Cup holders coast home
Aviva beckons next month
Much as expected, Wexford Youths Women had very little trouble dismissing Kilkenny in Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday, booking their place opposite Shelbourne in the Continental Tyres Senior Cup final in the process.
Wexford Youths 7 Kilkenny 0
In truth, had it not been for some wayward finishing, the defending champions would have easily hit double figures for the first time this season. Really, the miscues in front of goal aside, there was plenty to like about this Wexford performance, albeit against limited opponents.
For the second game running Gary Hunt set his side up with a back four. When Youths have flipped from a three to a four in the past, they have generally swapped back against weaker teams. It's significant that they choose to go with the four against their poorest opponent.
The thing is, it works fine against poor teams because of Jess Gleeson. The dominant centre-half can step up and pick a pass from deep, allowing the midfielders to clear out of their own half and get themselves in positions where they are difficult to pick up.
Wexford used it constantly, especially in the first-half. Primarily diagonally to Linda Douglas and Aisling Frawley on the wings, but also central to Aoibhín Webb between the lines and Claire O'Riordan slipping through the middle.
It took less than three minutes for Youths to implement that aspect of their gameplan. Gleeson drilled wide on the left for Frawley who forced across the face of goal, and Kilkenny were just able to clear behind the posts before Claire O'Riordan could add the finishing touches. Becky Cassin kneed the resulting Webb corner wide.
The full-on pressure continued. Nicola Sinnott's shot, from Frawley's centre, was deflected behind again. This Webb corner was met powerfully on the run by Gleeson, and it flew at the Kilkenny goal but straight at a grateful Cliona Murphy.
Wexford created their first clearcut chance in the tenth minute. Webb was superb in the hole, picking passes elegantly, and she slipped O'Riordan through on Murphy's goal but the Limerick native scooped her shot over the crossbar.
Douglas was the next recipient of a Webb through-ball in the 17th minute. Again it produced a one-on-one with Murphy, just to the right of goal. Douglas connected well with her strike but missed the target.
The third time wasn't the charm as Murphy slid O'Riordan through but she side-footed wide of the right post. Wexford didn't have to wait long for the first goal though as Webb put the hosts ahead in the 25th minute.
After switching to the left, Linda Douglas started the move by feeding Becky Cassin in the middle. She found O'Riordan who released Frawley on the right wing. Her low cross was perfect for Webb to cushion a half-volley high to the Kilkenny net.
The goal certainly settled Wexford. Frawley picked out Webb on the edge of the area but she fired over the bar. The Carlow native then walloped a volley from Linda Douglas' left-wing throw-in that Murphy did well to save.
Gleeson was at it again in the 31st minute, releasing O'Riordan from deep. The Youths striker didn't have time to be disappointed with another saved shot as the ball rebounded to Webb and she slotted a controlled finish to the empty net.
A drilled Gleeson shot from fully 40 metres out sent Murphy sprawling to save. Frawley then fired into the side-netting from Webb's right wing cross as Wexford kept pressing for a third.
It came five minutes before the interval. Amy Walsh swung her first corner of the afternoon into the perfect area. Kylie Murphy might have got a touch on it before it landed at O'Riordan's feet and she fired high to the net.
Lauren Dwyer made up for her own error by blocking a Ciara Delaney shot in the 41st minute. Just before the interval Wexford made it 4-0.
Gleeson's ball flew past Kylie Murphy and landed between O'Riordan and Cliona Ní Shé. The Youths striker pressured the Kilkenny defender into a mistake, ran clear and side-footed past Cliona Murphy.
The second-half started like the first ended, with Wexford dominating. Linda Douglas broke in on Murphy's pass but saw her effort deflected and saved. Webb was then denied after latching on to a poor kick-out.
A couple of close offside calls went against Kylie Murphy before another sensational Webb pass sent O'Riordan in on goal again. Cliona Murphy thwarted the Youths striker once more, getting a toe to her shot to deflect it behind.
The fifth goal did come when Frawley crossed from the right wing. Becky Cassin evaded the defence and with a combination of head and shoulder forced the ball to the corner of the visitors' net.
Five became six in the 55th minute. Cassin headed an Amy Walsh corner onto the crossbar, as did Murphy with the rebound, but when her effort came down it crossed the goal-line and the assistant flagged. It mattered little as Cassin made sure, banging home as the ball broke out.
Youths withdrew Douglas in the 57th minute, Amy Walsh moved to the left wing and Clare Conlon came in. It was almost an invitation for Wexford to down tools as they coasted through the remainder of the game.
It was the 70th minute before they went close again with Walsh sending a half-volley over the frame of the goal. Gleeson headed onto the crossbar from Walsh's superbly inviting free-kick 15 minutes from time.
Youths finished the game with ten players after Conlon was forced off injured, but it didn't alter the flow of the game. Michaela Farrell headed into her own net from a Frawley cross with five minutes remaining to make it seven and round out a strong performance from the hosts.
The final against Shelbourne will take place in the Aviva Stadium before the men's equivalent on November 6. It is a repeat of the 2015 decider that saw Wexford beat the north Dublin side on penalties.
Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Jess Gleeson, Amy Walsh; Linda Douglas, Becky Cassin, Kylie Murphy (capt.), Aisling Frawley; Aoibhín Webb; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Tamara Furlong for Lenehan (46), Clare Conlon for Douglas (57), Aoife Prendergast for Sinnott (72), also Rachel Hutchinson, Emma Hansberry, Maria Delahunty, Sinéad Gaynor.
Kilkenny: Cliona Murphy; Michaela Farrell, Ally O'Keeffe, Cliona Ní Shé, Alanna Dolan; Shianne Swarres, Ashlinn Carroll; Sophie Kiely, Jenny O'Keeffe, Niamh Kelly; Ciara Delaney. Sub. - Gemma Barry for Kiely (83).
Referee: Nicky Boland.