Unlucky U-19s pay the penalty
Heartbreaking semi defeat
Wexford Youths suffered the heartache of a penalty shoot-out defeat after an absorbing SSE Airtricity Under-19 shield semi-final in Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday.
Wexford Youths 1 Limerick F.C.1 (Limerick won 5-4 on pens.)
Wexford goalkeeper Corey Chambers must have been cursing his luck afterwards as he managed to keep out two spot-kicks in a dramatic shoot-out, but Limerick netminder Tommy Holland went one better, thwarting three Youths players.
The Wexford outfit gave as good as they got for the 120 minutes and they exited the competition with their heads held high after a committed performance.
In the first-half in particular the home side played some lovely flowing football, and were full value for the half-time lead, courtesy of a composed 25th-minute finish from Dean George.
Wexford began the game with a high intensity and signalled their intent with just three minutes on the clock when Eoin Porter played a deft through ball to the inrushing Dean George, but the striker's touch was a fraction too heavy.
The hosts showed their attacking instincts again in the twelfth minute when Ciarán Murphy sent a slide rule pass through to Dean George, but Barry Cotter's challenge was timed to perfection and the ball was diverted for a corner.
Wexford Youths had shown plenty of neat touches and good approach play in the opening quarter, but the goal when it came was more of the route one variety.
Paul Carton played a long delivery forward and Dean George was on to it like a flash, and he side-stepped a defender before confidently sliding the ball beyond goalkeeper Tommy Holland.
The Youths went close to extending their advantage in the 32nd minute when Vincent Quinlan fired over the bar following good build-up play involving Michael Molloy and Eoin Porter, while moments later Conor Sutton saw his acrobatic effort from a Michael Molloy free wriggle wide of the target.
Limerick began to crank up the pressure in the final ten minutes of the half but the Youths defence stood up to the task well and they admirably dealt with a succession of corners.
However, the second-half was only four minutes old when Limerick striker Yousef Mahdy was brought down for a penalty and Clyde O'Connell's powerful spot-kick gave Corey Chambers no chance.
The visitors, who noticeably upped the tempo after the break, had a real pep in their step at this stage and substitute Seán McSweeney and Jack Lynch both went close with curling efforts from outside the area.
Wexford Youths still posed a threat going forward though and Dean George almost profited from an underhit back pass but Holland did just enough to scramble the ball clear, while Vincent Quinlan lifted a 64th-minute effort over the bar.
It was real end-to-end stuff with both sides going in search of a winner, with Limerick's Seán McSweeney twice trying his luck and Ciarán Murphy seeing his instinctive effort well held by Holland.
Eoin Porter had a half chance to win it at the death, but his left-footed shot was always rising after he ran on to a pass from substitute Martin O'Connor.
Vincent Quinlan went closest to making the breakthrough for the Youths in extra-time, as he tested the goalkeeper with a free-kick and sent a first-time effort narrowly wide, while Seán McSweeney and Shane Lowth were both off target for Limerick.
A late Clyde O'Connell free-kick was well held by Corey Chambers, and despite the goalkeeper making two fine saves in the shoot-out it just wasn't to be Wexford's day.
Wexford Youths: Corey Chambers, Paul Carton, Seán Duffy, Conor Sutton, Owen McCormack, Eoin Donnelly, Michael Molloy, Vincent Quinlan, Eoin Porter, Dean George, Ciarán Murphy. Subs. - Martin O'Connor for Molloy, Dylan Bradley for McCormack, Cian Li for Porter, also Adam Rochford, Neil Murphy, Cormac Keogh.
Limerick F.C.: Tommy Holland, Liam McCartan, Alan Murphy, Barry Cotter, Killian Brouder, Clyde O'Connell, Shane Lowth, Jack Lynch, Yousef Mahdy, Conor McGrath, Patrick Kieran McDonagh. Subs. - Seán McSweeney for McGrath, Aaron Fitzgerald for Lynch.
Referee: Brian Fenlon.