Leinster Cup loss
Wexford FC bow to Shels on debut
A debut victory was never on the cards for Wexford FC in this Leinster Senior Cup fourth round tie in Tolka Park, Dublin, on Friday, but at least new manager Damian Locke and the small but loyal band of supporters were able to glean some positives from a bright finish which yielded a brace of goals from the penalty spot by left-back Andrew O'Connor.
Shelbourne 4 Wexford FC 2
Unfortunately, there was no hope of turning the outcome around despite those cool finishes in the 75th and 77th minutes respectively, as Shelbourne were 4-0 up at that stage.
They had put Wexford on the back foot from the off when Dayle Rooney reacted quickest to fire home the rebound after tricky winger Adam Evans saw his initial effort blocked in the seventh minute.
The new entity found themselves playing a clear second fiddle throughout the first-half, and the only time ex-Bohemians goalkeeper Dean Delany was tested was shortly after that goal when he had to dive low to his left to gather an Adam Hanlon daisy-cutter.
Otherwise it was all Shelbourne as Wexford gained a clear idea just how difficult opponents they will be in the four First Division games to come, two home and two away.
The Reds doubled their lead in the 22nd minute when Lorcan Shannon floated in an inch-perfect cross from the right and centre-forward James English timed his jump to perfection and headed home past Corey Chambers, a late replacement for veteran Graham Doyle who had been named to start on the teamsheet.
Chambers had to advance smartly to ensure English didn't get on the end of a long ball by Jack Tuite, while Mark Slater almost availed of a slip by a Shels defender who was bailed out by a colleague.
Andrew O'Connor fired a cross into the box in the 28th minute, but new arrival Lee Duffy was falling backwards as he headed the ball and it didn't test the netminder.
Duffy had fouled netminder Delany before forcing the ball to the net shortly afterwards, while ex-Cabinteely player Mark Slater fired a speculative long-ranger over the bar in the 32nd minute.
It had been a more productive spell for Wexford in terms of creating chances, but it was completely undone in the 37th minute when Shelbourne added a third goal.
Shane Dunne went in for a forceful challenge with full-back Reece McEnteer near the byline on the left, but the ball broke into the path of his rival whose low delivery to the near post was stabbed home by James English.
It was evident that there would be no repeat of last season when the club formerly known as Wexford Youths went all the way to the final of this competition before losing to Bohemians in Dalymount Park.
Their task became even more difficult when the captain on the night, Craig Wall, was forced off with an injury to his right shoulder just before the break.
And it was feared that a rout might be on the cards only three minutes into the new half when English played in substitute James Brown who appeared to go down rather easily under a challenge from Andrew O'Connor in the box.
Experienced referee Neil Doyle pointed to the spot nonetheless, and English completed his hat-trick to leave Wexford staring at a 4-0 deficit.
Shels could afford to withdraw their ace marksman not long afterwards as he was one of several players to collect yellow cards, with some feisty enough exchanges at times for a season opener.
To be fair to the visitors, it's going to take some time for the new-look side to gel, with centre-half Ross Kenny, right winger Adam Hanlon, central midfielder John McKeown, left winger Mark Slater, centre-forward Lee Duffy and substitute Seán Hurley all new arrivals in the south-east.
Hanlon's pace was evident when the game opened up during the second-half, and the ex-Finn Harps man could be a key figure in the quest to make an immediate return to the Premier Division.
It was encouraging that all five second-half corners were won by the visitors, after Shels earned the only one before the break.
Hanlon wasn't too far away with a decent long-range shot midway through, and the first goal was pulled back in the 75th minute when substitute Seán Hurley played a one-two with fellow replacement Craig Hayes and was fouled just inside the box on the left by James Brown.
Andrew O'Connor slotted the ball home and had the chance to double his lead just two minutes later.
This time a deep delivery from a corner on the left by Shane Dunne was directed towards centre-half Owen McCormack. Referee Doyle spotted something he didn't like, handing a yellow card to Robert Bayly before O'Connor opted for the left after tucking his first effort home to the right and experienced a similar outcome.
Wexford continued to pose problems for the remainder of the game, with new centre-half Ross Kenny heading a Shane Dunne free-kick wide while Adam Hanlon forced Dean Delany into a fine save late on from a long distance shot.
The serious stuff starts for Wexford this Saturday at 3 p.m. when they travel to St. Colman's Park to face a Cobh Ramblers side eager to build on last year's play-off appearance and loss over two legs to Drogheda United who went on to conquer Youths.
With the F.A.I. deciding that only the top team will gain promotion this season, a good start to the campaign will be of the utmost importance for all eight league contenders.
Wexford FC: Corey Chambers; Conor Sutton, Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny, Andrew O'Connor; Adam Hanlon, Craig Wall (capt.), John McKeown, Mark Slater; Shane Dunne, Lee Duffy. Subs. - Thomas Croke for Wall, inj. (45+1), Craig Hayes for Duffy (59), Seán Hurley for Slater (68), also Jamie Fox, Liam Donnelly, Dean George, Graham Doyle.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany (capt.); Adam O'Connor, Jack Tuite, Derek Prendergast, Reece McEnteer; Lorcan Shannon, Niall Lanigan, James O'Brien, Adam Evans; Dayle Rooney, James English. Subs. - James Brown for O'Connor (HT), Aaron Ashe for English (42), Robert Bayly for O'Brien (68), also Jamie Quinn, Jason Caffrey, Alan Byrne, Jackson Ryan.
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).