Kilkenny women hit for six
The gamble to shoehorn in this Continental Tyres Women's National League game five days before the Women's Senior Cup final backfired spectacularly as Amy Walsh hobbled off with an ankle injury after just 17 minutes in the Watershed, Kilkenny, on Tuesday.
Wexford Youths 6 Kilkenny United 0
Getting some football into the legs was always going to prove useful for Wexford Youths, having not played in over three weeks. However, injury was clearly a potential problem lying in wait and it struck early on with Walsh having to be helped off the field.
It was an otherwise uneventful stroll in the park for Gary Hunt's side. There has been plenty of talk of the strides being made by Kilkenny in recent games, but they didn't really show much improvement from the other two meetings between the sides this season.
In fact, only captain Nicola Sinnott looked to be playing with anything like the intensity Wexford needed to find against Shelbourne during a pedestrian first-half. Kilkenny were gutsy but rarely threatened a Youths side which clearly had more than half an eye on that Aviva showpiece.
Wexford set up with four across the back, with Becky Cassin and Rachel Hutchinson staking their claims for starting berths on Sunday in the heart of midfield. The latter really helped her cause with a passing masterclass in the deep sitting role.
However, the early danger came from the wings via both Aisling Frawley and Linda Douglas. In the seventh minute Amy Walsh and Aoibhín Webb combined to release Douglas on the left, and her cross was turned onto her own crossbar by Cliodhna Ní Shé.
Hutchinson set Douglas away on the inside left moments later but her two yards of separation quickly disappeared and Kilkenny cleared their lines. The hosts' best chance came in the 14th minute when Ciara Delaney sent Casey Hennessy in on goal, but she panicked and shot poorly at a confident Sophie Lenehan.
After Walsh got injured, Wexford looked like a team feeling sorry for themselves for a while, almost treading on eggshells. It was no surprise that when they took the lead in the 31st minute after the lull, Nicola Sinnott's drive and quick thinking was at the heart of it.
Looking to inject pace, she hurried for the ball when it went out of play on the right wing and took a quick throw-in. It was worked across to Claire O'Riordan who overhead-hooked a delivery to the back post where Linda Douglas couldn't miss with a close-range header.
Again the stand-in skipper was involved three minutes later. The Ballagh native found Aisling Frawley on the right, and her cross was only blocked as far as Sinnott who took aim from the right edge of the area but her shot missed the target.
A better toe-poked strike from Hennessy was comfortably saved by Lenehan nine minutes before the break. Two minutes later Youths went 2-0 up when Sinnott fed Webb on the right, and she centred low to Claire O'Riordan who stroked a superb low finish past Brooke Dunne.
Half-time saw a reshuffle in the Youths defence. In came Aoife Prendergast for Lauren Dwyer, with Nicola Sinnott moved to the centre and the substitute taking the right-back spot. The more significant move happened on the other side.
Orlaith Conlon moved to left-back, presumably to prepare her for a possible cup final position. Chelsee Snell shifted inside and was excellent at the heart of the defence, superb in the air and strong on the ground.
Within four minutes Wexford moved 3-0 ahead. Linda Douglas was the provider on the left, feeding Hutchinson inside the area. The Youths midfielder still had plenty to do but her strike was excellent, across Dunne who got a touch on it, and in off the post.
Webb smashed over the crossbar from a cut-back by O'Riordan who herself then had a shot well saved by Dunne. The Youths attacker fired over from Douglas' pass as the game moved into the last 30 minutes.
The fourth goal arrived in the 66th minute. It started with Douglas sweeping the ball wide to the right, and Aisling Frawley centred back across goal for her opposite winger to drill a half-volley in off the post for her second.
A minute later the same duo linked up again with Douglas clipping the top of the crossbar. As Youths piled forward with substitute Maria Delahunty pulling the strings in midfield, Aoibhín Webb got through but her shot was saved by Dunne.
A weak clearance by the Kilkenny goalkeeper was smashed back and narrowly wide by Hutchinson with 20 minutes left. Dunne was beaten moments later when Delahunty burst past two defenders and into the box, squaring to O'Riordan who coolly slotted low to the net.
Wexford scored their sixth when Delahunty's through-ball sent O'Riordan away and the Limerick native was again composed to complete her hat-trick. The tempo dropped late on as Youths navigated the closing stages without any further damage to their cup final hopes.
In the league, Wexford sit third after this result, four points behind Shelbourne with four games remaining. UCD Waves are one point ahead of Youths with Peamount sitting in fourth with a game in hand.
The Ferrycarrig Park club need to win their final four games and must also get help from elsewhere if they are to retain their title.
Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott (capt.), Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon, Amy Walsh; Rachel Hutchinson, Becky Cassin; Aisling Frawley, Aoibhín Webb, Linda Douglas; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Chelsee Snell for Walsh, inj. (17), Aoife Prendergast for Dwyer (46), Maria Delahunty for Cassin (57), also Tamara Furlong, Shauna Wall, Sinéad Gaynor, Emma Hansberry.
Kilkenny United: Brooke Dunne; Kayla Farrell, Ally O'Keeffe (capt.), Shiane Swarrez, Cliodhna Ní Shé, Bethany Carroll; Ciara Delaney, Keisha Tobin, Aislinn Carroll, Niamh Kelly; Casey Hennessy. Subs. - Katie Ryan for Kelly (72), Sarah Foley for A. Carroll (78), also Cliona Murphy.
Referee: Lee Kill (Kilkenny).