Youths shine in second half
Ten-man Firhouse Clover dispatched with three-goal haul
Wexford Youths extended their winning run to an impressive four games with a composed second-half performance to see off Firhouse Clover in the second round of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup before a paltry 126 spectators at a wet and cold Ferrycarrig Park on Friday.
Wexford Youths 3 Firhouse Clover 0
The Leinster Senior League side were late arrivals to the ground, with the team bus finally appearing less than 15 minutes before the scheduled starting time. Kick-off was delayed until 8.20 p.m. as a result, but the disruption didn't hamper the Dubliners on the field as they more than held their own throughout a fairly uneventful opening half.
However, a straight red card for team captain David Vickery on the re-start left them in a precarious position, and Youths duly capitalised as Jonny Bonner gave them the lead before Paul Murphy added a late brace from a penalty and free-kick respectively.
The outcome means that Shane Keegan's men will have an interest in the third round draw, with those games not set to take place until the week ending August 21. In the meantime, all the focus will switch towards building on their strong recent form in the league when they face the daunting task of a trip to Oriel Park next Sunday to face mighty Dundalk.
A home game will follow against struggling Bohemians on Friday, June 3, before the league takes its mid-season break until Youths face their longest trek of all to take on Derry City three weeks later.
With Conor O'Keeffe retained at right-back, it meant that number two Craig McCabe switched to the left, while Graham Doyle, Ryan Delaney, Paul Murphy and Jonny Bonner all returned to the first eleven. From that quartet, only Bonner had made a substitute's appearance in the Leinster Senior Cup win over Collinstown on Tuesday, and the Donegal man with the magical left foot was an influential figure once again.
The opening half was a dull enough affair, with neither goalkeeper having to do anything special as clearcut chances were few and far between. Conor Whittle didn't get hold of a shot properly early on, while a Danny Ledwith cross went off the back of Ryan Delaney's head and posed no danger.
Delaney conceded the first corner (both sides had three before the break) in the sixth minute but Firhouse couldn't capitalise, although they did create a decent chance shortly afterwards.
It arose after Bonner uncharacteristically lost the ball in a central position, with David Vickery passing to left winger Mandiangu Blair whose shot wasn't too far off the mark.
Eric Molloy had a couple of attempts blocked on either side of his header from a Danny Ledwith cross which was tipped over the crossbar by netminder Patrick Reilly. Those three Youths corners came between the eleventh and 15th minutes and all were cleared, while Paul Murphy featured in the next two promising moves from the home side.
Firstly he almost played Conor Whittle in before he raced on to Eric Molloy's hooked pass in the 25th minute, but two defenders combined to keep him at bay before he could get a shot away.
A weak Glen Walsh header from a Darren O'Grady free to the far post was comfortably saved by Graham Doyle, while successive crosses at the other end from Paul Murphy, Conor O'Keeffe and Eric Molloy were all cleared.
Firhouse forced two late corners, with both met by Molloy's head, and Mandiangu Blair hit a tame wide when the ball broke to him in the latter instance.
There had been little to get excited about in the first-half, with the miserable weather certainly not helping matters. However, temperatures did rise just 18 seconds after the re-start when Firhouse captain David Vickery went in hard on Jonny Bonner.
Referee Seán Grant was reaching for the red card in his back pocket as he sprinted to the scene, and the instant dismissal left the underdogs in the worst possible position.
Eric Molloy had moved to wide on the right with Shane Dunne tucking in just behind front man Paul Murphy, and Dunne had a good chance in the 47th minute but fired over from a Craig McCabe cross.
A speculative long-range shot from Clover's Michael Doyle was safely gathered by Graham Doyle before Youths nearly opened their account in the 52nd minute. Danny Ledwith's cross was missed by a defender and fell for Paul Murphy whose powerful drive was well saved by Patrick Reilly, with Jonny Bonner well off target in the follow-up.
Eric Molloy earned the first of two Youths corners after the break, but Paul Murphy and Ryan Delaney were denied from Danny Ledwith's delivery.
The first of five yellow cards for Firhouse was dished out to Darren O'Grady after taking Molloy down on the byline in the 57th minute. Ledwith played it short to Molloy who in turn found Jonny Bonner, but his low shot was kept out by netminder Reilly.
Carl Wynne was next to enter the notebook, and the deadlock was broken in the 60th minute after the resultant free-kick with a lovely finish from Jonny Bonner. His initial setpiece had resulted in a bout of head tennis in the box, and when the ball broke to him slightly to the right of goal he connected sweetly to direct into the far corner of the net.
Danny Ledwith collected the sole Youths yellow card for a tackle which forced Firhouse right-back Peter O'Donnell to retire, while Andy Mulligan was introduced in the main attacking role and Paul Murphy pushed out to fill the spot vacated by Shane Dunne.
Danny Ledwith came close to doubling the lead in the 70th minute when his shot at the far post from Eric Molloy's right-wing cross was parried by the goalkeeper.
Firhouse substitute Darren Fogarty then saw yellow for a challenge on Bonner, and a low shot from Molloy after a Ledwith pass produced a good save for the second corner. Ledwith's setpiece presented centre-half Stephen Last with a free header, but he couldn't get it on target.
Although just one goal divided the teams, Youths looked very comfortable with the visitors carrying no attacking threat given their depleted forces. However, any lingering doubts were laid to rest in the 85th minute when the net at the Ferrycarrig end rattled again.
Molloy nutmegged a defender to pick out Paul Murphy who squared the ball unselfishly for Andy Mulligan, and the substitute had his leg hooked from behind by centre-half Glen Walsh as he prepared to shoot.
After the yellow card was administered, Murphy stepped up and calmly beat the 'keeper who initially went the wrong way, and it was too late when he changed his mind as the Youths attacker stroked the ball home.
Firhouse full-back Gary Murphy was booked for a late challenge on Conor O'Keeffe in between the late arrivals of John Peare and Conor English off the bench.
And the icing on the cake came in the second of the three added minutes announced when Conor Whittle was fouled in a central position outside the box.
Paul Murphy was the man entrusted with the free-kick, and his daisy cutter was perfect on a night when handling was difficult as it evaded goalkeeper Patrick Reilly and ended up in the left corner of the net.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle (capt.); Conor O'Keeffe, Stephen Last, Ryan Delaney, Craig McCabe; Conor Whittle, Shane Dunne, Jonny Bonner, Danny Ledwith; Eric Molloy, Paul Murphy. Subs. - Andy Mulligan for Dunne (67), John Peare for Ledwith (85), Conor English for Molloy (87), also Aidan Friel, Owen McCormack, Matt Connor.
Firhouse Clover: Patrick Reilly; Peter O'Donnell, Brian Cullen, Glen Walsh, Gary Murphy; Joey Hayden, David Vickery (capt.), Darren O'Grady, Mandiangu Blair; Michael Doyle, Carl Wynne. Subs. - Derek Rogerson for O'Donnell, inj. (69), Darren Fogarty for Blair (74), Aidan Canavan for Wynne (89), also Conor Maguire, Kevin O'Neill, Glen Davis, Darren Brennan.
Referee: Seán Grant (Wexford).