Keenan, Molloy strike
GOALS IN either half from Aidan Keenan and Eric Molloy handed Wexford Youths a pre-season victory against the Defence Forces in the W.I.T. complex in Carriganore on Friday.
While their first friendly of the year in Bunclody the previous week understandably lacked intensity, there was no such problem on the astro-turf with the surface, and the attitude of both sides, making for a fast-paced clash.
Youths might need to survive a few months of heavy pitches before the slick grass of the Premier Division arrives as spring moves to summer, but the speed of this game will serve Wexford well in the long, and the short, term.
Half of the outfield starters were slated to play the full game with Wexford naming five outfield substitutes, but with Gary Delaney unable to finish the game just Conor Whittle, Danny Ledwith, Eric Molloy and the lively Conor English completed 90 minutes.
With three of Shane Keegan's squad lining out for the Forces, and strikers Danny Furlong and Paul Murphy absent, numbers were a little shorter than usual for the Airtricity First Division champions.
While the game was a bit helter-skelter, clear chances were few and far between. Wexford pushed men on when in possession and often looked to Gary Delaney to deliver from the back to four men playing deep against the Forces defence.
They also pressed high up the pitch when not in possession but it didn't upset their opponents who gave as good as they got in the first quarter of an hour. The Wexford opener came in the 17th minute and was the result of their best two passes of the half.
Danny Ledwith forced the ball long into the right channel for Conor English to break. English used his pace to get clear before sending a low cross just past the penalty spot to Aidan Keenan who controlled and slotted past Aidan Brown in the Defence Forces goal.
Later, there was one comedic moment in the half that might have produced a different reaction had points been at stake in a league game. Conor English got a step on Lee Delaney, only to be pulled down when heading towards goal. However, it was missed by both referee and linesperson.
It wasn't missed on the Wexford bench but shouts for a free soon gave way to disbelieving laughs. Youths manager Keegan even had the chance to ask the culprit Lee Delaney was it him who committed the pull-back, to which the Defence Forces player smiled and nodded as play continued.
Apart from a half-chance when Keenan chose to square rather than take a shot himself, allowing the 'keeper to smother, there was no other good chance for Youths to get a second before the break.
After the resumption, the Forces went close in the 60th minute when Tom Doyle brought a good, low save out of Matthew Connor. However, as the half wore on Youths started to test the high defensive line of their opponents.
They finally got that second goal ten minutes from time when Ledwith's quick free from the left was guided by Molloy with a stretching, toe-volley past Brown to seal the win.
As time ran out Youths had a few other decent chances to add a third but it wasn't to be.
Next up on the pre-season schedule for Wexford is a game against the Irish Universities team on Monday, February 15. That's followed by a Leinster Senior Cup clash with Athlone and a final friendly with Cobh Ramblers.
With the Premier Division opener on March 4 quickly approaching, Shane Keegan has added another eight names to his squad to bring it up to 26.
Conor O'Keeffe joins from Belgrove Home Farm following a successful trial, while Stephen Last, Conor Whittle, Chris Kenny and John Peare renew their contracts.
Paul Brennan, Daryl Power and Adam Dunbar are all promoted from Youths' Under-19s to the Senior squad.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle (capt.); Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Stephen Last, Paul Brennan; Conor Whittle, Danny Ledwith, Shane Dunne, Eric Molloy; Aidan Keenan, Conor English. Subs. - Conor O'Keeffe for McCabe (46), Ryan Delaney for Last (46), Jonny Bonner for Brennan (46), John Peare for Dunne (46), Matthew Connor for Doyle (46), Daryl Power for Keenan (46), McCabe for G. Delaney, inj. (70).
Defence Forces: Aidan Brown; Ricky Fox, Keith Duffy, Lee Delaney, David Long; Ian Finlay, Jonathon Deegan, Craig Wall, Jamie Murphy, Gerry Walsh, Aidan Friel. Subs. - Seán Gannon for Fox (46), Craig Shortt for Delaney (46), Tim Doyle for Long (46), Chris Kenny for Deegan (46), Dave O'Riordan for Wall (46), Lee Smith for Finlay (46), Jody Dillon for Walsh (46), Seán Poutch for Friel (54), Barry Tourish for Murphy (58), John Durney for Duffy (58).
Referee: Seán Grant (Wexford).
WEXFORD YOUTHS2 DEFENCE FORCES0