Lights fail with Youths in lead
Frustration for Wexford as Shels enjoy a very lucky break
One of the most entertaining games of the season was abruptly brought to an end when the floodlights went out in Morton Stadium on Wednesday with Wexford Youths leading hosts Shelbourne with just over 28 minutes left in their Continental Tyres Women's National League tie.
Wexford Youths 2 Shelbourne 1 (abandoned after 61 mins)
The lights on Shelbourne's league hopes were less than half an hour from being switched off as well, with another defeat set to leave the north Dublin side too far behind the other three contenders, which also includes Galway and UCD Waves, to realistically challenge for the title.
And so, with the failure of the lighting system, Shelbourne live to fight another day. That day might now not come until the remaining fixture list is completed, with no gap in the Wexford Youths schedule after the pile-up of postponements earlier in the season.
It's not the first time Youths have been hampered by questionable lights issues this season. Their game against a Peamount side, missing several key players, was called off last month when a problem with the floodlights in advance of the game couldn't be fixed and an alternative venue wasn't secured.
This abandonment is even more galling, coming when it did with Youths leading, heading for three massive points in the title race with less than 30 minutes to play. It's the third floodlight-affected game, between the men and women's National Leagues, in less than two weeks.
The add-on effect of this abandonment is that Wexford Youths have had to soak up another expense. For the third time this season the club has had to travel to a game that hasn't either started or ended, meaning more spiralling costs for a club doing all they can to stay in the game while excelling on the field.
The clash started with two sets of lights not working on the stand side, but there was enough light surrounding the ground to mean the game could go ahead. There was no indication of what was to follow for 61 minutes until there was a break in play as Aoibhín Webb stepped onto the field to replace Lauren Dwyer.
The lights then went out, almost in slow motion as they disappeared in pairs. All other lights in the ground remained on, while the separate lights overlooking the two ends of the running track surrounding the soccer field also remained beaming with bright white light.
At that stage in proceedings Wexford had repelled several dangerous Shelbourne attacks and had regained a foothold in the game. It didn't start like that as Youths hit their opponents with a tactical switch and dominated the early exchanges.
Ruth Fahy moved into the supporting role for Claire O'Riordan as Lauren Dwyer dropped into the back three, and it paid dividends inside five minutes. An Emma Hansberry ball was controlled and laid off by Fahy to O'Riordan, and the Youths attacker curled a sublime shot to the top corner of Amanda McQuillan's net from the edge of the penalty area.
Linda Douglas found Fahy in a dangerous position in the 17th minute and she released O'Riordan who saw her goal-bound shot deflected behind for a corner. From that Hansberry dead-ball, Edel Kennedy arrived at the back post with a powerful header to make it 2-0.
Hansberry took three right-footed, right-wing corners in Ciara Rossiter's absence and every one of them was into a great area. It's a weapon that could become very important for her side in the coming weeks.
Out of absolutely nothing, Shelbourne pulled one back in the 21st minute when Rebecca Creagh's drilled free-kick from 40 metres out flew over the head of Tamara Furlong into the centre of the Wexford net.
Shelbourne started to enjoy more possession and Youths funnelled Fahy deeper as a result. However, Wexford had one great chance to go 3-1 ahead on the counter when Gleeson launched forward and Claire O'Riordan went clean through on goal. She had a lot of time to think about her finish, too much really, as it was too close to McQuillan and the 'keeper held on to the weak effort.
Furlong made a stunning low save from Creagh in the 31st minute to keep her side ahead, but she was nearly caught out by the Shelbourne attacker's chip two minutes later as it sailed inches wide of the Wexford goalkeeper's right post.
Still 2-1 ahead at the break, Wexford's winger Linda Douglas emerged after the interval with the bit between her teeth and was her side's main outlet in the time before the lights went out. She put in a tantalising cross from Hansberry's pass that was just out of the reach of O'Riordan in the 46th minute.
Shelbourne tested Furlong with a 50-metre Creagh free, which she turned over the bar, and a powerful Megan Lynch strike which she held at the second attempt. Nicola Sinnott made a stunning block on the line to deny the hosts again in the 52nd minute.
That block seemed to give Wexford confidence as they re-grouped and pushed on. Linda Douglas had a powerful shot from the edge of the area deflected behind for a Hansberry corner that Sophie Watters fortunately headed right back at her 'keeper.
Shortly after that chance the lights went out on Youths' lead and a fantastic game of football. With UCD Waves beating Galway, Wexford now have leeway in their title push, and after Cork on Sunday, attention turned to the shield final against Shelbourne in Ferrycarrig Park on Wednesday evening.
Wexford Youths: Tamara Furlong; Nicola Sinnott, Jessica Gleeson, Lauren Dwyer; Linda Douglas, Edel Kennedy, Kylie Murphy (capt.), Emma Hansberry, Aisling Frawley; Ruth Fahy; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Aoibhín Webb for Dwyer (62), also Shauna Wall, Orlaith Conlon, Rachel Hutchinson, Amy Walsh, Becky Cassin.
Shelbourne: Amamda McQuillan; Keera Keenan, Niamh Barnes, Niamh Walsh, Courtney Higgins; Siobhán Killeen, Rachel Graham, Sophie Watters, Noelle Murray, Dearbhaile Beirne; Rebecca Creagh. Subs. - Megan Lynch for Higgins (32), also Niamh Reid-Burke, Shauna Newman, Annie Timoney, Fiona Donnelly, Kim Turner.
Referee: Paula Brady.