Under-17 Youths suffer setback
Wexford Youths' hopes of finishing second and guaranteeing themselves qualification to the quarter-finals were smashed by Waterford United during their SSE Airtricity Under-17 League Section 1 game in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday.
The home side knew going into the game that a win would lift them above their opponents and into second place, while a defeat would mean that they could finish no higher than third.
The game started quickly and the home side could count themselves lucky not to be behind inside two minutes. Owen Wall's corner kick found the unmarked Eoin Porter at the back post but the Waterford captain and Good Counsel starlet could only steer his header just wide.
United continued to apply pressure as Luke Kiely's deflected shot almost found the net just after the quarter-hour mark.
The deadlock was deservedly broken a minute later by the visitors. Another corner delivered by Wall and another free header, this time it was the head of Gearóid Murphy and he made no mistake in sending a powerful effort past Adam Dunbar in the Wexford goal.
The direct ball approach of the Ferrycarrig side was failing to create any clearcut chances. The away team looked likely to add to their lead when Wall almost got in behind Youths' defence at the midpoint of the half but he fluffed his lines.
Waterford did double their advantage five minutes later, when Seán Roche won a free on the edge of the box which Porter powerfully side-footed into the top right-hand corner.
Just before the half-time break, Wall could have put United out of sight but his effort was well stopped by Dunbar.
Youths began the second-half in a much more positive manner and Conor McGrath was only denied by the outstretched legs of goalkeeper Eoin Power after he had dispossessed Tunmise Sobowale.
Wexford scored their 53rd-minute opener just as Waterford had scored theirs, from a corner. Ivan Meegan's delivery was met by Ronan Devereux whose header was blocked on the goal line, only for Danny Doyle to react quickest to scramble the ball into the net.
The home side, now with their tails up, could have levelled in the following minutes. Michael Carroll and Devereux both had shots saved.
But it was Waterford who would score the game's fourth and most crucial goal. From 40 yards out, Kiely sent a free kick into the box which beat every Youths defender and found its way untouched and extremely fortuitously to the bottom corner.
Yet, Youths' belief and determination couldn't be questioned. They struck back with 15 minutes left on the clock when Craig Hayes won a free wide on the right wing. Meegan caught Power off guard and smashed his left-footed dead ball in off the near post.
The Ferrycarrig side could not find an equaliser in the final minutes. Substitute Ronan O'Kelly went closest deep into injury time when his long-range effort whistled agonisingly past the post.
Wexford Youths play away to leaders Cork City in their final game in Section 1 in two weeks.
Wexford Youths: Adam Dunbar (capt.), Michael Molloy, Jack Bates, Michael Carroll, Kian Larkin, Ronan Devereux, Vincent Quinlan, Conor McGrath, Craig Hayes, Danny Doyle, Ivan Meegan. Subs. - Ciarán Murphy for Quinlan (62), Ronan O'Kelly for Bates (85), also Cormac Kehoe, Adam Rochford, Ryan Hollick, Adam Dempsey.
Waterford United: Eoin Power, Tommy Teer, Luke Kiely, Darragh Corcoran, Tunmise Sobowale, Owen Wall, Eoin Porter (capt.), Seán Roche, Gearóid Murphy, Shane Ryan, Jordan Molloy. Subs. - Adam Feeney for Roche (85), Seán Martin for Molloy (87), also Cian Flanagan, Dean Beresford, Jack Dolan.
Referee: Brian Fenlon (Wexford).
Waterford United 1, Wexford Youths 1: Wexford Youths put in a much-improved display to earn a share of the spoils in this south-east derby basement battle in the SSE Airtricity Under-19 League at the RSC on Saturday.
Eoin Donnelly gave the visitors the lead on 27 minutes but Jake Mooney drew the Blues level eleven minutes into the second-half.
Wexford Youths remain at the foot of the table, one point behind Waterford United, and will face a tough task to pick up anything from their final game against second-placed Cork City.
The match is down from decision on Sunday, November 22, with a 2 p.m. kick-off.