League bid re-ignited in thrilling midweek revival
Suddently, with the season on the verge of slipping away in a whimper, Wexford Youths have re-found their moxie. The belief is re-emerging and maybe, just maybe, the Continental Tyres Women's National League title could still make its way back to Ferrycarrig in December.
Wexford Youths 4 UCD Waves 3
The chances of Gary Hunt's side retaining their crown were all-but over heading into the last ten minutes at Jackson Park on Wednesday.
Trailing 3-1 to a title rival for the second midweek in a row, even Archimedes would have struggled to pull together a selection of results that would have seen Youths leapfrog their opponents, Shelbourne and Peamount, in the table come season's end.
Then the improbable, almost impossible, happened. With 82 minutes on the clock, great work by impact substitute Orla Casey ensured Maria Delahunty took possession on the left wing and crossed for Aoibhín Webb to drift in between the centre-halves, coolly open her body and side-foot low to the corner of the Waves net.
It wasn't until the game ticked into added-time that the visitors drew level. Youths won a throw-in on the right that Webb exchanged with Nicola Sinnott.
The former fed Delahunty who crossed to the edge of the six-yard box where Claire O'Riordan was on hand to head to the net.
With the players on the field not sure whether to stick or twist, the message came from the sideline to keep pressing and go in search of a winner.
Youths again won a throw-in that was fed into the UCD box, and it was half-cleared only as far as Orla Casey who sent and 25-yard strike to the top corner to win it for Wexford. It brought a thoroughly enthralling game to an end and started wild celebrations.
The Ferrycarrig Park girls began the game on the front foot, scoring the opening goal early on when Emma Hansberry's left-wing, inswinging corner evaded a crowded six-yard box and nestled in the corner of the net.
However, the game was finely balanced and really either side could have scored the second goal. It came for the hosts when a corner into the Youths area wasn't fully dealt with.
The ball was worked to Julie Ann Russell on the edge of the area and she applied the clinical finish.
Wexford were hit with a hammer blow before the break. A long, hopeful ball forward wasn't dealt with by Jess Gleeson and Nicola Sinnott in defence, allowing Julie Ann Russell onto it in a flash. The Irish international winger won a tackle with Sophie Lenehan in the Youths goal and fired to an empty net.
Shortly after the break UCD made it 3-1. Again it was a setpiece causing problems.
A corner was half-cleared out as far as Eleanor Ryan-Doyle and she curled a cross-cum-shot over Lenehan to the Wexford net.
While the last eight or so minutes will be remembered forever by those involved, it was what happened in between that changed the momentum.
Another international, Karen Duggan, picked up a knock and was withdrawn by UCD, while Sylvia Gee was also taken off, weakening the hosts' midfield.
Around the same time Youths manager Gary Hunt introduced Aoibhín Webb and Orla Casey from the bench and both were instrumental in turning the game in Wexford's favour, not just with their goals but their all-around energy that really lifted the side.
Wexford eased past Kilkenny to the Continental Tyres Women's Cup final four days after this epic encounter.
Attention turns back to the league on Saturday when Wexford face Peamount, and then a three-week break follows before the trip to the Aviva on November 6.
That will be another occasion to savour, the curtain-raiser for the men's final between Dundalk and Cork City.
Youths currently sit second in the table, four points behind Shelbourne with five games remaining for both teams. They face each other on November 19.
Peamount and UCD are both tucked in behind with a game in hand and they, along with Galway, will all have their say in the title run-in.
Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott (capt.), Jess Gleeson, Lauren Dwyer, Amy Walsh; Linda Douglas, Emma Hansberry, Becky Cassin, Aisling Frawley; Maria Delahunty; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Orla Casey for Cassin, Aoibhín Webb for Frawley, Chelsee Snell for Dwyer, also Tamara Furlong, Rachel Hutchinson, Clare Conlon, Leanne Tumelty.