Delaney strikes late for dramatic Youths winner
Dramatic finish as two goals scupper lowly Cabinteely
A magical grandstand finish that produced two goals in the closing four minutes of normal time saw Wexford Youths snatch all three points from the jaws of defeat to keep themselves at the top of the pile, overcoming a gallant Cabinteely F.C. side in this Airtricity Division 1 game at Ferrycarrig Park on Friday.
Wexford Youths 3 Cabinteely 2
The narrow victory - with Gary Delaney's magnificent 89th-minute header supplementing two Danny Furlong goals - enabled the Youths to pull through a game that produced about everything during the course of its 90-plus minutes.
Having dominated the opening stages in terms of possession, the Youths were left smarting after 14 minutes when their title dreams took a severe jolt.
The visitors' centre-forward, Peter Durrad, raced on to a long ball through the centre, chased by the home side's central defenders, Willie Tyrrell and Gary Delaney.
As he moved in on advancing 'keeper Graham Doyle, Tyrrell seemed to make contact from behind with the centre-forward hitting the turf.
Referee Andrew Mullally had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, but a worse nightmare scenario was to follow as Tyrrell was shown a red card.
When the dust settled, the visitors' central midfielder and captain, John McKeown, drove the resulting penalty low and hard beyond the reach of the 'keeper, giving Cabinteely a shock 1-0 lead.
Still, the Youths had time on their side, but down to ten players for the remaining 76 minutes was to ask much of their stamina and ability to cope with the numerical disadvantage.
The Youths, to their credit, kept their composure.
They had controlled the opening ten minutes, with Furlong sending an effort just over the top during this spell, and Ryan Delaney slotted in to the now-vacant centre-back role with Peter Higgins filling in at left-back.
The home side were actually playing all the quality football, something that surely would stand to them as they tried to claw the goal back.
They built a bright move down the right with the ball being transferred inside to Furlong, who was fouled 25 metres out, dead centre of goal.
His excellently-struck free-kick brought a fine diving save from the visitors' 'keeper Evan Moran, who managed to tip the ball over the bar for what turned out to be a fruitless corner kick.
The Youths were boosted by this effort, and grew in confidence as their ten-man outfit began to take the game more to their opponents.
Beginning to show a bit of ingenuity up front, as Craig Wall and Shane Dunne started to get forward in support of Furlong, they fashioned an equalising goal after 22 minutes.
Having worked the ball through midfield, Danny Furlong was picked out to the right-hand side of the area.
The ace marksman showed why he is the league's leading scorer when displaying an excellent first touch to control the ball.
He then cut inside a few metres before unleashing a superb right-footed shot across 'keeper Moran into the opposite corner of the net, making it 1-1.
The home side now started to open up, with Shane Dunne forcing Moran into a fine diving save four minutes later, while Eric Molloy cut down the right and fired a great low ball across the face of the goal, but there was no one to apply the simplest of touches in front of a gaping net.
With the visitors unable to offer any real threat up front, Furlong saw a low header from a Craig Wall cross fly just wide, but in the 45th minute disaster struck the league leaders once again.
Cabinteely, in one of their few breaks, counter-attacked to catch the Youths flat-footed, leaving McKeown all the time in the world to pick his spot and rifle a 25-metre shot to the corner of the net past a helpless Doyle in the home goal, giving the visitors a shock 2-1 interval lead.
The local supporters must have expected the worst as they settled into their seats, down a goal and also down to ten players, and with 45 minutes to come that could decide their fate in the title race.
To be fair, Wexford Youths came out for the second-half with an attacking intent, as they laid siege to the visitors' goal during the opening five minutes.
Eric Molloy sent a shot across the face of the goal, while a last-ditch tackle from the opposing right-back, Karl Byrne, denied Andy Mulligan as he was about to pull the trigger from ten metres.
Four minutes in Shane Dunne picked out Gary Delaney from a free-kick but his right foot shot just went over the top.
Cabinteely on a rare counter-attack saw Karl Byrne drive a shot over the top, while Danny Furlong had claims for a 55th-minute penalty waved away by the referee when he seemed to be impeded as he tried to get on the end of an Andy Mulligan cross.
Then Shane Dunne had a free-kick parried away for a corner.
Having endured all the early second-half pressure, Cabinteely now began to impose themselves more on the game, but in the 66th minute they had their goalscorer John McKeown sent-off on a second yellow following a hefty challenge on Andy Mulligan.
Minutes earlier Craig McCabe was caught late by a high tackle that saw him having to leave the field. Surprisingly, the referee ignored the challenge as he dealt with the McKeown tackle.
Now with the numerical order restored, Wexford Youths showed excellent composure as they set about getting that equalising goal. The break eventually came four minutes from the end of normal time when 'keeper Moran lost possession, with Furlong alert to the breaking ball, quickly turning around the recovering defender Byrne to shoot to the corner of the net, making it 2-2.
But the drama was by no means over. With Paul Cahillane now in at midfield, the Youths went in search of a winning goal.
They battled their way forward, forcing a free-kick out on the left in front of the clubhouse.
Shane Dunne floated over an excellent ball to the far right of goal where Gary Delaney rose highest to steer a powerful header to the opposite corner of the net past a helpless Moran in the visitors' goal, giving the home side a dramatic 3-2 lead as the crowd erupted.
Now leading for the first time in the game, the Youths still had a good deal of defending to do, as the referee ordered five additional minutes.
They dealt with the Cabinteely attacks, that included two free-kicks dead centre of goal just 20 metres out, and it was when one of those kicks broke off the wall that the long whistle of the man in charge sounded.
It was one of the most dramatic evenings yet at the home of Wexford soccer, the result of which could prove crucial by the end of the campaign. Next up is a trip to the RSC to face Waterford United on August 28.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Craig McCabe (Paul Cahillane, 72), Gary Delaney, Willie Tyrrell, Ryan Delaney; Peter Higgins, Andy Mulligan, Craig Wall, Danny Furlong, Shane Dunne, Eric Molloy (Aidan Keenan, 64). Subs. not used - Jimmy Dermody, Chris Kenny, Conor Whittle, Conor English, Gavin Dowling.
Cabinteely F.C.: Evan Moran; Karl Byrne, Victor Ekanem, Josh Quinlivan, Kevin Knight; Richard Purdy, Stephen Dunne (Aaron Brilly, 72), John McKeown, Michael Brown; Peter Durrad (Conor Foley, 64), Sodiq Oquntola. Subs. not used: Lloyd Cairns, Jamie Broderick, Darren Clarke, Seán Burke, Seán Hyland.
Referee: Andrew Mullally.
SSE AIRTRICITY LEAGUE FIRST DIVISION
Finn Harps 22 1255301941
UCD201163 42 1639