Students seen off in friendly
Wexford Youths got another good workout ahead of the Airtricity Premier Division kick-off on March 4 in a strong victory over the Irish Universities side at Carlow I.T. on Monday of last week.
Wexford Youths 3 Irish Universities 1
Shane Keegan's team played some excellent football, particularly in the first-half, as they amped up their preparations for the big season opener against Longford Town in Ferrycarrig Park in just under two weeks.
It was also a chance for Danny Furlong and Paul Murphy to get more minutes in tandem after playing just 45 minutes together in the first pre-season game against Waterford two weeks earlier. Both showed flashes of how they might co-exist in the Youths attack, but most of their classy moments were independent of each other.
Furlong had several chances and looked sharp before drilling home a sublime finish from the edge of the area four minutes into the second-half, while Murphy's best moment came three minutes from time when he split the Universities defence open for his side's third goal with a stunning ball between defenders.
While both of those moments came in the second-half, it was the first 45 minutes that saw Wexford threaten repeatedly. Pushing the two wide players on while in possession again, Youths looked to put their opponents under pressure from the start with Murphy the main aerial target.
The Division 1 champions created a few early half-chances with Danny Furlong testing clubmate Matthew Connor, playing between the sticks for Universities, with a powerful low shot.
Wexford opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Shane Dunne fed Paul Murphy on the right. The former North End United striker slipped the ball to Eric Molloy and went looking for the return. Molloy had other ideas though as he burst to the edge of the box and smacked a shot past Connor.
Murphy's workrate almost resulted in a second when he stole possession and tested Connor. Craig McCabe also demonstrated his long-throw ability by placing one right on Gary Delaney's head, but the Youths defender saw his glancing header brilliantly saved.
Against the run of play Universities equalised ten minutes before the break when Seán O'Mahoney split the Wexford defence wide open with a perfect long pass, Robert McKenna controlled into his path and shot past Graham Doyle.
While Youths' Ryan Delaney and Jonny Bonner also lined out with distinction for the Universities, it was Connor who stole the show with an unbelievable triple save from Furlong twice, and Craig McCabe, in a stunning passage of play as the ball somehow stay out of the rigging.
The second-half was a little less action-packed and Youths didn't really click like they had in the first. That said, it took just four minutes for Furlong to pick up possession on the left, cut in on his right foot and plant a perfect finish past Joe Coll.
Gary Delaney headed wide when unmarked while Conor English just missed the right post when he shot across goal as the period wore on. Youths did wrap up the victory with a third in the 87th minute when Murphy split the Universities defence and Andy Mulligan completed the move with the perfect finish.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Aidan Friel, Stephen Last, Gary Delaney, Craig McCabe; Eric Molloy, Shane Dunne, Chris Kenny, John Peare; Danny Furlong, Paul Murphy. Subs. - Conor O'Keeffe for Friel (46), Craig Wall for Kenny (46), Conor Whittle for Dunne (46), Conor English for Furlong (67), Andy Mulligan for Peare (71), Lee Grace for Delaney (81), G. Delaney for Molloy, inj. (87).
Irish Universities: Matthew Connor; Aaron Brilly, Seán O'Mahoney, Jack Blake, Ryan Delaney; Danny O'Connell, Roy Kenny, Jonny Bonner, Ben McAuliffe; Robert McKenna, Sam Simpson. Subs. - Dan McGuinness for Blake (46), Joe Coll for Connor (46), Seán O'Callaghan for Kenny (46), Kyle McNamara for McAuliffe (46), Daniel Pender for Simpson (62), Shane Nolan for Bonner (62), Simpson for McKenna, inj. (71).
Referee: Andrew Mullally (Waterford).
Meanwhile, Wexford Youths have been handed a bye in the first round draw of the EA Sports Cup which will be run on a regional basis with four pools of six teams.
Pool 1 will see Cobh Ramblers take on Limerick and Waterford United host Rockmount, with Cork City and Youths awaiting the outcomes.
A total of 24 teams are contesting the competition - the 20 SSE Airtricity League participants plus the Mayo Football League and the Senior League champions of Leinster, Munster and Ulster respectively.
Two teams from each pool will advance to the quarter-finals where there will be an open draw. First round matches will be played on Monday, March 21, and Tuesday, March 22, with the final scheduled for Saturday, September 17.