independent

Thursday 26 April 2018

Agonising U-15 exit

Bray Wanderers 2 Wexford F.C. 1

Destiny Idele of Bray Wanderers is closed down by Graham O’Reilly of Wexford F.C., with netminder Cian Browne alert at his near post
Destiny Idele of Bray Wanderers is closed down by Graham O’Reilly of Wexford F.C., with netminder Cian Browne alert at his near post

Oh, what if? What if Darragh Levingston converted from the spot to put Wexford two ahead in the first-half?

What if Festy Ebosele's equaliser didn't cross the line, as so many suggested it did not? What if Paula Brady blew her whistle when she first placed it to her mouth, three minutes into injury time?

Unfortunately, it has become a question of 'what ifs' for Wexford's Under-15 squad as their season came to an abrupt end in their SSE Airtricity League quarter-final in the Carlisle Grounds on Sunday.

While they may have lacked that piece of fortune which would get them over the line, their effort and attitude cannot be questioned. They played with a sense of pride and a belief which isn't always present in Wexford sides.

In the first-half in particular, they were exceptional, outwitting and outplaying a talented Bray side. They absorbed the home pressure and broke with pace and positivity.

That's how they went ahead after 19 minutes, as Brody Murphy surged into the Bray half before supplying James Dowling to finish into the top right corner.

Evan Farrell had popped one well over in the early exchanges, but that was the first real opportunity for either side.

When the chance came for Wexford to double their lead, Levingston bravely stepped forward. At that moment, one felt that the visitors had done a job on Bray. In typical underdog style they had stifled them and they were going to take their chances as they came.

The Gorey man's spot kick was by no means a bad one, but the height rather than the direction allowed Seán Coffey to palm away and halt Wexford's onslaught.

The second-half will be a painful memory for Wexford for some time.

Not because Bray were the better side, or because they outplayed Wexford and earned their win. They did raise their game, but the Model boys coped well.

It was so painful because of the nature of the goals. Ebosele's strike, initially saved by Cian Browne, bounced towards the goal before the Yellowbelly 'keeper recovered and batted it away.

The argument of whether it crossed the line ensued and we may never know for sure, but while Brady was hesitant, her linesman was convinced and Bray were on terms.

In between Bray's two heartbreakers, it was as open as it was all game. Brian Byrne had two golden chances, with one saved while the other crept under the 'keeper but into the side-netting.

Bray went close too, as Alan Leonard and Precious Omochere both forced saves from Browne.

As the game ticked on Ebosele found himself lucky to stay on the pitch as, booked for a previous badly-timed lunge, he booted the ball away from Browne as he looked to take a quick free.

Brady, with all her experience of refereeing at the highest level, somehow failed to produce the game-changing second yellow.

Brady was in the spotlight again for the winner. As the game entered the 83rd minute questions were being asked as to whether three minutes of injury time was warranted.

With the ball in the middle of the pitch, she checked her watch and brought the whistle to her lips, ready to send the game into extra-time.

But she didn't blow. Wanderers passed forward and she allowed Bray to continue their attack. Precious Omochere latched onto an outswinging cross and volleyed into the top corner after his initial header was clearly by Kyle Scallan.

Wexford barely had time to tip off and boot the ball forward before the whistle was blown.

It was the cruellest of finales for the Ferrycarrig boys to take, but they left Wicklow with their heads held high. They won't want to process it just yet, but when they do they may realise that they can be extremely proud of their efforts.

They battled hard, overcame deficits, and penetrated blanket defences, on their way to becoming Wexford's first-ever under-age side to reach the knockout stages of a SSE Airtricity League competition.

That full-time whistle ended competitive football for Wexford F.C. for the 2017 season. Bray will face an unbeaten St. Patrick's Athletic in the semi-final, and the winners will meet Athlone Town or Finn Harps for the title.

Wexford F.C.: Cian Browne; Seán O'Brien-Murphy, Kyle Scallan, Dylan Whelan, Shane Gibson; Luke Greene, Graham O'Reilly, Darragh Levingston (capt.), James Dowling, Evan Farrell; Brody Murphy. Subs. (rolling) - Brian Byrne, Mark Atkin, Darragh O'Donoghue, Darragh McGuire, Cormac Bruce, Cormac Doyle, Rian Fitzpatrick, Cian Kinlough, David Murphy.

Bray Wanderers: Seán Coffey; Callum Perry, James Furlong, Alex Rafferty, Cian Kelly (capt.); Toby Owens, Roland Idowu, Ross Molloy, Festy Ebosele, Aaron Rice; Precious Omochere. Subs. (rolling) - Steven Sweeney, Panit O'Keeffe, Destiny Idele, Alan Leonard, Cillian McDonald, Andrew Mulvey-Mescal, Enda Minogue.

Referee: Paula Brady (Dublin).

Wexford People