Two penos missed in cup exit
Wexford F.C. 1 Crumlin United 2
A disastrous season for Wexford F.C. went from bad to worse in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday when they were dumped out of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup at the first hurdle by non-league Crumlin United after missing two second-half penalties.
Hopes were high for a decent run in this knockout competition to give a welcome respite from the side's league woes, but they only have themselves to blame after crashing out to the well-drilled Dubliners who had beaten Finn Harps in Ballybofey at the same stage last season.
They also number Shelbourne among their recent cup conquests and took Waterford to a replay, so the result couldn't be considered a shock given that Crumlin are one of several Leinster Senior League sides more than capable of competing in the League of Ireland First Division if they so desired.
However, the manner of their victory left a bitter, self-inflicted taste from Wexford's viewpoint. To miss one penalty in any game may be deemed unfortunate, but to fail from two spot-kicks is simply unforgivable in a sporting context.
Not for the first time this season, manager Damian Locke was bemoaning his team's bad luck in his pre-game programme notes, but the long-suffering fans who have endured the season thus far know that the issues run much deeper than that.
The outcome means that Wexford have departed all three cup competitions in the opening round, with only three wins from 26 competitive games now and just one at home. Most successful sides base their campaigns around being impenetrable in their own backyard, but Ferrycarrig Park is more like a playground for visiting teams than a fortress manned by its inhabitants this term.
It must be remembered too that, while Wexford's campaign is nearly at an end with just five league games left, Crumlin are still in pre-season which makes their win all the harder to digest.
Team captain Craig McCabe returned to the side after his recent absence with a knee injury, while Danny Doyle and Dean George were started on the flanks either side of Aaron Dobbs as Wexford tried a more attacking formation.
Conor Dunne, A.J. Lehane and Thomas Croke were the three starters against Athlone who occupied the bench as a result, but for some strange reason the Wexford management made no personnel changes throughout.
Crumlin's strength was evident in the presence of former Shelbourne striker Jake Donnelly and ex-Derry City man Conor Murphy in their starting eleven.
And it was a happier experience at the venue this time for their trio who had featured with Firhouse Clover when the Tallaght side suffered a 3-0 cup defeat there in May of 2016. David Vickery received a straight red card on that occasion when he was joined by Gary Murphy and Blair Mandiangu, but they were celebrating in this instance after Wexford failed to punish the visitors from two second-half penalties.
The home side had reacted well to going one down early in the second quarter, with centre-half Owen McCormack responding less than five minutes later with his first senior goal.
However, Wexford will be haunted by their poor execution at the clubhouse end when they squandered two gilt-edged chances to take the lead in the second-half.
I'd be surprised if Crumlin goalkeeper Michael Quinn had to dip his hand into his pocket at the bar for the rest of the weekend, as he emerged as a real hero with three superb saves.
Dean Kelly took a corner in the 58th minute that was partially cleared back into his path on the left, but he was taken down with a rash challenge close to the byline as he skipped into the box.
The scene was set for Aaron Dobbs to score his first goal for the club from the penalty, but Quinn had other ideas.
Not alone did he dive slightly to his right to keep out the striker's first effort, he was alert to the rebound too as he stopped it with his feet from point-blank range, although Dobbs really should have nailed that chance.
Ten minutes remained when Wexford created an opportunity to redeem themselves after Crumlin substitute Gavin Kavanagh endured a nightmare arrival.
He was only on the field for a matter of seconds when he took down Dean George after Eoin Porter's header gave the left winger something to chase in the box, and referee Andrew Mullally once again pointed to the spot.
Dean Kelly's set-pieces have been dangerous since he assumed the responsibility recently, and his confidence must have been high after scoring his second goal for the club in Athlone one week earlier.
As a result he was entrusted with the penalty after that Dobbs miss, but his strike was poor and netminder Quinn didn't have to do nearly as much to keep it out this time.
Not surprisingly, those saves drove Crumlin on while deflating the home side. And the visitors crafted a well-worked winner in the 86th minute when Gerard Rowe floated a cross onto the head of centre-forward Jake Donnelly who duly rattled the net, having already scored for Shelbourne against Wexford Youths in the league three years ago.
It had been an eventful encounter from the off, with Aaron Dobbs shooting over the bar from just inside the box after 90 seconds.
Rowe played a one-two with Dean Hurley and missed the target with a volley at the other end, while a Dean Kelly shot from an Eoin Porter pass was beaten away by Michael Quinn in the eighth minute.
Rowe found himself with time and space from a long free-kick by centre-half Gary Murphy, but his shot was tame and didn't trouble new goalkeeper Danny Bolger who was making his home debut.
Aaron Dobbs forced the first of the game's six corners (four for Wexford) in the tenth minute, but Dean Kelly's delivery from the left was headed out for a throw on the far side by Gary Murphy.
Craig McCabe's trademark exocet was headed into the path of Dean Kelly whose shot was blocked with a handball by Murphy just outside the area.
And the free-kick was inches away from producing the lead goal, as Kelly's sweet strike had Quinn beaten but came back into play via the crossbar.
Jake Donnelly couldn't get his header on target from a Conor Murphy cross, while Ross Kenny had to be alert to cut out a Dean Hurley delivery from the left byline.
Aaron Dobbs didn't get hold of a shot properly before Wexford went behind in the 24th minute after Gerard Rowe was fouled close to the byline on the right.
Jake Donnelly whipped in a powerful free-kick which netminder Danny Bolger turned towards the far post. A Crumlin player knocked it back across goal for midfielder David Vickery to drill high to the roof of the net, with linesman Patrick O'Connor disagreeing with Wexford claims that the ball had crossed the byline in the build-up.
It was a serious blow, but the response was strong as Wexford equalised four minutes later. Eoin Porter was pushed on the right, and Dean Kelly's dangerous set-piece delivery was headed firmly to the net from close range by Under-19 player Owen McCormack.
The open nature of the exchanges continued, with Crumlin's Dean Hurley heading wide from an Alan Barrett cross before Dean George fired a half-volley to the left and off target from the kick-out.
Danny Doyle was booked for a foul on Blair Mandiangu before McCormack nearly doubled his tally, shooting wide in the 39th minute after coming forward for another Dean Kelly free-kick.
Neither side could capitalise on a corner apiece before half-time, with Crumlin captain Kieron Reilly booked for a foul on Danny Doyle in between.
Running repairs were required on the net at the clubhouse end before the second period started, and little did we realise at the time that it wouldn't be rattled thereafter despite those two penalty awards.
Danny Bolger saved comfortably early on after Dean Hurley got a slight touch on a Jake Donnelly cross, while a mis-kicked long ball from Craig McCabe forced Michael Quinn to swiftly get his feet in order before making a routine catch in the 54th minute.
It was only the start of a busy spell for the netminder, with his first big intervention following in the form of that double save from Aaron Dobbs.
Crumlin defenders Alan Barrett and Noel Murray were booked in the minutes that followed, with a Dean Kelly free-kick after the latter incident just missing the head of Ross Kenny.
The squandermania continued in the 70th minute though, with Dobbs beating his direct opponent on the right with a lovely piece of skill before his low delivery into the box was scuffed by Dean George with a goal at his mercy.
Three minutes later Seán Hurley's left-wing cross found Danny Doyle whose first-time shot was well saved by Quinn, while George nearly redeemed himself with a neat flick past a defender, only to see his drive blocked for a corner. Dean Kelly's subsequent strike was headed into George's path but his shot went to the right and wide.
When the Under-19 attacker earned that second penalty in the 80th minute, it was inconceivable that Wexford would miss again, but Kelly's finishing let him down and Crumlin didn't need another invitation to push forward for the winner.
Gerard Rowe fired over with a decent shot after cutting in from the left before a Dean Hurley corner was cleared.
Just over one minute later Jake Donnelly pounced for their vital second goal though, but Wexford nearly responded when they attacked from the kick-off.
Mikey Byrne played the ball into the left channel for Seán Hurley whose low cross found Aaron Dobbs, but the Enniscorthy lad's woes in front of goal continued as he struck the bar.
A dangerous Dean Kelly free-kick was headed clear by Noel Murray from his own six-yard box before three added minutes which saw Crumlin reduced to ten men when captain Kieron Reilly collected a second yellow card for a late challenge on Ross Kenny.
Netminder Danny Bolger floated the free-kick into a packed goalmouth, but it was cleared by Dean Hurley and the non-leaguers were left to celebrate another major scalp moments later.
It's back to league action for Wexford in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday (8 p.m.), with Cabinteely making the journey down from Dublin on a high after beating closest neighbours U.C.D. 3-1 in their cup derby.
Wexford F.C.: Danny Bolger; Craig McCabe (capt.), Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny; Eoin Porter, Dean Kelly, Mikey Byrne, Seán Hurley; Danny Doyle, Aaron Dobbs, Dean George. Subs. (none used) - A.J. Lehane, Conor Dunne, Vinny Quinlan, Thomas Croke, Andrew O'Connor, Conor Sutton, Michael Walsh.
Crumlin United: Michael Quinn; Alan Barrett, Noel Murray, Gary Murphy, Blair Mandiangu; Conor Murphy, Gerard Rowe, Kieron Reilly (capt.), David Vickery, Dean Hurley; Jake Donnelly. Subs. - Gavin Kavanagh for Barrett (80), Sam Simpson for Rowe (90), also Kevin Dempsey, Lee Dixon, Thomas Hyland, David Meehan.
Referee: Andrew Mullally (Waterford).