Wexford slip to bottom spot
Early goal put home side Cabo firmly in driving seat
The new Wexford F.C. project is firmly up and running at this stage, but the search for a first competitive win continues after the visitors slumped to an unexpected 2-0 defeat at the hands of a previously point-less Cabinteely in Stradbrook, the home of Blackrock R.F.C., on Friday.
Cabinteely 2 Wexford F.C. 0
Sloppy defending led to the concession of an early goal which put Damian Locke's men under immediate pressure, and it was another scrappy affair when the SSE Airtricity League's most recent addition doubled their lead in the 29th minute.
In contrast, Wexford created a couple of very good openings but didn't enjoy the best of luck on either occasion, with the woodwork coming to Cabinteely's rescue.
Right winger Adam Hanlon did everything to perfection bar score in the twelfth minute after latching on to a neat Craig Hayes crossfield pass.
Two would-be challengers were unable to get close enough as he jinked his way into a scoring position, but he was most unfortunate to see his rocket shot cannon off the bar.
Then Hayes shaved the outside of the left post in the 25th minute, making ground before drilling a low shot just wide after Cabinteely centre-back Conor Keeley misjudged the bounce from a delivery infield by winger Seán Hurley.
Those chances summed up Wexford's hard luck story, but the harsh reality is that the two goals conceded came as a result of weak defending rather than any inspired attacking play on the home side's part.
The first arrived with less than three minutes gone when right-back Karl Byrne got close to the byline and fired a cross in to the near post area. Centre-forward Joe Doyle, who gave Ross Kenny plenty to think about all night, got to the ball first and although his initial touch wasn't the strongest, he still did enough to direct it into the corner of the net.
After those two near misses at the other end, Doyle doubled his own and his team's tally in the 29th minute. Experienced captain Kieran 'Marty' Waters, once of Shamrock Rovers, did well in the build-up and Doyle managed to hold off Kenny in the box, leaving him sprawled on the ground before directing his shot into the left corner past Graham Doyle and full-back Andrew O'Connor who was covering on the line.
Neither strike was a candidate for goal of the month, but they all count and by game's end Cabinteely had forged their second home win over the Ferrycarrig Park crew in three attempts.
It was just over two years to the day that the same sides clashed at the south Dublin venue in Cabo's first-ever League of Ireland clash, a game which ended in a 1-0 home win after a 43rd-minute goal by John McKeown who was in the opposing camp last Friday.
Over three months later, Danny Furlong pounced for an injury-time winner as Youths edged the verdict 3-2 in Stradbrook, and of course the sides' paths didn't cross last season as a result of that sadly all-too-brief sojourn in the top flight.
Wexford would have gone into this clash very hopeful of a first victory, especially as their rivals were propping up the table following losses to U.C.D. and Waterford.
And it's certainly not going to get any easier, as their next two games are home to the students and away to their south-east rivals, followed by another journey to the capital to face Shelbourne in Tolka Park on the last day of the month.
The first three games of the season undoubtedly looked more negotiable in terms of securing points than the next three, so Wexford will need a great deal of improvement if they don't want to be cut adrift from the battle for that sole promotion spot even at this early stage.
Vice-captain Craig McCabe returned Friday for his first game of the season, replacing Owen McCormack at centre-half after recovering from a calf injury.
Adam Hanlon, John McKeown and Craig Hayes were also named in the first eleven in place of Mark Slater (signed from Cabinteely), Thomas Croke and Lee Duffy respectively.
That nightmare start meant that Wexford were immediately chasing the game, whereas the home side's spirits were considerably lifted.
Anthony Dolan nearly played goalscorer Joe Doyle in again but Graham Doyle was quick off his line, while Evan Galvin won and subsequently took a free-kick which led to a frantic scramble before the ball was hacked away to safety.
And after Adam Hanlon rattled the bar for Wexford, Kieran Waters wasn't too far off the mark from another set-piece at the other end, with the game's stand-out midfielder, Cabinteely's Christian Lotefa, distracting the five-man wall.
That second decent Wexford effort from Craig Hayes came less than five minutes before the locals doubled their lead, and the frustration showed as Ricky Fox was yellow-carded for a bodycheck on Jack Watson.
Andrew O'Connor whipped in a 36th-minute free-kick after a foul on Craig Wall which went all the way to netminder Michael Kelly, while John McKeown got Craig McCabe in trouble with a sloppy pass but fortunately Kieran Waters put too much weight on the ball and Graham Doyle was able to intervene with a dash off his line.
Lotefa entered the referee's notebook before Joe Doyle came close to completing his hat-trick in the 44th minute.
He raced on to a brilliant ball over the top from Evan Galvin, but Doyle was out in a flash to the edge of his box and got his body in the way as the centre-forward tried to loft it over his head into a gaping net.
Wexford needed a stronger attacking mindset as they chased that two-goal deficit, so it was a little surprising to see that they waited until the 74th minute to go with an extra man up front, when Lee Duffy came on to assist Craig Hayes.
Prior to that they had created nothing of note and didn't look capable of threatening the extremely solid Cabinteely central defensive pairing of Victor Ekanem and Conor Keeley.
Indeed, the leaders had offered more of a cutting edge and, after a first-half completely devoid of corners, they forced three in the opening ten minutes.
Keeley couldn't get a strong connection on the first, while Seán Hurley headed the second over the byline and the subsequent third led to a Wexford free.
Craig Hayes did have a speculative shot from distance in the 54th minute which was never going to trouble the opposing netminder, and there was a big let-off for the visitors just 40 seconds later.
Kieran Waters chose to take on the shot from a Jack Watson through ball when he could have squared it to a completely unmarked Evan Galvin, and thankfully the attempt lacked power and Graham Doyle gathered it safely.
The chances continued to come for Cabo though, and left-full Kevin Knight was very close to making it three in the 60th minute when his thumping header from Galvin's left-wing free-kick flew narrowly wide.
Craig Wall had a shot blocked and Ricky Fox fired to the left and off target from the rebound before Liam Donnelly replaced Seán Hurley on the right wing, with Adam Hanlon moving to the left.
Thomas Croke was the next new face to arrive for an ineffective John McKeown, and Wexford were nearly undone again by a piece of quick thinking in the 67th minute.
Graham Doyle came out of goal to take a free-kick and, when it broke around midfield, Cabo captain Kieran Waters unleashed a long-range effort which wasn't too far off the target as his counterpart with the armband scrambled back.
Jack Watson of Cabinteely was booked after Craig Hayes was taken down on the edge of the box, but Shane Dunne couldn't keep his free-kick down.
At that point Lee Duffy entered the fray, with Ricky Fox sacrificed at the back. The first Wexford corner was forced by Andrew O'Connor in the 77th minute, with his set-piece half-cleared into the path of Adam Hanlon who shot wide.
Midfielder Craig Wall figured prominently in the next few phases, collecting a yellow card before performing some crucial defending close to his own goal-line after Joe Doyle sought to complete his hat-trick by getting on the end of the free Wall had conceded in the first place.
Lee Duffy did have the ball in the net from an Andrew O'Connor pass in the 84th minute, but only after a shrill blast of the referee's whistle was heard for the second and last of two offsides against Wexford (Cabinteely were caught six times).
Evan Galvin and Christian Lotefa were booked before Duffy earned the second and final Wexford corner (five for their rivals), but Shane Dunne's effort from the left was cleared.
The best chance of a consolation goal arrived in the 89th minute when an Adam Hanlon shot deflected into Craig Wall's path, but he couldn't sort his feet out quickly enough and Cabinteely cleared the danger.
The leaders spent the four added minutes announced, which extended to six, making substitutions to wind down the clock, and there was a late booking for Ross Kenny on a night he won't recall with any degree of fondness.
Interestingly, while it wasn't a tetchy affair at all, referee David Keeler still blew for a staggering 44 free-kicks apart from those offside calls, 25 to the winners and 19 to Wexford.
Shelburne garnered a late point on Saturday against Cobh Ramblers who squandered a lead at the death in similar circumstances to the first game of the season against Wexford, and this leaves Damian Locke's crew rock bottom at this early stage of the campaign.
Wexford F.C.: Graham Doyle (capt.); Ricky Fox, Craig McCabe, Ross Kenny, Andrew O'Connor; Shane Dunne; Adam Hanlon, Craig Wall, John McKeown, Seán Hurley; Craig Hayes. Subs. - Liam Donnelly for Hurley (61), Thomas Croke for McKeown (65), Lee Duffy for Fox (74), also Owen McCormack, Jamie Fox, Conor Sutton, Corey Chambers.
Cabinteely F.C.: Michael Kelly; Karl Byrne, Victor Ekanem, Conor Keeley, Kevin Knight; Anthony Dolan, Christian Lotefa, Jack Watson, Evan Galvin; Kieran Waters (capt.), Joe Doyle. Subs. - Paul Fox for Doyle (89), Jordan Andre for Dolan (90+3), Robert Duggan for Lotefa (90+6), also Dean Mahon, Andrew McGovern, Stephen Ball, Cian Lynch.
Referee: David Keeler (Cork).