They had two in the first 100 seconds as Chloe Foxe, who got on a lot of ball early on, supplied the Kehoe sisters Shelly and Stacey for neat finishes. Foxed added a free and the Yellowbellies were flying.
Dublin settled though and Hegarty and Eimear McCarthy drove them forward, while their attackers increased their workrate significantly, making it difficult for Wexford’s defenders to make effective clearances.
Maher got them off the mark from a free tight on the left in the ninth minute and Dublin were level two minutes later, Maher slotting well over her shoulder and the speedy Siobhán Kehoe equalising.
Hegarty pointed inspirationally on the run from 60m and Maher put two between them before Foxe found Stacey Kehoe making a left-to-right run to reduce the deficit to one.
That was Wexford’s last score of the half though as Dublin took over completely, Ellen McGovern, Eimear McCarthy (two), and Maher putting five between them at half time, 0-9 to 0-4.
It would have been worse but for a good save by Nicole Fortune from Siobhán Kehoe but her Dublin counterpart did the honours at the other end to maintain the five-point margin.
Wexford, who lost former skipper Karen Atkinson through injury in the first half, would have prioritised a good start with the wind but it was Dublin that were emboldened, Maher providing the pick of the scores as they moved seven ahead.
The Model County’s finest needed a spark and it came from substitute Linda Bolger, who pointed from distance. Shelly Kehoe shot a brace of points inside a minute, and O’Connor landed a long-range free. Suddenly it was 0-14 to 0-11 with 12 minutes remaining and Wexford had all the momentum.
The next score would be crucial and it came to Dublin, Twomey pouncing to flick one-handed to the net as Fortune dropped Siobhán Kehoe’s delivery.
That knocked the stuffing out of Wexford as Twomey followed up straight away with a point and Faye McCarthy also found the target before making another impressive stop from Stacy Kehoe. There would be no denying her, or Dublin.
SCORERS FOR DUBLIN: A Maher 0-7 (5fs); A Twomey 1-2; E McCarthy, F McCarthy (fs) 0-2 each; Siobhán Kehoe, E McGovern, H Hegarty 0-1 each,
SCORERS FOR WEXFORD: C Foxe 0-4(2fs, 1 45); Shelly Kehoe 0-3; Stacey Kehoe 0-2; L Bolger, S O’Connor (f), Ú Leacy (f) 0-1 each
DUBLIN: F McCarthy, E M Elliott, E O’Brien, G Quinn, H Hegarty, A Carolan, A Woods, M Twomey, E McCarthy, A Twomey, A Maguire, E McGovern, E Flanagan, A Maher, S Kehoe. Subs: C Donnelly for Maguire (ht), M Moynihan for McGovern (50)
WEXFORD: N Fortune, S O’Connor, C Storey, K Atkinson, S Nolan, M Leacy, A Lacey, B Gordon, A Cardiff, Stacey Kehoe, Shelly Kehoe, C Foxe, Ú Leacy, J Dillon, E Walsh. Subs: S Sinnott for Atkinson inj (23); L Bolger for Foxe (40), Ú Sinnott for Cardiff (45)
REFEREE: C Egan (Cork)